Often you hear that you need to "socialize" your dog, but what exactly does that mean? Basically, socialization is the process of introducing your new puppy or dog to new experiences in a positive way, so he doesn’t end up fearful and upset about new experiences. As we all know, life happens. Happy, well socialized dogs can adjust to new people and places without freaking out.
According to behaviorists, the most important socialization period for puppies is up until they are about 12 weeks old. This period is when much of their canine world view is formed. Your goal as puppy caretaker is to let the pup know that the world is okay and he shouldn’t fear new things. Since the pup will be having a lot of new experiences, you want them to be as good as possible. For example, if your pup’s first trip to the veterinarian is traumatic for some reason, he may fear the vet’s office for the rest of his life.
To socialize your puppy, consider inviting people over to meet your new puppy. Introduce him to men, women, and kids. You also should let the puppy meet dogs, puppies and cats (make sure any critters are vaccinated before they visit). Take your pup out with you to experience other places too. You might take him to parks or shopping centers for example. Just make sure you are either carrying him, or he’s on a leash. Taking him out and about also exposes him to the whole car experience as well. You should take him to the groomer or the vet, so he can learn about mundane things like having his toenails trimmed.
Show your puppy household items that either move or make weird noises like umbrellas or the vacuum cleaner. Encourage him to be check out new items you bring into the house, like shipping boxes (which can be filled with exciting smells for the pup to investigate).
Also try rearranging random items, so the puppy gets used to change. You might fold a folding chair one day and leave it open another day. When it comes to introducing sounds, do it gradually. If you have a really loud vacuum cleaner, for example, run it in a room that’s out of the way first.
As you go through the socialization process, there are two main things you don’t want to do. First and foremost, don’t scare or allow the puppy to be harmed in any way. Also, don’t reward fearful behavior by cuddling, cooing or coddling the puppy. Approach each new experience as you want the pup to do — confidently and happily. Often dogs look to their people for guidance. If you act like everything is fine, odds are good your puppy will too.