Covid 19 and puppy socialisation

We all know that puppies need to get out and about to learn about the world.

We all want our puppy to grow into a friendly, confident dog

The current restrictions on social distancing are making this more difficult but not impossible

It is vital to give our puppies as much appropriate socialisation as we can in these early months

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Your puppy needs to learn about their new home and to trust their new family through gentle encouragement, handling and play
  • A houseline attached to your puppy’s collar can help you manage them easily when necessary. You can use it to prevent jumping up, chasing the cat, etc so you can reward them for doing the right thing
  • Your puppy doesn’t have to be vaccinated to go for ‘walks’, carry them along the street, take short car trips to new places where they can sit on your lap, watch the world go by and have some snacks
  • As your puppy becomes more confident, introduce changes in your appearance and new things at home using, for example, hats, rucksack, mask, wig, umbrella and so on. Give them safe packaging to explore and play with, put some of their food in as encouragment
  • When your puppy is able to walk away from home you can use the houseline or a 2m Double Ended lead (e.g. Halti®)to allow them a 3 second meeting with any safe dog you meet (if they want to) while maintaining social distancing recommendations. Make sure you reward them well for coming away with you
  • Let your puppy interact with as many people as possible using equipment which will allow you to maintain social distance. Some may be nervous of this, in which case sprinkle a few treats on the floor for your pup to find and eat as the person passes by

Adolescence has arrived!

Over the last 3 months Sully has continued to visit beaches, sheep, woods, horses, shops and fields, meeting people and friendly dogs. He has also had a lovely house-sitter take care of him, and Braccy, for 2 weeks while I was away. He is very handy round the home as he loves biting water from the hosepipe, sweeping leaves and mowing the lawn. Very recently he tried his paws at garden landscaping!

At 7 months Sully is no longer a biddable puppy but an adolescent with his own ideas which may not always coincide with mine! For example, coming indoors used to be easy but he has learned that mostly it means that I am going out so now he is reluctant to do so. Not even for food

It is easy to become frustrated especially if time is tight, but getting cross won’t fix this. So firstly I call him in my normal recall voice, in the vain hope he will respond, then I go part way down the garden, turn and call ‘ready, steady, run’ and we run into the house together. Then his reward will be waiting on his bed

On a positive note I can see the handsome and lovely boy he will become and it makes my heart swell with love and pride – just before I discover another hole in the lawn!

4 months old already

Sully has now lived with me for more than half his life! The last month has been a whirlwind of learning how to manage his new experiences, rest, exercise and play which are changing as he grows up. I try to ensure a new experience each day along with at least one 10 to 15 minute walk in fields or woods. His walks consist of a lot of stopping and sniffing, listening and looking and not a great deal of walking. Puppies have a lot to learn about the world and I believe it is important to let them take their time.

Sully started Puppy School last week, practising the skills he has learned at home and meeting other puppies. The group is real mixture of breeds; Boxer, German Shepherd, Border Terrier, Cocker Spaniel x Poodle as well as Sully, which is great experience for all the pups.

He has also generally became more likely to bite for no obvious reason. That told me that he is teething and has some discomfort from his adult teeth cutting through. Whenever I notice him chewing something I quickly offered him a suitable item. As I feed my dogs a raw diet Sully has been gnawing on bones straight from the freezer. (Some puppies enjoy frozen vegetables or you can freeze their food in a Kong®) His need to chew will continue for the next few months as he grows and his teeth settle into his jaws so I need to make sure I have a good supply of bones and chews. I DO know where I can get some great chews from, if you need some get in touch!

Sully 3 weeks on

Life now has a routine based around Sully and his needs, my work and caring for Braccy and Bingo. He’s still on 4 meals a day but supper will no longer be served after the weekend.

He has several very short training sessions each day so he’s learning to stay still for handling, grooming and toweling. Also sit, down and stand. We also play the follow me game which is basically a baby version of walking on a lead nicely.

Sully loves to play tug and fetch. I try to change the toys he plays with each day. Much of this is from the recycling bin, cardboard boxes or tubes with treats hidden inside, milk containers with stones/water/rice or nothing inside. Once he’s finished with them they go back into the bin.

He has met some very nice dogs and played, visited pet shops, watched some horses grazing, sat on a bench and watched traffic and people pass by, yesterday he went to Go Outdoors. We have just returned from his 3rd visit to the vets to be weighed. Over the next few weeks I will continue to broaden his positive experiences with the outside world.

Sully’s first day

The journey to collect Sully, my 8 wk old Border Collie puppy, from his breeder was one of mixed emotions. I was excited to bring him home and start our new life together but still grieving for the unexpected loss of my young dog last year.

That face!

I prepared his travelling crate with fleecy bedding from my house and his breeder’s. I used Pet Remedy, a natural product which has a calming effect on cats, dogs and other species. Despite this, he spent half the journey telling everyone he had been kidnapped. Every time he looked like he was falling asleep he cried again.

I carefully introduced him to my older dog (Braccy) and cat (Bingo) using a light collar and houseline (see earlier blog) to manage him and keep all of them feeling safe. We explored the garden together. He went to the toilet, had his dinner and supper.

At bedtime it took a while to settle him in his pen and all seemed well. I got up the next day to find he had climbed out the pen, eaten the cat’s food and litter tray contents and was asleep in Braccy’s bed!

What does puppy socialisation mean?

Many owners believe that socialisation is allowing their puppy meets as many dogs as possible.

But it is so much more than that

Puppies need to learn about the living world, people, cats, cows, sheep, dogs, swans, horses etc. There are different shapes and sizes in all of the above

They also need to learn about ‘stuff’, wheelie bins, doorbells, vacuum cleaners, hot ovens, stairs, cars, smoke alarms and so on

Good breeders raise puppies in their home and help them to gain confidence with daily, gentle, new experiences so that they are more likely to slot into their new home with few problems.

Their early environment can be crucial for some pups, if they have had limited experiences, maybe living in a kennel or stable, then moving to a new home can be a difficult time for them. They have so much more to cope with than a well-raised puppy.

But you can help by building their confidence with new experiences which can be as simple as putting their food into several pieces of scrunched up paper in a cardboard box or taking them out to sit on your lap to watch the world go by. It could involve a car trip to a local pet shop or sitting in a car park watching vehicles and shopping trolleys pass by.

The most important thing is that your puppy enjoys the experience. If you watch they will show how they are feeling.

It is good sign if your puppy has a relaxed face and is taking treats happily. Yawning and mouth-licking usually mean that the puppy is anxious not, as many people think, tired and hungry.

Particular care needs to be taken with puppies when meeting other dogs to make sure that they are not worried or have a bad experience. Make sure that the dog wants to meet up, ask the owner to have them on lead so that you can allow your puppy to approach as close as is comfortable for them. Keep the meeting brief and move on. Protect your puppy from bouncy, friendly dogs as well as aggressive dogs. Early scary experiences will have a lifelong impact and sometimes can cause pups to grow up to be aggressive when on the lead.

If you think enrolling on to a puppy party might be useful then visit without your puppy so that you can be sure that pups are carefully supervised and it is not a free for all. If you decide to take your puppy and you are concerned for them then intervene, help them out if they need it.

Try to make sure your puppy has one new enjoyable experience each day.

Finally do make sure they get plenty of rest; learning about the world can be exhausting.

And have fun!

Meeting a new person means getting a treat from them, you will need a good supply with you

Hot dogs

The sudden change in the weather has been a shock to our systems and our dogs.

Dogs cool themselves by panting, they need cooler moving air in order to maintain a safe body temperature.
That is why it can be so dangerous to leave a dog in a vehicle

At home make sure they have shaded spaces to relax and plenty of fresh cool water.
Try to get some air movement too.

Some dogs love to wallow in a paddling pool and can be great fun for everyone

Walking your dog earlier in the morning and evening will allow them to enjoy their walk much more than in the heat of the day

Don’t forget the 5 second rule, it you cannot hold the back of your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds it is too hot for your dog and may burn his feet. Today I saw several dogs being walked on pavements during the hot part of the day.

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts

Firework Season is here again!

It is very distressing to see your lovely dog terrified in their own home or too frightened to go into the garden for a comfort break.

Some dogs even begin to worry as soon as it gets dark

This little book by Toni Shelbourne and Karen Bush has some great tips for helping anxious dogs to cope

If you need more help then call me on 0794 1122737

Babies and dogs

This week I have visited two families, one with a 3 yr old dog and the other with a 10 week old puppy. Both families want to keep their baby safe and were worried about the excitable behaviour from their furry friend. Although the needs of the two dogs were quite different the principles behind how to improve their behaviour is the same.

Teach your dog what to do, if you don’t want him to jump up, reward him for keeping his feet on the floor. Food rewards are easiest to manage and can be part of their daily food allowance to prevent weight gain.

The arrival of a new baby changes many things in your dog’s life. It is important to maintain his regular walks and give him some one-to-one time so that he doesn’t try to gain your attention when you are busy with the baby.

I recommend ‘Babies, Kids and Dogs’ by Melissa Fallon and Vickie Davenport for in depth advice and support to help you and your family as they grow. But just like any recipe book, the results may not be quite what you expected and advice from a knowledgable and experienced dog trainer may be just what you need.

Houseline help with puppies

Since my Border Collie puppy, Riff, came home I have had a houseline attached to his collar or harness whenever he is out of his safe area and I am able supervise him.


Because prevention is better than cure:

If he was free to roam he could be:

  • learning to bite my laces when I’m tying them
  • chasing my cat
  • putting his head in the fridge when I open the door
  • jumping up to greet people
  • rushing out through open doors
  • playbiting people
  • bothering my older collie, Braccy
  • falling in the pond

As a result of using the houseline to guide him he is learning to:

  • watch me tie my shoes
  • look at the cat and allow her to approach
  • watch me open and close the fridge
  • keep feet on the floor to meet people
  • keep teeth on toys
  • investigate the pond safely
  • not to play roughly with Braccy


By preventing unwanted behaviour I can more easily guide and reward him for ‘good’ behaviour.

For example, when my cat comes in I stand on the line to keep the puppy still so that she can approach and investigate him in safety. If she moves away I reward him so that he is less likely to have the urge to go after her, which will make her run and will cause him to chase and learn a new game which will distress my cat.

This makes for a calmer household, I avoid having to rush after him, grab him, scoop him up or tell him off I can just stand on or lift up the line and he cannot go wrong