Cuteness Alert: Atlanta Humane Society Brings Puppies To Closed Aquarium For Too-Cute Outing
Take a break with this adorable video, PLUS, how to socialize puppies during COVID-19
Puppies make everything better! The cutest thing I have seen since COVID-19 started turning the world upside down has to be a video released last week from the Atlanta Humane Society. The Georgia Aquarium is closed to visitors but staff are still there taking care of the aquarium’s marine life residents. In partnership with the Atlanta Humane Society two puppies, Odie and Carmel, were taken to the Georgia Aquarium for a day of socialization adventures. These lucky puppies got the chance to get up close and personal with sea life in the aquarium’s Ocean Voyager exhibit. Not only is this puppy video adorable, it’s a rare opportunity amidst COVID-19 social distancing for these puppies to get a unique but also much needed puppy socialization opportunity by visiting a new environment and having fun experiencing an array of sights, sounds, textures, and smells. This is a socialization dream for puppies on a good day, and during a global pandemic it’s even better.
COVID-19: The Socialization Impact
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 many puppies worldwide are missing key exposures to the world. This lack of socialization could have life-long behavioral implications for these dogs. Puppies growing up during COVID-19 are at significant risk of being under socialized because it’s unsafe and in many places actually impossible to give them the kind of socialization they need. Under normal circumstances, socialization is a process of carefully exposing puppies under twenty weeks old to new experiences. This includes other dogs and animals, different kinds of people, new places and creating positive associations for your puppy with these new experiences. Unfortunately, social distancing and quarantines mean lots of puppies are now not experiencing much of the world outside of their home. There are legitimate concerns from dog trainers that puppies who are young during the COIVD-19 pandemic will be under socialized which could have lifelong behavioural impacts.
What Can You Do?
Puppies are a lot of work (and joy) no matter whenever you bring one into your family. If you have added a young puppy to your family in the middle of the pandemic it’s likely you are feeling a bit overwhelmed when not only considering how to keep you and your family safe but also how to socialize your pup. Although your puppy may not have access to the same array of socialization opportunities that are ideal such as puppy kindergarten classes, and making safe and positive introductions to (dog friendly) public places, and introductions to a diversity of new people and other animals there are ways that puppy guardians can socialize puppies while maintaining social distancing.
Sound sensitivity can be common in dogs so it’s important when thinking about socialization of puppies to get them accustomed to different sounds. Luckily this is something that guardians can easily do at home. Blenders, hair clippers, washing machines, and other general household appliances are important to socialize puppies to. You can also go online and search for different noises, such as car horns, trucks, airplanes, fireworks, and thunder noises that tend to be concerning for dogs. Start with the volume very low and pair the sound with treats or playtime Play these sounds while you are playing with your puppy, as well as while your puppy is eating meals or treats. The goal is to create positive associations and to novel sounds. You can also drop loud (but not breakable) items to create loud noises across the room again paired with toys and treats. Move at your puppy’s pace the goal with sound socialization is never to scare your puppy, but rather to make positive connections to strange or loud noises so when your puppy grows up, she will (hopefully) be less concerned about noises when out in the world.
Because of COVID-19, it’s not possible to make safe introductions for your puppy to approach other people or animals outside your family unit, however if you have a front yard, porch or deck, you can give your puppy the opportunity to (at a safe distance) see the bigger world. Have treats and toys and reward your puppy for calm behaviour. If your puppy is overly excited by the sights of people or other dogs walking past, get their attention with treats or toys then reward. Obviously, this can’t take the place of bringing dogs out to places, but this distanced socialization can help create future positive associations for puppies.
Dogs with limited socialization are often uncomfortable or nervous about walking on different kinds of footing. Thankfully this is something that you can expose a young dog to while social distancing. If you have a yard, or are able to take short neighbourhood walks encourage your puppy to walk on as many surfaces you have including grass, concrete, gravel, bark chips etc. Metal is frequently a surface that dogs struggle with. While walking try to seek out sidewalk grates or utility hole covers and praise and encourage your puppy for walking across them. Avoiding going outside? Go on a scavenger house in your home looking for safe objects that you can encourage your puppy to walk and play on. Plastic lids to storage containers, tarps, pillows, cookie sheets are all great options. You can create a fun texture walk for your puppy inside the home. Incorporate toys and treats and make indoor socialization “outing” onto novel surfaces a fun game for puppies.
These times are challenging for all of us. Socialization might not look the way you imagined or hoped it would for your new puppy because of COVID-19, but there is hope. The biggest priority is to keep everyone dogs and humans safe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things to socialize your puppy while maintaining social distancing.
Sassafras Lowrey is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and author of “Tricks In The City,” “Healing/Heeling,” “Bedtime Stories For Rescue Dogs,” and the activity book “Chew This Journal” forthcoming in Summer 2020. Follow Sassafras and her canine adventures on Twitter/Instagram and at SassafrasLowrey.com