Like people, dog have certain times in their mental development in which they learn about the world around them. Extensive research on how to impact dog behavior found that puppies who were isolated from human contact between five and twelve weeks were never able to react normally to people later in life. This is called the “sensitive period” in canine socialization but it doesn’t completely stop there. Further research shows that the key socialization window for dogs begins to close at approximately 20 weeks of age. A lack of socialization during this time leads to some dogs’ being terrified of unfamiliar people and dogs, new places and situations, etc. – especially dogs who also have a genetic tendency to be shy. What does this mean to you? It means your number one job in turning your puppy into a great dog is socialization.
1) 100 people in 30 days. As a rule of thumb, your puppy should meet at least 100 new people during his first month at home. Take your pup with you whenever you can. Introduce him to men in hats, women in sunglasses, children on bikes, 2 year olds, six year olds, 10 year olds, and so on. Just because your dog is around your family does not mean he’s socialized to other adults and children. They just don’t generalize well. Carry some treats and allow strangers to give some to your pup. Be sure to create a positive association between the new people and your puppy. Also be sure to expose your pup to lots of new environments… wood floors, linoleum, carpet, sand, and so on.
2) Touching & Handling – Your puppy should feel at ease being handled by people. To ensure this happens, it’s essential he’s handled by a variety of people each day. Get him accustomed to having his paws, ears, teeth, tail and hindquarters touched by humans. A failure to do this will create a dog who fights nail trims, ear cleaning, vet checkups, and so on. During a quiet time, sit with your pup and touch him all over. Talk soothingly and praise him for sitting quietly while you touch him.