The struggle for new puppy owners is how to socialise their young puppy – they are told that they can never take their puppy outside, because they are unvaccinated, and there is a risk of them getting sick. At the same time, they are missing out on the best time to get their dog socialised to the outside world. The most concerning illness that can occur to puppies that are not fully vaccinated is Parvo (Canine Parvovirus), which can make puppies very sick and is fatal if left untreated. This illness is spread through faecal matter, lives in the soil and can remain in the soil for up to 5 years. Impossible to detect, it enters the dog’s body through the contact with their paws on the infected ground.
Now every year, vastly more dogs die (through euthanasia) due to lack of socialisation than do through parvovirus, so socialisation should not be ignored or put on the back burner. There are things you can do to get your puppy out and about while minimising the risk of exposure to diseases. Here are 5 that you can try with your dog:
- A stroller: I know people are going to look at you like you aren’t all there – but really a stroller can help your puppy see the world, get used to some sights and sounds and smells, while still being safe and secure. The height of the pram means that your puppy can see the world on a more level playing field, and not a world of boots and ankles – which can only help with confidence.
- Your Car: Yep, your puppy gets to see lots of the world in your car, both when it it moving and when it is parked. You can take them to the shops to people watch, you can sit in a park and watch dogs and kids run around. All the while you are in the comfort of your car – reinforcing calm behaviours and socialising your puppy.
- Your Lap: Your puppy can sit on your lap at a cafe! Sure not practical for all puppies but suitable for most from early on. Ignoring some people, being pat by others, having a good time.
- A Trolley: Last year Bunnings announced that dogs are welcome in their store! I think that going to a store is a neat idea for puppy socialisation, you will need to be vigilant. Don’t let everyone pat your puppy, learn to say no to kids – even those who ask. Let your puppy know you will keep them safe, but a trolley could be a good way to explore the store.
- Carrying: In your arms, in a crate, a specially designed carry bag or even one of those silly harnesses that strap your puppy to your body like a baby (don’t laugh the Marines strap their dogs to them sometimes too), you can carry your puppy around and explore the world together.
Remember no matter how to choose to socialise your puppy, if they are calm, happy and feel safe keep it up. However if they seem anxious or scared or overwhelmed – even too excited, pack up and head home. Socialisation is not worth doing wrong. Socialisation is learning to ignore random things in your environment, but it can’t be achieved in your lounge-room and backyard alone.