Get Your Puppy Ready to Socialize
Properly socializing your puppy is the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU WILL DO. Proper socialization is more important than obedience training. Training can occur at any age, but once puppies reach a certain age, socialization is much more difficult. It’s VERY important to socialize your puppy before they are fully vaccinated. The socialization window closes around 12 weeks old, and the first round of vaccines aren’t completed until about 16 weeks. If you wait until 16 weeks, your puppy will have missed the crucial socialization period and be prone to behavior issues. The best way to prevent disease and socialize your puppy is to attend puppy classes, or other events where the health and vaccination status of other dogs is known, like friend and family dogs, vet clinics, etc.
The key to socialization is to make sure your puppy experiences as many places, people, and dogs as possible, but also to make sure those experiences are POSITIVE. It’s not enough to just bring your dog to a dog park once a week and let them run around, you need to be actively involved in the socialization process to ensure your dog is having a good experience wherever they are. Always let your dog experience the world at their own pace. Encourage them to be brave using treats and praise, but never force an experience on them if they are afraid or unsure. Giving them a few minutes to acclimate and build up the courage gives them more confidence. Forcing them into a situation when they are afraid makes them feel as if they have no control over their environment, and can lead to reactive, aggressive dogs.