Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Puppies-A Survival Guide

Like it or not, Winter is here.  It's time to break out the winter coats, gloves, boots, ear muffs, hand warmers, whatever you need to stay warm.   In Michigan we brace ourselves for 5-6 months of cold weather.  If you're a pet parent you know that being outside is a given, no hibernating until Spring.  If you're getting a puppy this Winter it's important to remember that they need playtime and socialization.  Both can be challenging as the temperatures start to dip below freezing. 

There are some things to consider when you have a Winter puppy.   Unlike Spring/Summer/Fall,  there are fewer opportunities to properly socialize puppies in the Winter months.  Here's a short list of some things you're not likely to see during the Winter months:

  • Kids on bikes
  • Lawn Mowers
  • Weed Wackers
  • Joggers
  • Baby Strollers
  • Swimming
  • Ducks/Birds
  • Kids on Playgrounds
  • Outdoor Sporting Events
  • Other Dogs
The list could go on and on but you get the picture.    When you think about the limited time frame for socialization for puppies, birth thru 18 weeks of age, it's easy to see how a Winter Puppy can be more challenging.   Don't despair, there are things you can do during the cold Winter months.

Sign up for a Group Puppy Class
All puppies need training and what place is better than a group class.  A class provides not only obedience instruction but opportunities to meet people and other puppies. 

Find a Puppy Playgroup
Even in the dead of Winter puppies need playtime and socialization with other puppies/dogs.  Invite friends, neighbors, classmates and their well socialized dogs  or puppies over for playtime.    A young puppy needs to have positive play experiences during the critical socialization period, don't put this off until Spring!

If You Don't Have Kids, You Better Go Find Some
It is critical  that puppies spend time with small children during their young life but it can be down right impossible to find small kids playing outside when the temps are cold.  Be creative, go visit a friend who has kids, invite a few kids and their parents, of course, over to your house for a visit.   I've been know to make short visits to a local pre school and meet and greet a few kids or pay a special visit to my Church Nursery on Sunday morning.    Try to do this as often as you can, your puppy needs to meet more than 1 or 2 children, shoot for 20 over a 1 month period of time. 

Get Outside And Find Activity And Noise
Look for any outdoor activity you can find, ice skaters, hockey games, kids building snowmen, cross country skiers, parades.   Our town holds an annual Holiday of Lights Parade complete with floats and a Marching Band.  I was recently asked by someone if taking a puppy to a Parade was a good idea.  My answer is YES!!!   You do of course want to place yourself in a position that allows your puppy to not feel scared or overwhelmed.  If your puppy is sound sensitive then standing at a distance would be best.  So many Winter puppies are poorly socialized and end up with a lifetime of issues, don't let your puppy be one of them!

Buy Warm Clothing, You're Going To Need It
You should invest in a warm coat, boots, gloves, and Under Armor,  my all time favorite.  There is no escaping the cold, you need to be outside with you puppy helping them explore the world.    All too often I receive calls in the Spring from families whose puppy has 'issues' related to lack of proper socialization.   The majority of people were not told how important those first few months are for their puppies development and thought they could put off training and socialization until Spring.  

So pull on your boots, zip up your coat, get out side and have some fun!!

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