Regardless of breed or bloodlines, a dog’s attitude toward people is primarily the result of the interactions he had with them as a puppy.
Training a pup to be people-friendly is key to raising a great dog–and you don’t have much time to do it. By eight weeks of age, your puppy’s critical period of socialization is already waning, and by 12 weeks, his most impressionable learning period is almost over.
Since you can’t take your dog outside to meet people until three months of age at the earliest–when his puppy shots will protect him against infectious diseases–you’ll need to bring people to him. As a rule of thumb, your pup should meet at least a hundred people before he’s three months old–an average of three unfamiliar people a day.
Throw lots of puppy parties
I know this may sound like an ordeal, but think of it as a chance to wake up your social life. Throw lots of puppy parties for both adults (especially men and people your puppy doesn’t know) and kids. Bring your pup to work for the day and introduce him around. Pop your puppy in his carrier and take him with you to the local café. Share your puppy with the world!
There’s plenty of socialization to do on your own, too. Spend lots of cuddle time with your pup to get him used to being handled and hugged (future vets and groomers will thank you) and prevent object guarding by teaching him to be comfortable with having people around his food bowl and toys.
—By Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, is also well as the author and star of numerous books and videos on dog behavior and training, including Before and After Getting Your Puppy and SIRIUS Puppy Training. He lives in Berkeley, California.