The period between 8 and 12 weeks of age is a crucial time in a puppy’s development. The behaviors, both positive and negative, that puppies learn during this time will heavily shape their temperament going forward, and although it is possible to correct negative behavior, it’s far easier to instill good habits early on.
The process of raising a well-socialized dog begins at home. Place your puppy’s crate or playpen in an area where your family frequently gathers in order to foster regular human interaction, and invite a variety of friends, family members, and fellow dogs into your home to show your puppy that guests are welcome. Be sure that all visitors, both human and canine, are well versed in how to properly approach and interact with dogs.
It’s also important to introduce your puppy to a variety of new places and experiences. Keep in mind that everyday people and objects such as bikes, cars, young children, and even people with hats may be unfamiliar and surprising to your new pet. When out in public, keep your puppy leashed, and ensure that you have full control of every new situation. Introduce new situations gradually; for example, begin with one-on-one meetings before scheduling a doggie play date. This will help ensure that your puppy sees new experiences as exciting rather than stressful, and will encourage an outgoing and confident adult dog. Don’t forget to use treats, praise, or a favorite toy as positive reinforcement to instill good social behaviors.