Many of us are working, schooling and staying at home. You may have seen in the media that some people are deciding that now is the time to get a puppy - everyone is at home so lots of time to dedicate to the new addition. But our advice is please wait, for the sake of you and your puppy. We strongly advise you to wait until after lock-down and life is getting back to normal. (If you already have a puppy please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.)
And here is why... lock-down and the need for social distancing means that many of the experience’s puppies need to have e.g. exploring their environment (sights, sounds and smells); meeting different people, different dogs and other animals; car travel; dog training classes and learning to cope home alone, cannot be accessed and experienced in the normal way - if at all.
Socialisation and Habituation
The importance of good socialisation and habituation in the early weeks of a puppy’s life (before 12-14 weeks of age) cannot be over-emphasised. It's needed to help produce a puppy who grows into a relaxed, happy, robust and confident adult dog that is a joy to be with. It also lays the foundations for a well-rounded family dog that is integrated into their home environment and society around them.
Puppies need to learn. Good socialisation helps your puppy to learn how to live and interact appropriately with the animals around them. They need to meet as many different breeds of dogs, humans and other animals as they can - if they are to learn to read the behaviours of different animals and develop good social manners with them - starting with well behaved calm adult dogs (providing they are fully vaccinated). Social distancing makes this very difficult.
There are over 200 different breeds of dogs registered with the Kennel Club in the UK, this doesn’t take into account hybrid/designer breeds or true cross-bred dogs. There is a huge variation in size, coat type, body conformation and colour - our puppies need good broad socialisation to have the tools to interact appropriately with any dog they come across. And as for humans, while we have less ‘breed variation’ than dogs we still have many different ages and types of people – our puppies need to learn to be comfortable around us all.
And habituation … this is about learning to ignore things that have no consequence for them – ignoring things that we need them to live with. This includes sights, sounds and smells - not forgetting hoovers, washing machines, cyclists, prams and the feeling of being in a car. These new experiences need to be slowly introduced, and your puppy is positively rewarded (usually means treats!) for being comfortable and happy with the experience.
It's a big ask if they haven’t experienced as many of these things as possible, during these critical early weeks. They will not have the benefit of well-run training classes, which is so important as you learn together.
You run the risk of having a nervous puppy that carries their worries into adulthood. All this provides the building blocks which shape your dog into the happy, confident and well-behaved pet we want and need them to be both with us at home and in society at large.
Taking on a new puppy isn’t a walk in the park (no pun intended) and requires planning and time every day to ensure they are getting the right experiences. This can be challenging enough with no lock-down and social distancing! There are many skills a puppy needs some obvious (e.g. toileting outside, walking nicely on a lead and coming when called) and some not so obvious (staying relaxed when someone knocks at the door, not reacting to buses and lorries backfiring on a walk and being settled when the household is full, loud and noisy). Good pet ownership requires us to give our puppies the best possible start in life, this can not be optimally achieved at this time.
What can you do now?
Homework! Now is the time to research the best dog breed for your household:
- What expectations you have for your dog and rules all family members will need to follow consistently
- Learn about its breed/s traits that define a lot of their character and behaviour (and that’s all the breeds in your dog!)
- The overall cost of caring for your dog (big dogs cost more!) to include their food/insurance / routine veterinary care/bedding and accessories/grooming and training needs/cost of care while you are on holiday or daily needs when they are home alone
- We also recommend you read up on dog behaviour, doggy body language and how you can develop a calm, kind and constant approach to teaching and training your dog – then you will be all prepared for your new puppy when the time comes! We recommend you look at the following resources:
- Are you ready for a dog, advice from the Kennel Club click here
- Are Dogs the right pet for you? Written by TV vet Emma Mills click here
- Here to Stay – Your Puppy? Written by behaviourist Lily Clark click here And something for the kids:
Dogs Trust - Be Dog Safe (lots of information including videos specifically for children) click here