Puppies need to be socialized in every conceivable situation such as other animals, people, stores, hiking adventures and so forth. The Vets, however, strongly discourage socialization until after the puppy vaccines which puts owners in a quandary. Rebel was 16 weeks old before he was cleared to be able to socialize which really limited his exposure to life during the critical marking stage. The dogs health is of utmost importance so we did abide by the Vets strong warning but we were ready for the minute he was cleared! Here is how we did a crash course in socialization within one week of being cleared by vet.
Presently, we have two indoor cats and Rebel so his socialization was very limited to people and cats for the first weeks. Rebel loves people... any and all people! He mostly ignores the cats but is curious enough to sniff noses with them. No reaction whatsoever to cats.
Socializing with other dogs
Play date tests: As soon as he was cleared, we had play dates set up with neighborhood dogs with very calm personalities. The results were not very good with Rebel being so submissive that the other dogs couldn't play with him. He would just lay down and play dead. Clearly he needed to be desensitized to dogs first.
Kennel Trip: The best place I could think of with many dogs in a safe environment was a Kennel. Family friends own such a kennel and we arranged to take Rebel for a visit. I walked him around the kennel runs for quite some time. He was initially very scared and laying down a lot in a submissive state. Within about 30 minutes he realized he was ok and started walking more confident. By the time we left the Kennel he was about 50% better and seemed to mostly ignore other dogs around him. A HUGE improvement!
Groomer Trip: After the Kennel trip we took Rebel on a walk thru of a groomer shop owned by friends. There were many scents but no dogs. Rebel walked confidently, smelling and investigating but showed no fears at all.
Daily Play Dates: Every day since Rebel was cleared to socialize, I have taken him on a play date of some sort. Every day he has improved and now plays like any other puppy his age. We have gone on many hikes with other dogs and he does fabulous. See the article image of Rebel and Buddy on a play date yesterday after a romp through the woods, streams and fields. They had a blast.
We also take Rebel to Tractor Supply and other public areas to help him get used to smells and distractions. It is a challenge at this stage but very worth the time investment.