The first rule of thumb is that dogs are extremely social animals. But breeds were not originally designed that way. Seeing as how they were descended from wolves, they were genetically designed in such a manner so as to provide them with the greatest opportunity for survival. This will help you understand their behavior and consequently, their needs. It follows then, that if you study the concept of how "the pack" functions, then you will understand why the socialization process is so critical. You are altering the dog's social genetics so that they have no problems with interaction in society.
The second rule of thumb for socializing your new puppy is that handle them as much as possible, depending on the breed of dog and the size that it attains. Since they are bred to be social, chances are that you will not have to be concerned with how they interact with other dogs, unless of course they were isolated during the whelping period. This is not a very common scenario, but it does happen on rare occasions for a variety of reasons that we won't go into at this point.
Despite the fact that dogs are now bred to interact with humans, it is important to find out if the breeder allowed them the opportunity to do so in the whelping period. An example of the variations here would be comparing dogs of the guardian breeds to those of the companion breeds. The guardian dog's personality is skittish, oftentimes to the point of aloofness, and they tend to be suspicious of strangers. This is where handling them as puppies become so important. You don't want them to develop into an overly aggressive or over-protective mindset.
Another example is the Terrier breed. Characteristically, this smaller breed of dog tends to be very feisty and have a high drive, therefore needing to wear a tee shirt that states "Caution: does not play well with children and others." The same holds true with breeds that are fearful and shy --- they need extra TLC and handling to get through this stage.
As they grow, and the concept of going for a walk enters the picture, it will involve getting them accustomed to wearing a collar. The aspect of having something they are not used to around their necks usually starts with the first trip to the vets office for their first series of vaccinations.
Remember that lives vary from owner to owner. Therefore, socializing your new puppy could involve living with small children and learning how not to overreact to the noise and scuffling that occur around them. Or it could involve teaching them not to be underfoot if and when there are elderly family members present. It's all a matter of the environment that they will be living in.
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