By “socializing your dog”, we mean introducing him or her to a variety of objects, people, animals, and environments in order to allow him or her to become comfortable in a wide range of situations.
There is great value in your dog being exposed to certain situations, because it helps him to be calm, rather than being worried or unsure. I have seen dogs who don’t feel comfortable walking on shiny or wooden floors, going into the elevator or walking through the garage. I’ve also seen dogs that completely freaked out when they saw a vase with flowers simply because they were never exposed to those environments or items. It is also very important to have your dog meet new dogs that are well behaved to help him develop successful social skills. For puppies, it is extremely important for them to be around other puppies of the same age group, because they learn so much from each other, including bite inhibition through play.
Puppies are in their sensitive period between 3 and 20 weeks and are generally very accepting of new situations. Adult dogs might need more practice and training, but it’s never too late to learn.
It is always very important to associate the new situation with something positive that the dog values in order to encourage a positive emotional response in the future (such as treats and praise).
Early socialization helps your dog to lead a calm and confident life and helps to stop fear before it starts.