Click below to read up on the importance of socialization, and how to take a nuanced approach, below:
2018 Position Statement on Puppy Socialization
(Whole Dog Journal)
But ... what about shots?
Don't they have to wait until 4 months?
Well-meaning people may tell you not to take a puppy anywhere until she's had all of her parvo/distemper shots, which is typically around 4 months. That out-dated, black-and-white advice is incredibly harmful, and we trainers see the consequences all the time: "My puppy was so friendly before! But now at 5 months, when we can finally take her places, she's terrified of everything."
Yep. That's because all she saw in her formative "childhood" was her own home and her own people, and as she reaches adolescence, biology is telling her that if she hasn't seen it before, it's probably a threat. Science has now proven that puppies are open to new things only until they're about 16 weeks old. If you miss that socialization window (which happens to be when pups are not yet fully vaccinated) your pup may be permanently skittish about anything new: people, dogs, cars, trucks, flags, tile, strollers, planters, umbrellas, basketballs, etc.!
This is so critical that, in 2018, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (vets who are also behaviorists) published a position statement which explicitly encourages owners to broadly socialize pups before they are fully vaccinated, noting: "Incomplete or improper socialization during this important time can increase the risk of behavioral problems later in life ... Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age."
Careful and deliberate exposure to the world (no dog parks! no pet stores!) is what your pup needs to develop fully into the companion you envision. That's why I created PuppyPALS four years ago, and it's been wonderful to watch the results.
PuppyPALS is a small circle of trust comprised of responsible, knowledgeable owners who are all carefully moving through these tricky months by making smart choices about exposures. In five years and hundreds of puppies, we have never had an issue.
This is the PuppyPALS health waiver everybody signs beforehand.