Don’t get fooled into thinking that because you have friends over from time to time that your puppy is being socialized with people. Many breeds require a lot of human socialization at an early age and throughout their life to keep them comfortable, and more importantly, safe around people. Dogs such as German Shepherds, Pit Bull Terriers, Herding breeds need early and consistent socialization. Not doing so can cause your dog to become fear aggressive and thus one of the most dangerous vices, fear biters. All your socialization should start before your puppy is 16 weeks of age.
As with all your socialization time, you need to keep it controlled and safe for your puppy. You don’t want to submerse them into it by taking them to a crowded mall and asking everyone to pet your puppy. This will be too much stress on your puppy and will have adverse effects on them. Your sessions need to show your puppy that when they meet people good things happen to them by building up a positive association.
You also need to be sure that you introduce your puppy to people of all different races, ages and the different sexes. Don’t forget that your puppy may see someone in a hat, with a beard, backpacks or umbrellas as a totally new species. To help combat fear of these “common” occurrences you will want have sessions where people wear and carry different objects to expose your puppy in a positive environment.
Socializing your puppy to people is much easier than to other dogs and puppies, but you still need to watch your puppy’s reactions and remove them if the situation becomes too stressful to them. You can start by getting help from friends and family by inviting them over to spend some time with your puppy. Then taking your puppy out on the front lawn or public park is a great place to get more exposure. People are naturally drawn to puppies so it usually takes little promoting from you to solicit free help. Just be sure to educate the people on proper interaction with your dog and be sure to have treats if your puppy needs encouragement in the meet and greet process. You will want to avoid exposure to other dogs, however as this is a time when your puppy is susceptible to disease and little to no control of the behavior of the other dog.
When your puppy is comfortable with low traffic areas you can start taking them to higher traffic areas. Just be ready to break up crowds if they form and start to stress your puppy. Going to a park with a playground is a fun place to meet with kids of all sizes, strollers and such. If you are lucky your park will also have bicycles and roller bladers. Remember to have treats ready to help encourage your puppy or to distract them if they become scared. Puppy kindergarten classes are a great place to start your puppy as well. They will get exposure to different people and puppies in a friendly and controlled environment.
Take it slow, keep it as positive as possible and most important, keep your puppy safe. See each obstacle as a training opportunity that will help your puppy become a more well-rounded and secure adult member of society.