May 17

5 Critical Steps to Raising a Puppy During a Global Pandemic


Ok so we already know what we can’t do with our puppies during a Global Pandemic. We can’t go to big puppy classes. We can’t socialize our puppies with strangers. We can’t run up and kiss that well dressed guy that probably smiled at you under his mask. So what CAN we do?

Well if you woke up one day with a puppy in your room and a global pandemic outside your doors, here are 5 things can you can and SHOULD DO with your new puppy. 

*** Note- it's safe to assume that with the following five suggestions you will be using food, and the leash for each task.

1. Desensitize

The term “Bomb Proof” in the dog training world refers to a dog that you can take anywhere and it will not only be able to handle the situation but it will be happy enough to be here.

Your goal when raising a puppy should be to create the most bombproof dog possible. The way to do this is to desensitize your puppy to as many sounds, smells, sites, environments and situations as possible.

Now I understand that it is a pandemic and that you might not be able to go to as many places as you would if it were not a pandemic. But make a list of the places that you can safely go to, and go there with your puppy.

Literally everywhere is a new experience for a puppy so even if there is no one there, like the movie theatre you can still stand outside and exposure puppy to that new environment.

The wilderness is another area to visit with a lack of people but a massive benefit (explained further in step #2). You can then build up to an environment with a lot more going on like a construction site.

Desensitizing your puppy to new environments is something that you will want to do every day. If they get startled at some point, which inevitably will happen, rather than coddling them and running home, just regain their attention with food and or toys.

If you can’t regain their attention, don’t worry about it. Just hang out for a bit longer and plan to come back every day that week until that area is normalized for the puppy.

If you absolutely cannot leave your house, no problem!

There are a ton of noises you can make so that your dog is bombproof to otherwise startling sounds. The trick to getting your dog comfortable around New and loud sounds is to put their attention on something more interesting.

My favourite way to do this is to spread a bunch of food all over the floor in one room and go into another room to make the noise. You will want to start with a low noise like rustling of a cookie sheet or gentle tapping of a cooking pan and increase the noise.  

If you can have someone help you monitor how much attention the puppy is paying to the new noise that's ideal. If you are on your own you can do things like use a baby monitor or screen share between a laptop and smart phone.

Eventually my end goal would be to be able to shoot a cap gun in the apartment without the puppy caring.

You might want to let your neighbours know prior to this type of training to avoid the police showing at your door… Although that too would be great desensitizing for the pup!

2. Health

Your puppy is born with an immune system passed on through its mothers milk. Over time, if not strengthened, your puppies immune system can weaken.

Therefore, it is important to do as much for your puppy’s Health as possible. You can expose your puppy to good bacteria which will allow their microflora in there got to flourish and keep their immune system strong.

By following step number one and visiting various areas (ideally in this case natural areas) like farms and Forrests, your puppy will be exposed to different bacteria's which will give their stomach a diverse microflora in their gut which is the basis for a strong immune system.

If you can't visit farms or the wilderness, no problem!

Just go to your local home hardware store and pick up kiddy pool and some organic top soil. Take it home, fill it up, and hide some good smelling treats or toys in the soil. Your puppy will have a blast and then you will get a chance to work on grooming!

3. Grooming

No matter the length of coat your puppy has, there is grooming involved. There's no better time to start getting your puppy used to the experience of being groomed then the day you take him or her home… And every day after that.

If you are like me and only get your hair cut once a year, it can be an ordeal. Fortunately for me I like being pampered and having random women massage my scalp.

However, it is important that you don't assume your puppy will feel the same way when they are an adult dog without proper “conditioning” to this experience. Doing things like touching their paws and feeding them food or a treat at the same time, building up to the point where you can comfortably hold their paw without them pulling away or fighting you in the least is a great step in the right direction as you will want to be trimming their nails every 2 to 3 weeks when they are adults!

Brushing them even when they “don't need to be brushed,” bathing them even when they “don't need to be bathed,” and placing them on a makeshift grooming table that isn't your kitchen table… We don't want to give them the wrong impression about that table.

4. Setting the ground rules. 

If you live alone setting the ground rules will be easy. If you live with a roommate or God Forbid family members, setting ground rules and sticking to them is a lot more challenging… But still extremely important.

It's very easy at this age to allow a young, fluffy, adorable puppy to do whatever it is that they want to do whenever they want to do it. But that 10 pound fluff ball in no time will be a 90 pound fluff ball that you might not want sharing your bed with… Especially after they have been sprayed by a skunk.

So start thinking about your puppy as if they were an adult dog and ask yourself, do I really want a dog that does whatever they want whenever they want to. This will be harder on you than it is on the puppy.

If you establish that the puppy never goes in your bed it will never be an issue for the puppy as they age. It's just something that they don't do, not something that they sit around the house and think about how they are “deprived” of this experience.

A great example of this is kennel or crate training. While your puppy might be comfortable in your bed and not cause any accidents we need to still look to the future. Someday, heaven for bid your dog might need to spend a night or more at the vet clinic. Or perhaps you move to a new country or out of state and need to take a plane. Unless your dog is a certified emotional support animal or a service dog they will be in a kennel in cargo.

Being kennelled is an extremely stressful (unless you train them to be calm in that space). This becomes increasingly more difficult as the dog ages so no matter how much they protest, it is worthwhile to invest time and effort and maybe a few sleepless nights (or just get earplugs), for the long term health of your dog.

5. Training. 

Some people believe that you need to wait until your puppy is six months old before you can start training them.

I believe this is extremely flawed thinking as your puppy is learning constantly whether you are intentionally teaching them to do things or not. As a result a lot of young dogs get blamed for extremely bad behaviour when it's actually our fault for not teaching them not only what we want them to do but what we want them not to do.

The younger the puppy the less time it takes to train them.

Every time you feed your puppy is an opportunity to teach them something new. All you need to do is take that food put it in front of their nose and lower them into a behaviour or location that you want in order to communicate a new trick or command.

If you want them to:

  • sit, lift some food slightly above their head and feed them when their bum hits the ground. 
  • lay down hold some food in your hand until their front elbows touch the ground, and feed them.
  • walk nicely on a leash, put some food in your hand and wait until they are 8 months old… kidding… not kidding.

The one thing that is very hard to achieve with the puppy is having them walk any length without pulling on the leash as their attention spans are as long as they are tall… SHORT!

Therefore we recommend a harness until your puppy is about 5 to 6 months old.

There are a million tricks, positions, commands and Tom foolery you can teach your puppy to do on cue. You just need to start.


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