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With the demand for puppies soaring during the coronavirus pandemic and many people bringing a new four-legged friend into their homes during or just before lockdown, Dogs Trust Dog School Merseyside is offering some top tips for new puppy owners to help their young dogs adjust to new experiences.
Despite Dog School face-to-face training classes pausing for five months during the pandemic, the demand for classes at the trust from new puppy owners was unprecedented – with over 5,000 enquiries about training classes during lockdown (March 15-August 15).
Since August 17, classes have started to re-open, where safe to do so, and the team already have over 1,400 new dogs booked onto classes and had over 450 enquiries per week.
While many people have enjoyed the quality time with their four-legged friends, a return to ‘normal’ life may be a difficult transition for new puppies as some owners return to work and children have headed back to school.
This is why Dogs Trust Dog School Merseyside has released some quick and handy tips to help puppies cope with life after lockdown – from being left alone, to meeting people in facemasks and settling when their owner is working from home.
Here are their top tips.
Being left alone
- Young puppies may not be used to spending time on their own after so much company during lockdown.
- Start now to teach them that being on their own is a normal and positive part of life. To do this:
- Make sure your puppy has a comfy bed or den, where they can relax, and give them something fun to keep busy, like a long-lasting treat or puzzle toy.
- Start to move away from them whilst they are settled: only move as far as you can without them becoming worried and trying to follow you. Go back and reward them for staying calm. If they have got worried or tried to follow, then start again but move less far away. Once the puppy is relaxed with this you can start to build up to taking more steps away, being in a different room and then leaving the house.
- The key to success is progressing slowly – always only increase the distance and time away for which your puppy stays relaxed. Any signs of distress, and you’ve progressed too fast and need to go back a stage.
- Teaching a puppy to be left alone positively from the start is much easier than treating established anxiety problems. So putting some time in now to get your puppy relaxed when left will save you both a lot of work and worry later in life.
Meeting and greeting other people
- It’s really useful to train your puppy to stay calm when visitors come to the door or into your house, as well as meeting people on walks. In both cases, it is important to build up new experiences slowly, so your pup learns to be calm and relaxed. Reward them when they are quiet and relaxed.
- Teaching your pup to go to their bed in a different part of the house when they hear the doorbell can make greeting visitors easier.
- Ensure your puppy has their own safe space to retreat to when you have visitors, remembering that they can find excitable human noises worrying (as, no doubt, you’ll be excited to see your friends and family after a long time!).
- Always remember to wash your hands regularly before and after interacting with your dog and ask your guests to do the same. A dog’s coat, lead, toys etc, could carry coronavirus just like any other surface.
- Do not be afraid to ask people not to pet your puppy if he or she is worried, don’t feel comfortable or if your dog needs more space.
Out and about with your dog
- If your puppy hasn’t been out in the car much, if at all, in the past few months, get them used to travelling by carefully introducing them to the car and their travel harness or crate. Use lots of tasty treats to reward them.
- Use our handy guide to teach your puppy to feel comfortable with seeing people in facemasks, particularly if you are using public transport.
- If you’re working from home on a longer term basis, it’s especially important for an excitable puppy to learn to relax, lie down, and have time on their own when you’re busy on phone calls or video meetings.
- Start training at times when your puppy is more likely to be already relaxing. You’ll know your dog is truly settled when they lie down, not asking for attention, and not easily distracted by what’s going on around them.
- To begin with, sit quietly on a chair with your dog lay on a blanket on the floor. Drop tiny bite size treats to your dog as a reward for settling down on the blanket. Don’t say anything to your dog whilst doing this. Gradually only reward more relaxed behaviours.
- You can then start to increase the amount of time they must be settled before you reward them.
Dog owners can access training videos, owner handbooks and more by visiting the dedicated page on the Dogs Trust website.
Dogs Trust Dog School has recently resumed some classes, with smaller classes and other safety measures in place.
To find out more visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/dog-school.
For schools that can’t reopen just yet, online one-to-one sessions or full online training courses are available.
They are experiencing a high volume of enquires for Dog Schools that have re-opened so there may be a delay in booking onto a class.
With Dogs Trust predicting more dogs at risk of abandonment due to behavioural issues that have developed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Dogs Trust’s Dog School has never been so vital in helping to support owners with their dogs’ training.
This year, Dog School is being supported by funding raised by generous players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Michelle Radcliffe, Head Coach at Dogs Trust Dog School Merseyside, said: “Dogs will have got used to having their favourite humans by their side day in day out during lockdown.
“Whilst many puppies will have been happy to have their human family at home during the past few months, they may need help adjusting to life when their families go back to work and school.
“They may also need help getting used to car travel and support with feeling comfortable seeing people in facemasks.
“Keep in mind that whilst we’re easily able to slot back in to old routines, young puppies may find this a confusing time and a more difficult transition, which is why we have lots of top tips to help them find their paws in the ‘new normal’.
“The most common reason dogs are handed into Dogs Trust is due to behaviour-related issues, so we would urge owners of puppies bought during lockdown to act now to prevent these developing.
“We would like to thank the players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their continued support, which allows us to give dog owners the information they need to understand their pooch and prevent common behavioural issues from arising.”