Hampton Roads animal shelters and rescue groups have received a lot of love from residents who have adopted pets since the COVID-19 coronavirus surfaced. Early in the pandemic, kind-hearted residents answered the organization’s call to “clear the shelters” and adopt. As the weeks became months, still more pet lovers turned to adoption as a way to cope with feelings of isolation and stress. A furry companion would help them feel less lonely and keep them active.

Research shows that having a pet to care for and cuddle in times of uncertainty can relieve anxiety and promote social interaction. Pet owners are more likely to meet new people and form friendships when they are out with their companions. Not only is this good for the owners, it’s great for their four-legged friends—especially puppies that need socialization skills to lead a healthy, happy life.

For dogs, the greatest threshold for learning is from three to 20 weeks. If you have recently adopted a puppy or a dog that is new to you, consider these recommendations for socializing your new pal to provide them with the best start possible.

  • Explore textures – Allow them to experience textile sensations, including grass, leaves, sand, carpet, gravel, dirt, concrete, etc.
  • Experience sounds – Gradually acclimate your puppy to everyday sounds, such as ring tones, the television, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, garbage collector and thunder. Act happy and make these positive new experiences.
  • Meet other pets – Let your dog safely meet other dogs in the neighborhood, while walking with them on leash. Ask a trusted dog owner friend to arrange a safe play date with you in attendance.
  • Get to know new people – Introduce your puppy to several new people daily, keeping the interactions pleasant and unthreatening.
  • Teach them to be alone – Puppies should learn to tolerate being separate from other people and animals to avoid developing separation anxiety

Given Hampton Roads’ long-range forecast for a mild winter, there is still time to get out and about, socializing with your pet while the weather is pleasant. We hope these tips will move you both in the right direction!