Adopting puppies in lockdown has given many people a lifeline. Dogs offer invaluable company and support to see them through the lonely, worrying and isolated times. They can give absolute loyalty and love and ask very little from us in return. They grow up to accept that life is the way it is presented to them in their world and can’t conceive of anything different unless they actually experience it.
We can’t explain to our puppies how to greet other dogs, how to say hello to people politely, what lorries smell like and that when we have to go to work again we won’t be gone forever. The only way we can do this is by showing them all the things they need to learn about and teaching them to accept what comes their way, when they are young.
What many new dog owners don’t always realise is that it’s not only fun for our dogs to see and meet other dogs and people, and to get to know the outside world and all its sights, sounds and smells, it’s essential! Without these experiences as young puppies, dogs are more likely to grow up to become fearful and maybe suspicious of things they don’t understand. Equally, they can be so excited at seeing people or dogs that they lose control and when they finally meet face to face, they don’t know how to behave because they haven’t had the opportunities to learn.
Dogs have helped us so much during the lockdowns but they have their needs too, to help them to be comfortable in our world. This pandemic has created thousands of anxious, under-socialised dogs. Walking in the park with a dog has noticeably become a completely different experience from a year ago. Frenzied barking from a distance, dogs rushing up to one another with no idea how to communicate, dogs freezing in fear and unable to walk, the manifestations are many. Added to this, some well-meaning owners know so little about their dog and what it needs that they misinterpret what their pooch is up to. Adolescent bullying is seen as friendliness, panicky barking as high spirits and the poor balanced senior dog that dares to reprimand a youngster with a growl is labelled aggressive and anti-social.
Dogs always pay the price of our ignorance. If your dog can’t handle going out without staying calm, get his attention on you instead. Take time at home to teach him to search for a line of dropped treats with the instruction ‘Find it!’ Once he really loves this game you can use it when you are out to keep him occupied instead of over-reacting when something new appears.
It’s always possible to teach your dog about the human world we ask them to share, it just takes longer as they grow up. If you’d like more guidance contact Helen at F.I.D.O. for help and advice.