July 30, 2020
How do I Socialize my Dog During Covid-19?
Chicago pet parents, old and new, are worried about socializing their fur babies during COVID-19. How do you balance safety while trying to make sure that your dog has enough socialization time? Rover-Time would like to offer a few tips for Chicago-land doggy owners looking for answers.
Socialization without contact?
Good news! It’s still possible to work on your dog’s socialization skills, even in no-contact situations. It’s important to work on socialization with your dog, even under these circumstances, because when a dog isn’t exposed to new experiences, they can regress and you might have to start at square one. Socialization doesn’t just mean being around other people and dogs. It can involve your dog having interesting experiences and seeing new and different places and objects. If you have some extra time on your hands, you can grab your dog and some treats and get started!
It’s all about the treats
Treats are going to be your best friend while practicing social skills with your pup. On your walk, keep an eye out for potential triggers: bicycles, loud noises, kids, and of course, other dogs. Notice how your dog reacts when they see something arousing or scary. If they see another dog and react calmly, immediately praise and give a treat. You want to help associate whatever they are looking at with something good, like chicken treats.
How do I know if my dog is distressed?
If your dog starts to tense up or bark, and a treat isn’t distracting them, you are probably too close to whatever is triggering their reaction. Look out for small signs that your dog is uncomfortable: turning their head away, staring, pinning their ears back against the head, etc. If you are able to catch the smaller signals that your dog is feeling reactive, you might be able to keep them from escalating to barking or lunging.
Oh no! A surprise
What happens if you and your dog are surprised? For example, you may hear a loud noise or a dog coming too close. Remember that you have to react calmly. Dogs are very perceptive, and if you start to tense up, they will suspect that they are in danger. Talk soothingly to your dog, treat liberally, and move away from whatever is creating the distraction.
Staying calm while staying in
There is work you can do to help your dog, even in the house. If your dog freaks out every time you vacuum, work slowly on getting your dog used to the vacuum while off, making sure to treat when they are able to be near the vacuum without reacting. You can increase the difficulty of this task by moving the vacuum (while still off) and treating if they stay calm. Try recording the sound of the vacuum on and play that noise until the dog is used to the sound.
You got this
Socialization is harder during COVID, but it’s not impossible. There are still plenty of ways to work on this important skill with your fur baby!
Zoe Sjogerman is the North-East manager for Rover-Time and has been part of the RT team for four years. When she isn’t walking dogs she is the executive director of Avalanche Theatre and an avid book reader. She lives in the north-side of Chicago with her fiance. Although she doesn’t have a pet of her own, she loves getting to walk pups all over the Chicagoland area.