Nutrition & Behaviour expert Anna Webb highlights some top tips to improve your pups social skills.

As we acclimatise to a new normal, ‘Lockdown’ puppies are queuing around the block for limited spaces at puppy school due to social distancing restrictions and long waiting lists.

But as Lockdown eases there’s no excuse to not socialise your pup. Making up valuable time, providing you teach your pup important ground rules that can be adapted to different situations.

When you turn your dog’s world into a game, based on rules and teamwork, you’ve hit the jackpot.  You’re building trust and respect in every situation: that’s everything from boundaries around the sofa, travelling in the car, on a bus, train or tube, walking in the park or joining you in the pub, café or hotel.

Remember it’s the principle of joining in the game you’ve initiated, which relies on rules and teamwork in every situation with consistency and patience.

Perfecting your dog’s etiquette is easy when you tap into your pup’s innate sense of fun, especially where keeping your dog’s focus and attention is concerned.

It’s all about creating a line of communication that rewards your dog with play and /or food and little speech, but clear body language that he understands.

Otherwise semantics can get lost in translation. Dogs don’t understand English, yet they’re born bilingual in that they speak dog, but can also read us like a book.

Your pup will be tuned to your facial expressions. Facemasks can confuse your pup.  By not being able to see your face in context, so be mindful to acclimatise puppy to Facemasks being on and off, always rewarding a positive reaction.

You can’t lie to your dog. Being able to sniff our fluctuating levels of cortisol in our breath and sweat, your pooch does know if you’re anxious, happy, frustrated or sad.

That’s why all training should begin in the home where distractions are minimal, gradually building to the great outdoors. Always be in a happy, confident and proactive frame of mind, you’ll have more success.

Asking your dog to come to you (every time you ask) is the command that could save your dog’s life! Beginning by asking your pup to move towards you across your front room, may not be as easy as you think!

A long line is invaluable as it helps you pre-empt unwanted behaviours and reward those that you want, and its especially useful when training the recall.

Practice walking to heel indoors and in your garden before you venture onto the pavement, always be armed with tasty treats and a simple rope toy to keep his attention and reward whilst out.

In the park be mindful of too much play with other pups. Whilst dogs should meet and greet lots of people and dogs, for me it should always be controlled and turned into a game, which you play with rules and teamwork.

That’s why a long line helps you call your pup away from distractions like other dogs, picnics, children, joggers, cyclists’ and abide by social distancing rules.

Remember your puppy is growing and too much boisterous play can come back and bite you with conformation injuries later in life.

Gradual interaction with other dogs is best, building to off lead play if you’re sure both have a recall and can adhere to social distancing!

The ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ is a pawfect opportunity to socialise your pup in dog friendly pubs, cafes, and restaurants and practice the ground rules for model doggy etiquette: involving ‘meet and greets’ and ‘settling’. 

‘Settling’ is the key to a successful lunch in the pub where dogs’ mustn’t be a nuisance. It helps shape boundaries like when or when not to sit on the sofa. And is a major advantage for budding ‘office dogs’.

Teach this by encouraging your pup  ‘on the mat’, or to lie down on a preferred mat, blanket, or lightweight bed, and the stay there until you ask him otherwise.

Practice at home! Only ever reward when your pup is ‘on the mat’.  Use a treat to lure him onto ‘the mat’.  Praise this calmly and reward in position on the mat. Repeat.

Gradually move a step away, asking him back into position every time he moves. Build so you can leave the room, return and he’s on the mat!

Establish a release command – like ‘all done’ – so your pup knows when to get off ‘the mat’.

For the polite ‘meet and greets’ dogs’ four feet should remain on the ground. Easy to practice at home, when any jumping is ignored until your pup either stands or sits.

Muddy paws on clean white trousers is never a good look!

Anna Webb – Broadcaster, Author, has studied natural nutrition and therapies with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT). She lives in London and is owned by Prudence a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier.  www.annawebb.co.uk

To learn more about your dog tune into Anna’s podcast, A DOG’S LIFE with Anna Webb, subscribe for free! It’s streaming on all platforms. For any training, behaviour or nutrition advice see: www.annawebb.co.uk

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