All puppies go through critical stages - important times when the environment profoundly influences later behavior. There are several critical stages in your dog's psychological development, and some excellent books on the subject. Here's information that will help you handle your puppy properly.
Early socialization is critical to a dog's healthy psychological growth. Think it's too late? your dog's already grown? Read on anyway. You'll get some insights into your adult dog's behavior:
From 8-16 weeks of age is the time when most puppies are adopted. Early socialization during this period is important because socialized dogs have better coping skills. A broad range of positive experiences will help your puppy grow up to be a well-rounded, stable dog. Lack of socialization can lead to a dog that is afraid of people, new experiences and new places.
The biggest reason that people have trouble with their dogs is that they have forgotten how to let them be dogs. The more we humanize our dogs, the more confused or neurotic we make them. A dog doesn’t know how to be a human any more than a human knows how to be a fish.
For dogs, socialization means understanding their place in the pack, and following the rules set by the Pack Leaders. They begin learning the rules as puppies, with their mothers correcting them when they break them. Later, other dogs join in the reinforcement process — one dog breaks a rule, another dog corrects it.
As for knowing their place in the pack, dogs understand this instinctively, and it comes from the energy they were born with. The most dominant dogs wind up in front, and the least dominant dogs wind up in the rear. Nobody has to tell them to do this. They figure it out on their own.
Once you've worked on your dog's good behavior in a variety of new places, she'll be a pleasure to take anywhere. Her good behavior will become as natural as breathing.
The veterinary notion of waiting until the puppy has had all of its vaccinations before socialization is completely outdated. Vaccines are not complete until 16 weeks of age and this is too late for proper socialization. Studies have shown that puppies with one set of vaccines are at no greater risk for parvovirus than fully vaccinated puppies in socialization classes. Proper socialization is a key element to your dog’s health.