There is so much to think about when we first bring home our little furry bundle of joy. Pups need so much from us; the right diet, compassion, compainionship and comfort. But what is the best predictor of a well adjusted pup? SOCIALIZATION.
Socialization is more than just something dog trainers sello get pups into training classes. It is a matter of life and death for many dogs. Lack of early socialization results in more deaths (from euthanisia) than all of the puppy diseases combined. But in an attempt to keep our puppies safe from these viral and bacterial diseases we often overlook socialization. We do this to our peril, and that of our dog.
So, how much, and when? As early as possible, and as much as possible. Your puppy’s peak socialization period is over around twelve weeks of age. That’s before he is completely vaccinated. Anything he does not experience prior to that time may be something he is fearful of as an adult, and fear often manifests as aggression. So the more your puppy has experienced by the time he is 12 weeks old, the more well adjusted he will be as an adult.
Think about the things can be novel from your dog’s perspective. You may find that a hat changes your whole appearance to your dog. So your young pup needs to see you and others in all sorts of different hats. Hats, back packs, wheel chairs, walkers, old people young people, and people of all races. Places can be scary as well. Take your dog to stores, on elevators, anywhere your pup cannot come into contact with the waste of other dogs.
One way I like to do it is to use a carrier that allows my pup to see the world, but keeps him up off the ground. I can take my pup almost anywhere (except where food is sold) and they can experience the world with very low risk of contacting any contageous diseases.
Finding a good puppy class is another option. Some training is fine, but your goal at this age should be to teach your puppy to learn and interract with others. Make sure that your trainer does not use any punishment. Punishing a young pup is like beating an infant. It’s just abusive, and it doesn’t fix anything. And it’s not necessary. EVERY dog can be trained without physical correction if the trainer is skilled.
There are places your pup should not go. Your pup should not go to the shelter with you to look at dogs or cats. Shelters are rampant with diseases that can kill your pup. Your pup should not be placed on the floor at the pet store as you have no idea what the vaccination status of the dogs around you are. And under no circumstances should you take a pup that is not fully vaccinated to the dog park.
Be smart about it. And introduce your pup to hundreds of people, hundreds of places, noises, smells, and sights before he is too old for it to do any good.