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The pitfalls for Pandemic Puppies - And how you can overcome them.

Updated: May 21

Katy and I have been chatting about some doggy behavioural issues we've been hearing about, we've also done some reading and decided it was time to share our thoughts.....

The Pandemic had a profound affect on us all. Our working environment, our bubble, contracted so much.  Leaving the house was restricted to an hour a day, many of us spent hours cooped up inside, sometimes with no garden, and these changes created anxieties and health issues that are still playing our among the population.

Loneliness was a real problem. It’s no wonder studies suggest that puppy ownership escalated during the pandemic, it was a trend that meant many people became dog owners for the first time.  These people will have benefited hugely from their new family member but the conditions the pups grew up in were not the same as older dogs.

"Lockdown puppies" are now young adults and the consequences of their unusual developmental period are now being reported. 

Research by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) suggests that they are showing far more behavioural issues than their pre-covid era cousins.  Puppies need many things to thrive, and to learn how to be happy, well behaved dogs. It all starts with an owner who understands them and who can communicate to them what is expected. This may come naturally to an experienced owner but with a disproportionate number of first time owners, experience was in short supply.  Not all new owners necessarily did their research before getting their dog and it's easy to imagine that lockdown reduced opportunities for them to chat to other owners in the park, where much informal learning could occur.

However; there appears more to it than a surplus of inexperience.  Even experienced owners report that pups have been harder to train and issues such as pulling on the lead, being reactive to other dogs, clinginess and jumping up are occurring much more often.  So what is going on? 

These problems can be attributed to a lack of socialisation. This can have a huge impact on a dogs development.  For a puppy, having your freedom to roam restricted, rarely meeting other dogs and missing out on a variety of environments and experiences impacts on a key stage of development. It's no wonder some owners have struggled to manage their dogs in various situations once lockdown ended. 

Optimal socialisation occurs between 4 weeks and 12 weeks, without it, you can expect to see an increase in fear, anxiety, aggressiveness and excitability.

However; all is not lost. If your puppy missed out, you will need more patience and the going may be slower than you hoped but, here is a handy list of the things you can do to get your young dog to feel more comfortable in the world around them to go along side your training plan:

1: Consider consulting a canine behavioural expert.  Check their accreditation and ensure they are using only positive reinforcement.

2: Give those triggers a wide berth until your dog has got used to them, throwing them into the deep end may only embed the negative response.

3: Go at your dogs pace and try not to show your frustration if things aren’t progressing the way you like.

4: Don’t overload them, try to tackle one behaviour at a time, you will see quicker results if your dog is relaxed to learn.

5: Use positive reinforcement rather than punishment.

Here at Walks with the Pack we have a tried and tested method for helping dogs with poor socialisation as well as behavioural issues, such as poor loose lead walking.   We use a secure field to gradually get your dog used to other dogs (specially selected, friendly dogs with good manners who like to play!), we double-staff the sessions and take things slowly, carefully observing if things get a bit too much for your cautious dog and using positive reinforcement to reward good behaviour and good interactions.  As your dog gets used to individual dogs we bring another dog or two into the mix over the course of sessions, to show your dog how much fun can be had by play (and learning to play).  We use the long lead and lots of enthusiasm to reward good recall and to build trust in other humans.

These sessions are overwhelmingly fun and we have seen impressive results (see our blog on Frankie!).  Your Lockdown Puppy can thrive, given a bit of space and time to learn!

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