You've thought about it and you've decided to finally give in to your children and get them a puppy for Christmas. You've done all the important research and have chosen the exact dog to fit into your family and lifestyle. You understand the lifetime commitment and the whole family is on board. You've decided that you have the available time and motivation to bring an eight-week-old brand spankin' new puppy into your home. Now you've got a chance to do everything right and you can set this puppy up for a lifetime of success and happiness. It's so important to take advantage of this extremely important and impressionable time in your dog's life. Potty training and obedience are important, but SOCIALIZATION IS URGENT! The clock is ticking.
The most pressing priority is to SOCIALIZE your puppy. Dogs of all ages can learn commands and tricks, but the ideal time for socialization is between 8 and 12 weeks. If your lucky enough to meet your dog when he/she is this young, then you have an amazing opportunity. Dogs who miss out on this because of of their circumstances are at a disadvantage their entire lives. To socialize your puppy, make every effort to introduce your puppy to as many people as possible, and ensure you cover a wide variety. Be sure to include men, women, children of all ages, and even strangers.
Make it a goal to have your puppy meet at least a hundred people before he/she is 12 weeks old. This means you have about four weeks to really fill up your new family member's social calendar and create as many positive interactions as possible.
During this time, it is also important to ensure the puppy doesn't have a traumatic experience that could imprint and affect them long term. To ensure all interactions are positive and to avoid any traumatic event, always socialize your puppy in a controlled environment. Don't socialize your puppy at a dog park. You don't know the other dogs and owners and cannot control their dogs when they are off leash (dog park etiquette is for another day). You'll need to invite people to your home to meet your dog. A fun way to do this is to have puppy parties. Have kibble available and invite people over to handfeed your dog when they are there. This will really make things positive for your puppy and will train him/her to love meeting new people, and really love when new people come over, because new people equal kibble! Maybe give the children something extra tasty to feed the puppy so your puppy will REALLY love children (ensure all interactions between puppy and child are supervised and that children know how to interact kindly).
The thing to remember is that your puppy needs to learn to enjoy the company of all people and to enjoy
being handled by all people, especially children and strangers. This needs to take precedence during puppyhood, but it should also continue into adulthood. A well socialized dog is a lifetime commitment. Your dog cannot and will not be well socialized by living in isolation in a crate with no exposure to new things and people. This will cause fear, aggression, behavioral issues, boredom and a whole list of issues that often bring adult dogs back to the shelter.
More specific questions on how to socialize your puppy? Feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.