Caring for your new puppy during the coronavirus pandemic

May 13, 2020

Caring for a new puppy can be really hard work at the best of times but with the introduction of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus you may be finding things particularly difficult. Here’s some tips and advice to help you during these challenging times. 

Picking up your puppy from the breeder

If you are thinking about getting a puppy, you must comply with the strict government measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus. This means that you cannot view litters of puppies in person, but you can view puppies by video and email. Use this time to start preparing for a puppy and do some research to find a good breeder or rescue centre. Make sure you know how to choose the right puppy from a litter and don’t forget to use the Puppy Contract to make sure you have all the information you need before you agree to buy a puppy from a breeder.

If you are due to pick up a puppy from a breeder, the current advice is that breeders should keep in touch with new owners by phone, email and video until the puppy is old enough – from eight weeks – to leave the litter. While collection by the purchaser is restricted by the coronavirus measures that are in place, the breeder can transport a puppy to their new home. Journey times must be minimised and social distancing must be maintained during handover.

If you are being encouraged to visit a litter of puppies, this may mean that you are dealing with someone who is more interested in profit than the health and well-being of the puppies. Always be suspicious of someone who tries to hurry you into buying a puppy, e.g. by telling you that they only have one left or lots of people are interested in buying one. Lucy’s Law, which bans the third party sale of puppies, came into force in England on 6 April 2020. This means that puppies can only be sold directly from the breeder and the place where they were born.

Beware of puppy scams!

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a new wave of puppy scams. Many people have reported being conned out of money for a puppy that never materialises. With social distancing measures in place, which mean that you can’t visit a breeder to choose a puppy, people are resorting to buying puppies online. This is highly risky. Not only does it make you vulnerable to being scammed, it also means that you are not able to properly vet the breeder and choose the right puppy for you.

Vaccinations

The British Veterinary Association has updated its guidance, with effect from Tuesday 14 April 2020, to recommend that primary vaccinations for puppies and one year boosters in adult dogs should go ahead. This is to prevent an outbreak in diseases that dog vaccinations provide protection from. Puppies can also be microchipped at the same time as they receive their first vaccinations. Ask your vet for advice about flea and worm treatment.

Taking your puppy outside

If your puppy has not had their first and second vaccinations, you should hold off taking them outside, other than into your garden. As they grow and become more energetic, you may need to find ways to keep them entertained. Make sure you have plenty of chew toys – most dogs enjoy a Kong filled with something delicious like cheese spread (but watch the calories). And check out these great ideas for games to play with your pup at home and in the garden. 

Walking and exercise

If your puppy has already had their vaccinations, you can continue to walk them. In accordance with the UK government’s latest guidance, you can now walk your dog as often as required. How much exercise your puppy needs will depend on their age. A general guide is five minutes for each month of their age. For example, a 12-week-old pup will benefit from about 15 minutes exercise. Bear in mind that your puppy will enjoy frequent stops to sniff their surroundings, so it may be more of a slow amble than good exercise for you. Puppies also really benefit from mental stimulation. There are lots of brain games you can play with your puppy, and the rest of the family, at home.

Remember to observe the social distancing guidelines. This means that you need to keep 2 metres away from others when out walking.

Socialising your puppy

It’s important to introduce your puppy to different sounds, smells and experiences when they are young so they are not afraid of them when they grow up. This is called puppy socialisation. The key time to socialise puppies is when they are between 4-16 weeks old. This is when they are most inquisitive and receptive to new experiences. 

The current measures in place may limit your puppy’s exposure to new experiences outside of the home. However, there are plenty of things you can do to socialise them at home.

Watch this video by clinical animal behaviourist and founder of Lead With Lauren, Lauren Watts. It contains lots of great ways to introduce your puppy to new sounds, smells, sights and objects at home and in the garden. 

You can also introduce them to different sounds with the help of this sound therapy programme for dogs.

Training classes

Lots of dog trainers are now running virtual puppy training classes so you can keep up with puppy’s training without having to leave the house.

To make sure your puppy is given the best start with their training, take care to only sign up with a dog trainer who is accredited by the Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC). The ABTC has been established to set standards for dog trainers and behaviourists, and regulate the industry. This is necessary because there are lots of people who claim to be dog trainers but are not qualified. They may use training methods that could harm your puppy.

By finding a dog trainer via one of the following ABTC accredited networks, you can be sure that they only use and promote positive and force-free training techniques. 

The Dogs Trust Dog School is not currently running puppy training classes but you can get lots of tips from their training videos instead.

Teaching your puppy to be left alone

This time at home may be a good opportunity to really bond with your puppy and help them to feel secure in their new home. However it’s important to get a balance between cuddle time and letting your puppy get used to settling on their own. This is so that when the measures are lifted, your puppy won’t feel anxious when they need to spend time on their own at home. Here’s some great tips from the RSPCA on how to teach puppies to be left alone during this time of lockdown. Watch this video with pet training and behaviour specialist, Naomi Andrews.

What to do if you are having problems

It’s not uncommon for new puppy owners to face challenges in the early months. The good news is that you’re not alone.

If you are experiencing behaviour problems with your puppy, such as them being aggressive towards people or possessive of food, you may need to get some professional help. You will find qualified animal behaviourists offering virtual consultations via the Animal Behaviour & Training Council.

Get puppy care tips and advice

  • If you’ve got a new puppy, sign up to Puppy’s First Year emails to receive regular updates on what to expect as your puppy develops and grows, delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Check out our Puppy Guides for tips and advice, including puppy toilet training, sleep training, teething and biting.

Main image photocredit: iStock