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 Manchester is offering some top tips for new puppy owners to help their young dogs adjust to new experiences.

Despite Dogs Trust Dog School face-to-face training classes pausing for five months during the pandemic, the demand for classes from new puppy owners was unprecedented – with over 5,000 enquiries about training classes during lockdown.

Since 17th August, 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 have had over 450 enquiries per week.

Whilst many people have enjoyed the quality time with their four-legged friends, a return to ‘normal’ life when that comes, may be a difficult transition for new puppies as children return to school and some owners go back to work.

Dogs Trust Dog School Manchester 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.

Dogs Trust Dog School Manchester Supporting Owners of Lockdown Puppies
Photo: Clive Tagg

Top tips from Dogs Trust Dog School Manchester:

Start Teaching Puppies That Being Left Alone is Normal

  • 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. .

Get Your Puppy More Used to 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.

Treats Can Help Your Puppy Get Used to Being Out and About More

  • 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.

Start Training Your Puppy on How to Behave When You’re Working From Home When They Are Relaxed

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.

Dogs will have got used to having their favourite humans by their side day in day out during lockdown,” says Emma Armitage, Head Coach at Dogs Trust Dog School Manchester.

“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’.

Dog owners can access training videos, owner handbooks and more by visiting the dedicated page on the Dogs Trust website.

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