How To Properly Socialize Your Dog
What does it take to socialize your puppy? Pretty much the same what it took you to drum up your own friends. In other words the more you mingle and interact with others the more progress you make. This is also true for your puppy. If a puppy doesn't get the kind of interaction it needs, social development will stagnate and could even regress. The goal of bring up a puppy is to have a confident, outgoing dog that is neither shy nor aggressive.
Practicing Safe Socialization
One of the biggest concerns for a pet parent trying to socialize their puppy is the possibility that your puppy will contract a disease from the bigger dogs. Unfortunately this is a serious risk.
Veterinarians will tell you that you should not introduce a puppy to bigger dogs until it is fully matured. However, doing so will make it much harder for you to socialize your dog when the window of opportunity is almost completely shut. So what's the solution? Avoiding places where dogs you don't know hang out. This means that you should not take your puppy to dog parks, dog events, or even pet stores.
This doesn't mean that you need to completely isolate your puppy from other dogs and people. Just introduce him to dogs and people that you know. You can even enroll your puppy into a puppy class. The trainers know the risks and will do everything to minimize them by keeping the training area sanitized.
Taking the Risk
But why should you take the chance at all? Dogs that are not properly socialized at a young age are at a higher risk of ending up in a shelter with little chance of ever being adopted again. And many of these dogs end up being euthanized because shelters cannot afford to look after a particular dog for the duration of its natural life. It's way too expensive and shelters also do not have room for more than a dozen dogs at a time.
There are some experts who will argue that behavior problems kill more dogs than parvovirus does. If you follow this argument you probably already have a really good understanding on why it is important to properly socialize your puppy and that you should take the risk.
Stop Holding His Paw
Unlike wolves or coyotes, dogs are genetically predisposed to become part of human society, but it's not always easy. So socialize, and remember that the world is full of scary things, especially to a little puppy. At times, even the boldest of them may become paralyzed with uncertainty, especially when faced with something they have never seen before.
Your response to this fear is very important. Don't soothe your pup. Petting him and saying, "It's OK, baby" (or something similar) gives your puppy the idea that being scared is OK and that you're rewarding him for the behavior. Instead, be matter-of-fact and encouraging. Let him work it out, and when he takes that step forward, praise him for his courage.