It’s tough to find socialization opportunities when it’s a pandemic and you live out in the country. But, they are there if you look close enough.
Socialization isn’t just exclusive to social interactions between your dog and other dogs or people. A large part of socialization includes getting your puppy comfortable and confident in all sorts of different environments and that can be achieved at home with a little creativity.
One part of environmental socialization includes different visual aspects such as unusual objects, dark spaces and different flooring textures. Simply by rearranging your living room furniture, you can create a new space for your puppy to explore or similar results can be achieved by placing one unusual object in a space your puppy is already familiar with. You can help your puppy be confident in small confined spaces by having them hunt for their meal in a closet or bathroom. Having your puppy walk across a tarp on the ground or dig through boxes to find a toy or food will help them be ok with different surfaces.
Another aspect of environmental socialization is unusual noises. There are plenty of these available in the average home that can be used to help in the desensitization process. Hair dryers, lawn mowers, cars driving by or if you live in the country like me: neighbors firing guns.
I heard my neighbor doing target process with a rather loud shotgun this afternoon. So Mud Puppy and I headed out to listen. We began by just scattering some food and letting him hunt for it in the grass. I was watching for any signs of uncertainty including reluctance to eat, tucking of his tail or seeking comfort from me. He only really showed signs of noticing the gun shots once where he simply lifted his head and then went right back to scavenging for kibble. So we ended up playing a bit of fetch and taking some photos. My goal is to show him that gun shots and loud scary noises aren’t a big deal and the best way to do that is to act completely normal around them.
It’s impossible to expose puppies to every noise or environment that they’ll experience in the future, but the more we expose them to at this age, the more they will be comfortable with all noises and environments. The more I generalize that these things are ok, the easier it will be for him to generalize novel experiences later on.