Puppies have a lot to learn! There is a critical period in the puppy’s development called the Socialization period, which is from the age of 4 to 14 weeks. This is when the puppy is most able to learn about his environment, what is okay or safe. For a puppy to be ‘well-adjusted’ and comfortable with a variety of people, animals (dogs), environments (car-rides and different places) and objects (vacuums and umbrellas), it is vitally important that they be exposed to these things on a daily basis, in a positive and non-scary way, throughout this important time frame. Puppies that are isolated during this period and not adequately socialized can spend their lives afraid of encountering new things, people or animals, resulting in anxiety or even aggression!
Some people, concerned about the risk of catching an infection, wonder if they should wait until the entire set of puppy shots is completed before they expose their puppy to other dogs, or places dogs have been, but that is too late! To minimize risk, make sure that it has been at least 7 days since the puppy’s first vaccinations, that your puppy has been dewormed and that you stay on schedule for all the vaccines in their puppy series. Good opportunities for social interaction includes friend and neighbors who have healthy, vaccinated and puppy-friendly pooches, or organized social hours or puppy obedience classes, where puppies are current on vaccines, the flooring can be disinfected as needed, and a professional dog trainer can supervise and advise owners on this magical period. At this age, avoid places where dogs of unknown behavior (and health!) congregate, such as at dog parks.
Continue social experiences throughout the first year. Puppies adopted later in life still can benefit and learn from socialization, though it may take more effort if they missed that “magic window”. - Front Range Animal Hospital