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Dog socialization is more than dropping Fido off at the park for playtime while you sit on your cell phone catching up with buds. Socialization is an important part of teaching your puppy or dog how to behave in a variety of situations, building of their self esteem (and reducing their fears at the same time) along with teaching them good canine manners both with humans and other dogs alike.
Socializing puppies begins at a very young age. Reputable breeders handle young puppies at three weeks of age and then start exposing them to unfamiliar people at six weeks of age after the first series of puppy shots. Socializing a dog is a life long task for without repeated exposure to situations, any dog will retreat to any fear-based bad behaviors.
When you decide to take on the responsibility of a dog, socialization becomes your job. Exposing your dog to other dogs, people, and situations is actually part of his training and helps to shape his personality. He'll learn what behavior is appropriate and what isn't and he'll be able to interact comfortably with dogs and people alike.