Right now, being a puppy is ruff. Many places your new family would’ve taken you for puppy socialization experiences are no longer options.
You can’t meet 100 new people by the time you’re 12 weeks old. Because your family needs to practice social distancing.
You can’t go into noisy pet-friendly stores or restaurants. Because those pet-friendly stores and restaurants are closed.
You can’t go to puppy socialization classes. Because depending on where your humans live, there are pandemic restrictions stopping in-puppy and in-person classes.
Being a puppy while the humans are practicing Covid-19 pandemic compliance is tough. So, what’s a puppy and their humans to do? One option are puppy exploration walks.
What are Puppy Exploration Walks?
Humans are correct in thinking that every walk is an exploration for a puppy. But with pandemic lockdown restrictions many of the things that made your everyday puppy walk a deeper socialization experience are no longer accessible.
Also, the dog gone puppy truth is that most humans take the same walking route over and over. Most of the time us puppies are good with that. Since what makes walking the same route everyday exciting are the other dogs and people you get to meet. Not to mention the general motion and commotion that dumps new smells on the ground. But all this has changed.
However, a puppy exploration walk that conforms to social distancing rules is one way to help socialize a puppy during the Covid-19 lockdown.
5 Steps for Creating a Social Distancing Compliant Puppy Exploration Walk
1.Your Humans Need to Start with A Puppy Explorer Mindset.
Humans need to think like a puppy. What new textures, sounds, smells and sights can a puppy experience on a specific walking route?
If they won’t be able to meet people or other dogs, then will they be able to experience seeing them from a safe social distancing space?
Starting with the mindset of a curious puppy will help your humans choose a walking route that will expand your understanding of the world.
2. Map out a Puppy Exploration Walk that has at least 3 new smells, sounds, textures and visual experiences.
Meaning that your human should think about what 3 safe new sights, smells, sounds and possibly textures your puppy brain can be exposed to.
One day your walk route may go past people lining up outside a store. You don’t need to get close, but you can experience the sight of a group of people.
Walking through a park where there are different textures such as grass, pavement, gravel and maybe sand. Now, some parks my be closed. That’s okay, you can still walk past them and get the smells and sounds of the park.
3. Ensure your Puppy Exploration Walk Engages Your Puppy’s Sniffer.
Canine behaviorists, veterinarians and humans working as credentialed dog helpers have long understood the benefit of slow sniff walks.
In fact, various canine studies over the years have shown that a slow scent walk has a positive effect on a dog's mental and physical health.
Since the primary way dogs and puppies relate to the world is through our noses, it only makes sense to put our puppy noses to work.
By engaging your puppy’s nose, you are helping them learn about the world.
Exposing your puppy to new healthy and non-toxic scents on a walk by varying your regular walking route, or simply walking with a puppy explorer mindset and letting your puppy enjoy sniffing helps socialize your puppy to the world through its nose.
4. Take a Puppy Exploration Walk outside of peak hours.
Depending on where you live and what the pandemic lockdown rules are in your city or town, you may still be able to go into public parks, nature trails or visit a lake. If that’s the case, then make sure you are walking during non-peak hours in that area.
That way you can take your time and let your puppy explore, and ensure you are keeping within the right social distance.
A benefit of setting out on a puppy exploration walk outside of peak hours is that your puppy gets access to objects that they might not necessarily get to explore because access to those objects would normally be blocked by humans.
Also, your puppy gets more space to do a big long sniff of the different surfaces and gets to take their time observing their new surroundings from a safe social distance.
5. Set Aside Enough Time for your Puppy Exploration Walk.
Us puppies need time to explore. Everything is new to us. Sometimes we get focused on a new surface because of its smells or how it feels. And you can't get us away from that spot. Which is frustrating when humans need to get back to their computers or work. Critical to a happy puppy exploration walk is giving us the time to explore at our own puppy pace. We may not get far from where we started, but all our puppy senses may be discovering a whole new universe.
Finally, it’s hard to socialize puppies during the pandemic lockdown. The traditional ways of puppy socialization are not always available.
So, humans need to get creative. Puppy Exploration Walks aren’t the ultimate answer, but they will help your puppy get socialized to their surroundings until everyone can engage in traditional puppy socialization safely.