Future-Time Planning for Pandemic Puppies

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If you read our blog a couple weeks ago, we discussed what we mean by “socialization”. Socialization is using controlled positive exposure during the critical socialization period to help our pup learn what is safe in the world. It’s providing our pups the opportunity to safely (their body language will tell you if they are feeling safe) interact with the environment.

One of our goals when creating a socialization plan is to help our pups navigate the world in the future. We are working super hard to create positive experiences around a variety of things so that in six months, a year, three years from now, a pirate walking down the street is no big deal. 

If you do a quick Google search for “Puppy Socialization Checklist” you’ll get tons of hits with some general umbrella topics: 

  • People
  • Animals
  • Objects
  • Locations
  • Smells
  • Activities 
  • Sounds
  • Surfaces

There are some *mostly* universal experiences in dog’s lives: they will encounter people of different shapes and sizes, they will encounter different breeds of dogs and some other species of animals, they will need to navigate different substrates, they will need medical attention, to ride in a vehicle, hear thunder or fireworks, experience different weather types.

Collating these different lists you’ll start to see some patterns in what we’d like our pups to safely and positively experience during their socialization period and beyond. This gives us a really excellent starting point. 

The downside to these lists? A lot of them were created in a pre-pandemic time. These were very robust 18 months ago. They are still incredibly helpful, but there is more that we need to consider these days. Our socialization plan is looking at the future, so we need to consider all the activities that aren’t a part of our daily life now, but will be in the Future-Time. 

Consider what you want your future to include when it’s safe and how that might impact your dog:

  • Do you work outside of the home? How is your pup alone?
  • Do you plan on using dog daycare? How is your pup around strange dogs?
  • Do you have company regularly? How is your pup with people at the door?
  • Do you attend or host a lot of cookouts? How is your pup with strangers?
  • Do you intend to take your dog to the coffee shop with you? How is your pup on leash?
  • Do you travel? How is your pup at new locations for boarding?
  • Do you have an annual Halloween party? How is your pup around doorbells and costumes?

From Now-Time to Future-Time

You’ve started considering what you’d like your future to have in store for you and your pup. Start training now! Start building a plan that will help you bridge the gap between their pandemic experiences and your Future-Time goals. Splice and dice so that you have bite sized activities to work through. 

One of my Future-Time goals? Returning to in person conferences. It is part of the year that both my partner and I really enjoy. Both our pups are well out of the window of socialization and we still have some work to do! We moved to a new area last year, so we are starting from scratch. 

What will we need? Past experiences have told us that Griffey does better when someone cares for him in our home. That means, we need:

  • To find an option for in-home pet care that is experienced with dogs that have some reactivity.
  • To find someone with appropriate experience and qualifications.
  • To find someone who uses LIMA (Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive) approaches to care. 
  • To budget for, and set up safe, comfortable  meet and greets for relationship building.
  • To create a list of what the person may need to be successful (diet information, enrichment information, vet information, health information, medication schedules…)

What if my pup is older? 

That’s okay! You can teach an old(er) dog new tricks! Take stock of your Future-Time goals. Look at what your pup has and hasn’t experienced. Observe your pup and let them tell you where they are and are not comfortable. We can build a plan to address both you and your dog’s needs at any age!

Now What?

  • Create a list of things you expect to change in your future life. Start brainstorming for the future you. Remember to consider the practical (work/school schedule…), and then things that bring you joy (cookouts/camping…). 
  • Think about ways to help your pup to positively experience things related to that change. Can you practice any of the things you identified safely? Get creative! This can be a fun activity for the whole family. If you love Halloween, see if you can find some silly costumes on a local Buy Nothing group. If you love company coming over, have your family role play a stranger coming over. 
  • If you are bringing home a young puppy, I highly recommend the Pandemic Puppy Raising Support Group on Facebook. They have a great amount of resources to help you adjust your socialization plan to pandemic times!
  • If your pup is a little older, you are seeing maladaptive behaviors, or you’d like someone to help guide your focus  join us on Thursday, February 18th at 5:00pmPST for our Pandemic Puppies Webinar. We will be discussing some excellent starting points for building the bridge between Now-Time and Future-Time.

– Ellen