Early socialization is very important. A puppies’ brain is like a sponge between 8-16 weeks of age. (And even a little before and a little after that age range.) This means that they’re figuring out the world and building associations with everything they come across in it. I’m going to be focusing on how to socialize your puppy with other dogs. Firstly, our recommendation is start socializing right away. This means starting before your pup is fully vaccinated. (Which is recommended by AVSAB.) This should be done carefully of course because you don’t want your pup walking around on surfaces that are frequented by other dogs until they’re fully vaccinated.
How to do it
Start off at a distance. Believe it or not, your puppy doesn’t have to meet every dog they comes across in order to build a positive association. The way to do this is, wait for them to notice the other dog and then start happy-talking and giving them small, high value treats. (Cheese, meat etc.) With repetition, they’ll start to build the association that seeing other dogs means getting tasty treats and they’ll enjoy seeing them. This is a great starting point because it’ll help prevent your pup from getting overwhelmed. Follow these rules to help ensure your pup is building the association you're looking for: 1. Make sure your pup sees the other dog first and then 1 second later start feeding. 2. Feed the entire time the other dog is present. 3. Stop feeding once the dog is out of sight. If at any point your pup won’t eat, try another high value treat and increase distance. Now that your pup has some padding, you’re ready for some actual introductions. The first thing I’ll say is, I wouldn’t recommend walking your puppy up to every dog they come across. You’ll want to do your best to carefully vet the dogs your puppy is going to interact with. I would recommend other puppies or young dogs (1 and under) that love to play and interact with other dogs. So if you have friends with dogs that meet that criteria, start there. This is important because you don’t want your young pup to develop fear of dogs because of being snapped at or bitten during this critical time.
You’ll want to do your best to carefully vet the dogs your puppy is going to interact with. I would recommend other puppies or young dogs (1 and under) that love to play and interact with other dogs.
When doing the actual introductions, be right there and have treats ready to help make it an even better time. Having treats handy is also very important in case your pup becomes overwhelmed. To play it safe, keep it short and sweet. Allow the interaction for 5 or so seconds, then pick them up, give some tasty snacks and repeat allowing it to go a bit longer each time. Before you know it, your pup will probably be playing with the other dog and really enjoying the experience. If your pup has a good time during each meeting, you’ll notice that they’ll be excited to see that same dog again the next time. (Or warm up much quicker.) You’ll also start to see your pup become more confident with each new dog that they meet.