Your puppy is sick or injured and can’t attend Puppy Kindergarten class. Don’t panic – there are still lots of activities you can do to socialize and entertain him! Be sure to consult with your veterinarian, and take things easy on days when your puppy is feeling poorly. For the days when he’s feeling pretty spunky, here are some ideas.
- Have a puppy party at home. Invite some friends over — preferably some kids, too — and have them give your puppy treats, pet and play with him.
- Visit a friend’s house. If your pup is contagious, be sure to choose a friend who doesn’t have a dog. You can just explore the back yard together if they prefer.
- Work on sound desensitization. Get your puppy used to thunderstorms, waves, fireworks, crowds, crying babies, construction noise, and other strange auditory experiences by playing him some sound habituation tracks for dogs – they are easy to find on YouTube.
- Play I Spy. Drive your pup to a busy area with lots of activity, like a park, playground, downtown, or strip mall, and let them watch the goings-on out the window. Remember to praise and reward any time something potentially scary happens, like a car alarm or siren going off, a shopping cart rolling by, a dog barks, etc.
- Practice your vet handling skills. You’re going to need them in the coming weeks anyway, right? Practice touching your pup’s paws, lifting their ears, looking at their teeth, lifting their tail, and light restraint (think a hug). Follow each motion you make up with a treat and lavish praise, keep your sessions short, and your pup will be far more comfortable during their exams.
- Get outside. Does your puppy have all his vaccinations? Take him for a walk—just tell other dog owners he is sick so they keep their dogs away. If your pup is injured, see if he’ll settle for riding in a wagon or dog stroller instead (these are often easy to find secondhand online).
- Construct an obstacle course. Have your puppy explore some safe obstacles and surfaces. Have him walk over a heating vent, and up and down stairs. Lay an ex-pen or baby gate on the ground, and practice walking over it. Can you lure your pup through a hula-hoop? Construct a “tunnel” with a blanket and some chairs and teach him to go through it. Practice helping your pup to weave through some cones (or other household objects). Can you lure your pup into putting all four feet into a cardboard box? How about putting his front feet up onto a book? His back feet?
- Make some multi-species friends. If you know someone with a dog-friendly horse, ask them if your pup can meet him or her through a fence. Ditto a dog friendly cat, parrot, chicken, tortoise, bearded dragon, etc.
Don’t give up!
The key to good socialization is to help your pup understand that new things are fun! The “new things” you’ll have to use if your pup is sick or injured might not look like what you had envisioned, but you can still drive home this essential lesson – it just requires thinking outside the box a little.