How to Socialize Your New Puppy
It is important to socialize your new puppy as soon as a family receives it. Poorly socialized puppies grow up to be fearful adult dogs and could become aggressive dogs if they do not get the human contact they need at a young age. Puppies between the ages of eight weeks and 16 weeks of age need a lot of interaction with humans and other dogs in order to grow up healthy and well balance. This is the age range in which puppies begin to mature at an extremely rapid rate.
Some puppies that have been raised by breeders and have not had much human contact except for the person who feeds them until they are adopted often suffer from poor socialization skills. They are fearful of all new experiences, including meeting their new family. They will not do well in cars, with their first vet visit or meeting other dogs at the dog park or dog school.
When socializing a new puppy, it is important not to force the puppy into new situations without reinforcement of the positive. Make sure that whoever the puppy is closest too and everyone in the family will know who the puppy has 'chosen', that that person is always there in the beginning when new things are tried.
One idea for socialization is to have guests who visit interact with the new puppy by giving the guest a treat to hand to the puppy. Have the guest tell the puppy to sit and one they have done this, hand the treat to the puppy as a reward.
The best idea for puppy socialization is puppy classes or what they call puppy kindergarten. This will help to get your puppy out of the house at least once a week, sometime more, and interact with other puppies who are also trying to learn good behavior and social skills.
There is an exercise in the obedience classes called 'meet and greet' in which a puppy must stay on a sit-stay while their owner shakes hands with another person in the class. A sit-stay is when the owner of the puppy tells the puppy to sit and stay and the puppy does not leave that position until their owner tells them to. It is not difficult and when the owner uses the right tone of voice, commanding, not questioning, and a firm pull on the leash for a correction, a sit is what they will get.
At the end of each class, once a puppy has learned several new commands and behaviors, they are allowed to run around and play with other puppies in the class either in the building or out in the yard. This is a great socialization exercise without being structured or stressful for the puppy.
No matter where a puppy was raised, at a breeders or out in the wild, it is important to begin socializing them to people and other dogs as soon as possible so they begin to grow relaxed and more carefree.