Lynn Gagnon. Stoked Dogs. Figuring out Fido. (Contributed)

Figuring out Fido: Pandemic puppies, what you need to know

Dog training tips from Stoked Dogs trainer Lynn Gagnon

Have you adopted a new puppy in the past year?

If so, you’re a part of the growing community of pandemic puppy owners. Adopting a puppy during a pandemic can be great for ease of potty training and bonding with your new pup while you work from home. But it can come with some challenges too, including socializing.

Socializing your puppy is arguably the most critical thing a new puppy owner has to do. The socialization window for puppies is only open until 12-16 weeks of age. So from the moment you bring your puppy home around eight weeks of age, you have to be socializing.

What is socialization? Socialization is exposing your puppy to experiences, surfaces, puppies & dogs, people, sounds, and everything that they may encounter as a part of their daily life with you.

When puppies are in their socialization window, they are curious about new things. As they age out of that window, that curiosity shifts to a more cautious mindset. Therefore, it’s important to get them exposed, through positive experiences, while they are in that critical window.

My socialization check-list for Revelstoke puppies:

1. Trains. Trains are a part of daily life, so ensuring that your puppy is comfortable with the sights and sounds of trains is critical.

2. Puppies and dogs. There are a lot of dogs in Revelstoke so we know your puppy will encounter dogs at some point. Talk to neighbours or post on the Facebook community to find other puppy owners and schedule outdoor playdates. Your puppy should have around 5 playdates a week with a variety of puppy friends. Older dogs can be trickier since they may not be patient with your puppy.

3. Bikes and skateboards. Bikes and skateboards are all over town when the weather is nice but they can look weird to puppies. They look like people, sort of, but they move differently. Make sure your puppy sees a lot of people on bikes, skateboards and other forms of similar transportation.

4. People. This is a given, but your puppy needs to think that people are awesome. Do this by taking your puppy on socialization adventures. Make sure you bring a lot of high value treats with you to make it a super positive experience.

5. Weird surfaces. Your puppy is going to walk on a variety of surfaces throughout their lives. So make sure they are exposed to all kinds of surfaces such as gravel, pavement, wood, metal and anything you’ve noticed on your own town adventures.

A couple key points to keep in mind when socializing your puppy. Make sure to always bring high value treats with you to ensure your puppy has a positive experience and never force them to interact with anyone or anything that they are scared of.

This has an unfortunate way of backfiring and increasing the likelihood that you’ll have to come see a trainer like me in the future.

Finally, avoid areas with a lot of dogs until your puppy is fully vaccinated.

Have any dog training or behavioural questions?

Send them my way at training@stokeddogs.ca and I’ll post responses in this monthly column.

Lynn Gagnon is a certified professional dog trainer for Stoked Dogs. She has a BSoc.Sc. and CPDT-KA.

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