Quarantine is over!! Now what? The question every new dog parent needs to ask!
Have you ever tried to socialize a pup during normal circumstances? It's not a quick and easy process in most cases. Adding COVID-19 to that mix just makes it even more wonky!
What you absolutely have to remember about socialization is that you have to take it SLOWWWWWWW (cue sloth emoji).
Here are 7 tips to get you started post-quarantine (remember it's a team effort):
SLOWLY get them accustomed to being home alone
SLOWLY introduce them to other dogs
SLOWLY allow them to meet new humans
SLOWLY introduce them to new environments (ex., parks, new offices, dog-friendly retail stores/restaurants, bars, etc.)
SLOWLY introduce training habits inside and outside of the home (YES there is a difference)
SLOWLY adjust their exercise schedule to fit the new routine
(BONUS TIP) Look into dog sitters/day care centers to include in your routine on a regular basis or "as-needed"
If you haven't caught on yet, the emphasis is taking it slow. Why? Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. For the past 12+ months there is a good chance that they only interacted with you, your immediate family, and the vet. Besides you, the other interactions may have been at a distance or brief. Would you be ready to take on a whole new world and everyone in it after little to no social interaction with the outside world?
P.S. What might seem like a behavioral issue post-quarantine might also mean that you are taking it too fast. Keep a slow tempo, tackle new routines one at a time and start early. Don't wait until the last hour to do this.
When introducing your pup to new people/other dogs. Make sure they associate "high-value" treats to these interactions. Start at a distance for a short amount of time and gradually increase the amount of time at a closer range. TIP: Keep them on a leash so that you can control any surprise behaviors.
What is a high-value treat? Anything that they do not receive daily for just being plain ol' stinkin' cute. This could be boiled chicken, drool worthy veggies, or wet food. Find one that makes your pup's eyes light up.
Introducing new environments will also need to be a slow process. Do not show them 3 new places in one day and expect them to simply adjust. Instead, try a new park (ideally with few people/other dogs) and take note on how they react to this new place. Keep it short and gradually increase length of time. Keep in mind that if there are a lot of people/dogs in this new place, then that is just another factor you need to address. Introducing a new environment + new people/dog can be too much for some pups, you might need to introduce these factors separately. Keep it at their speed, NOT YOURS. And of course, if they are elated about this new game reward them for doing so well!
Establishing new habits in new environments or with other factors involved (new people/dogs) can get tricky. The moment you change one thing from their normal schedule, you need to take a step back and get your pup slowly adjusted to the new change. High-value treats come in handy at this point. Reward them big time for small successes and try again when its not as successful. Training is nothing without consistency. Keep your training CONSTANT for as long as it takes (weeks, months, years; and no I am not kidding). Ultimately their success will depend on your level of consistency. Work through it together and take steps back, sideways, pr even diagonal as needed.
No training will be perfect. Allow yourself the space to adjust!
You got this dog parent!