The Pandemic Puppy - Now What?
For people all over the United States, the past several months represent the best time possible to bring a puppy home, and why not? People are working from home at a rate not seen since before the Industrial Revolution and in general, they have some time on their hands. For years, countless people have avoided adding a dog to the family because they were too busy, they were never home or because of some other reason associated with their lifestyle. Those reasons no longer exist, at least not for the time being, so lo and behold, the pandemic puppy is becoming a cultural phenomenon.
If this includes your family, then from those of us at KONG Box, we’d like to wish you a hearty congratulations! You’ve added a bundle of love and loyalty to your pack that will provide you with good times, valuable lessons for those who may need them and a lifetime of memories. You may also just now be realizing that a pandemic puppy is like any other puppy in that it’s a lot of work!
Have no fear, new dog owner: KONG Box is here to help. For nearly 50 years, we’ve been providing all sorts of solutions for dog owners who faced different types of challenges and encountered different types of needs, and this includes our dog subscription box. Whether you’re dealing with issues such as dog chewing, separation anxiety, teething or any other situations that tend to arise with young pups, we’re here for you. Quite a bit of our work has involved the input of professional trainers, and when the pandemic hit, we reached out to our network to see if anyone had any input on what should be done to train a pandemic puppy. Below you’ll find some answers to our questions from Kara Schuetzner, the Owner and Head Trainer at The Doggie Spot in Oklahoma.
- Obviously, socializing a puppy is critically important. How do you do that at home with a pandemic puppy so it’s ready for different parts of the outside world?
There is no need to stress about training. Socialization is not just about meeting people and other dogs, but noise, different environments, sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and everything else. While you are at home, you can play different noises in your house. Start playing the noises at a low volume and gradually increase. You want your puppy used to the sound of a dump trunk, ambulance, vacuum cleaner, etc. When you start the noise and your puppy notices it, you can mark your puppy with a clicker, by saying, “Yes,” or, “Good boy/girl,” and by reinforcing the behavior with a KONG Box toy and/or a KONG Box treat.
You are teaching the puppy that good things happen when they hear that sound. You'll also want to get your puppy used to different textures. You can put down a cookie sheet, foil, bubble wrap, a cardboard box, a wet washcloth, etc. Once on the floor, toss treats onto them so your pup has to sit on different items to receive his/her reward.
- What about socializing a pandemic puppy outside the house with all the restrictions in place?
Take some KONG Box treats with you. If you have a car, drive to a car wash and expose the puppy to the experience of a car wash. Once again, remember to mark and reinforce. Walk or drive to your local store, stand outside with your pup and play the “Look at That!” game. When your pup looks at something, mark it and reinforce.
If your pup is nervous around something, take the time to sit there with him/her and make a game out of the nervous item. Let’s say the shopping cart is scary. Just walk over to the cart and say something like, "What is this?" in a silly tone, laugh at it and make it seem not as scary. If your pup still doesn’t want to go near the cart, don’t force it. Just walk by at a distance. One of my favorite things is going to a local coffee shop and standing outside while people walk buy. Some people want to touch the puppy, others ignore the puppy. This is great interaction to work on. Teach your puppy when to sit and when it's okay to get excited, but don't reward when your puppy jumps up on people.
Even though we might not be able to socialize with others, we can train our pandemic puppies at a distance from people and places. You do not have to be out for an hour, remember mental learning can be exhausting for your young pup. You always want to end on a fun note.
- Socializing a pandemic puppy is one thing, but what about the realities of working from home with your new little friend?
We have set up practice conference times in our house to get the pups used to downtime during business calls. First, we take our KONGs and stuff them with some really good treats. Two recipes my dogs love are:
The Fruit KONG
Ingredients: frozen blueberries, banana, apples, and plain yogurt
The KONG Surf n Turf
Ingredients: steak pieces, salmon (in the packet with water), and KONG cheese
We freeze them overnight.
The next day we go through the practice run. We give each dog a frozen KONG and tell them to go to their mats. Log on to the computer and see how long it takes for the dogs to go through their KONG treat. If the dog comes over to us during the set time, we will give them another frozen KONG. This dry run gives us data if we need to pack the KONGs more or give the dogs another KONG so there is peace when the real conference call occurs.
You want to set your dog up for success during your time away from them. We have also used the other toys in KONG Box to hide around the house during conference calls. We love how you can stuff treats in them, so the dog’s get rewarded for finding their toy. This gives your dog an activity to do while you are ignoring them.
KONG Box Can Help
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world immediately and radically. For the most part, “The Great Pause,” as it’s known by many, has allowed us to grow closer to each other, grow closer to our dogs, and to bring new family members into the fold. The pandemic puppy is something a lot of families are going to look back on in a few years with pride and joy, as this will be the time when their beloved furry friend moved in with them.
As you’ve seen above, socializing and training a pandemic puppy to adapt to the current circumstances in the world is not only possible, but quite achievable if you exercise patience and diligence along with a heaping helping of love and attention. If you’re crate training a puppy, trying to get a dog to stop barking or whatever else you’re encountering, you’ve found your solution resource. In addition, we’d like to thank Kara for her insightful input, and we’d also like to invite you to make use of all of the tools and resources KONG Box has available for your pandemic puppy by way of a puppy subscription box and more!