Q: When is the best time to socialize my puppy?
A: This is a good question since Spring (a.k.a. puppy season) has arrived again. When your puppy is 3- to 12-weeks-old, he will be learning the rules of fair play, social skills, pack order, bite inhibition and physical coordination, first from his mother and litter mates, and hopefully from his new human “pack members” once he is adopted.
It is most important that puppies be socialized to many different humans during this time – people of different genders, ages, people with facial hair, people of different color, people wearing hats, etc. Puppies should also be introduced to lots of different objects, such as vacuum cleaners, umbrellas, wheelchairs, hair dryers, mirrors, etc., and also to different situations, such as having their nails trimmed, or being in a large crowd.
What will most negatively affect the adult dog is not what happened during this time, but rather, what didn’t happen. If you take your puppy home and it is exposed only to you and your family, it may grow up to be a fearful dog.
The general consensus among canine behavior experts is that puppies are most receptive to new people, things and situations until they are about 12 to 14 weeks old. After that, they enter into what is referred to as the “ranking period,” when they are rebelling a bit to identify their limits. They will be more interested in establishing their independence and challenging the “Alpha” ranking members of their pack. Kind of like unruly teenagers.
So take full advantage of those crucial formative weeks in your puppy’s early life. Proper socialization will give her the opportunity to approach her world with confidence, and a sense of fun.