Many people make the mistake of not socializing their puppies during their critical socialization period due to the fear of them getting sick from not being done with all their puppy shots. This results in puppies that don’t get to experience much of life until they are almost 5 months old, and these puppies have a higher chance being very, very shy.
Puppies have immunity to most illnesses from their mother’s milk, and this immunity fades away at an unknown time, usually around the age of 8 – 14 weeks of age. When a vaccination is given, if the puppy still has mother’s immunity, the vaccine is null and does nothing. Only when the mother’s immunity has faded away does the vaccination actually take. This is why puppies usually receive 2 – 3 rounds of vaccinations, because we are trying to minimize the time that the puppy is actually at risk for contracting an illness until the immunity has been established.
The critical socialization period is between 8 weeks to 24 weeks of age. This period is when your puppy is most open and impressionable to new things, both good and bad. It is important to expose him to as many new POSITIVE experiences, sights, sounds, and smells as possible during this time. Negative experiences during this time frame will be equally impressionable on your puppy, so try to be careful!
You can socialize your puppy safely by making sure you only visit clean places, and making sure any dogs that have visited the area have been vaccinated themselves. Great socialization ideas include taking your puppy on car rides, through the take out window to fast food, to home improvement stores or other areas that will have a lot of people.
Bring treats, allow people to slowly pet your puppy and feed treats, and if your puppy seems nervous then make sure you ask people to give him some space so he does not become overwhelmed. Take it slow and reward your puppy for curious behavior! If your puppy is frightened of something, act as if it is no big deal so he does not think that you are also worried about the situation. You are the leader and he will look to your reactions as guidance.
Don’t try to start on socializing too much until after your puppy seems comfortable at his new home. Too much all at the same time may be overwhelming, unless he seems totally up for it! Just remember to go at his or her pace.