Puppies go through a phase in their development that is known as the “fear period”. Some puppies seem to show more evidence of this than others. For example, a puppy who has been gregarious, outgoing, confident and happy to explore new things, suddenly shies backwards from a new object/person/noise/dog, puts his tail down, hides behind you, or lays down submissively. You think to yourself “This is out of character! I hope he isn’t developing some kind of weak temperament.” Rest assured, the fear period is a real phenomenon and with your help, your pup will get past it. Fear periods usually last 1-2 weeks. There are steps you should take to help your puppy in this formative time. While most pups outgrow this sudden reversal of character, you do not want to inadvertently reward this type of behavior, nor do you want to overwhelm the puppy. The fear period can vary, but it generally occurs in the 9-12 or (even as late as 12-14 week) time frame. There are actually several fear periods, but not every puppy shows signs during each. (For example; 9 weeks old, 5 months old, 12 months old, coming 2 years old.) During this time, take cues from your puppy. If he seems suddenly reticent to greet new people, when he was happy to greet ANYONE a week ago, do not coddle him, do not praise his shyness, or offer a safety net. This tells him he is right to be afraid. Ignore puppy when he backs off or hides. Try to get the person to kneel down, speak in the sweet happy dog voice, and perhaps offer a treat. (Not staring at puppy while doing so.) If puppy approaches, THEN you can praise, “Ohhh look, the nice person has a cookie for you!! Goood puppyyy.” If puppy has begun to react to cars on walks, or stationary objects, simply make very little fuss when he backs up or shakes or barks fearfully, & praise puppy for conquering his fear and agreeing to step forward, or walk by such monsters.
This is not a good time to overwhelm your puppy. Don’t suddenly bring him to a crowded city to walk for the first time right now. Don’t plunk him in the midst of 6 strange dogs at a play group, where owners are not being vigilant about How their dogs are allowed to greet. Don’t have a noisy party so all your friends can see puppy. Puppy Kindergarten is a better choice for meeting other pups – it offers more structure and supervision. If your dog is shy at puppy K, ignore his attempts to Velcro himself to you, and praise any attempts at joining and playing or approaching others. One of my exceptionally confident males had an unusually sensitive fear period. Overnight, he became fearful of all dogs, new people, and objects he had not previously encountered. It was MY first experience with a puppy having an extreme fear period. I took him with me to places where I knew he could meet a couple people, quietly, not overwhelmed. I brought him to a friend’s home, where he had already visited ,pre fear, to play with her well behaved and puppy tolerant dogs. I ignored him when he ran to hide at my legs, and I encouraged him for chasing balls and Frisbees with the others. At first, he shook, stayed against me, clawed at me to pick him up, and shrieked if a dog came in his direction! He would improve after a few minutes of playing… but the next day he reacted as if he had never seen the dogs before,, and we were back at Square one ! Socialization continued, but in a very structured way. After almost two weeks of this behavior, he suddenly returned to his former (obnoxiously) confident self! • Praise appropriate behavior and ignore inappropriate behavior. No huge corrections, just ignore. • Continue Socializing, and try to do so in controlled situations, and situations that the puppy has already been comfortable with. Do not do a lot of new things while puppy is in this phase. • Do not overwhelm puppy by attending an event with too many people. Dogs, stimuli at once. • Do not unnecessarily scare puppy during this time, as it can affect his ideas on particular things for his whole life. All it takes is one bad experience with a dog attacking him to change puppy’s behavior long term or even permanently. • Continue exercise, training, and play. Remember, once you have safely passed the fear period and your puppy is happy, gaining confidence, has attended puppy Kindergarten, and is growing up… your work is NOT finished. It is of the utmost importance that you continue to socialize your puppy/young adult dog. It is NEVER enough to socialize and expose puppy to life and the World only as a baby, then leave him at home for two years and act bewildered when he begins to react to new dogs, strangers, new places. You should make it a rule for puppy to go new places and see new people as he grows up and matures. As your training progresses, you can test your mastery of commands and good behavior by asking puppy to walk on leash as you stroll through a crowd or on a beach. Make sure to continue taking your dog to other places, having him meet other pups/dogs when appropriate, and having other pups/dogs come for visits at home.
By Karen Preist (www.TraumhofGSD.com)
Edelweiss puppies playing in the Colorado sunshine.
This also may be called the Fear of New Situations Period.
This period is less defined and may occur more than once as the puppy goes through growth spurts.
The puppy will also be teething. Although all of the adult teeth are through the gums by 6-6 1/2 months they don't "set" in the jawbones until 8-10 months. So even well trained puppies will need to chew and some can be very destructive at this age if not supervised.
A very well socialized puppy who has been greeting the world in a happy manner, may now start to fear people, and things that it never even noticed before. This period usually occurs at the same time as growth spurts, and sadly often corresponds with a puppy's first dog show. It is still the time to socialize, socialized, and socialize some more--allowing the puppy to work things out while building self confidence.
Never console a puppy who is afraid or mildly injured. Make light of the fear, introduce play behavior and praise. Reinforce basic obedience and attention training.
This period can be called "the dog is anticipating harmful situations that only exist in its mind with subsequent behavioral strategies that include defense mechanisms of flight, aggression and low inhibition."
Adolescence also coincides at this time with this fear period and the hormone surges, increased excitability, intensity about everything and the challenging of authority again. Hormones emitted by the dog can trigger dominance from other dogs that can be very traumatic to a dog at this time. Males start to lift their leg to urinate at 5-12 months.
They develop great interest in the females and can develop objectionable behaviors such as marking, mounting or humping, a desire to roam or fighting with other dogs.
Puppy Developmental Stages
Neonatal (newborn-birth -12 days) Blind and deaf, eyes and ears are closed, reacts to cold, pain and hunger, has a "righting reflex", "rooting reflex” and a "sucking reflex*, is totally dependent upon its mother for survival, must be stimulated to urinate and defecate, not aware of the world beyond the den, has a sense of smell which guides it to a nipple for food.
Transitional (13-20 days) Rapidly acquire and exercise new skills, practice vocalizations, body postures, and behaviors begin, begin to control elimination - dirty area vs clean, teeth begin to erupt -20 days
Awareness (21 -28 days) This begins a crucial time of learning "how to be a dog", learning what it's like to bite, be bitten, dominate and be dominated, begins the weaning process, becoming aware of the world, becomes a little more independent.
***Socialization (3-7 weeks) this socialization is with dogs and litter mates and begin to learn:
to bite and be bitten
submissive and dominant behaviors
will eliminate in "dirty" area
bonding begins with people and other animals
***Human Socialization (7-12 weeks) Move to new home, meet everything possible (in safety), learning is permanent, can not concentrate
Fear Impact (8-11 weeks)
trauma, pain, or fright will have a lasting impact perception on the puppy (the danger may be real or imagined)
Age of cutting (13 -16 weeks) cut teeth, cut apron strings, establish dominance order
Adolescence (4-8 Months)
Strike out - taste independence. Many obnoxious behaviors begin to develop There needs to be a firm, fair training program in place Almost full size - warning- they look adult - your eye lies to you!!!!! Often learn to NOT come when called! Still teething- chewing need till 10 months Physically awkward. Judgment is often poor
**Warning- do not give freedoms until they are earned. Nothing in life is free!**
Second Fear Impact (Occasional until adult)
"Fear of new situations"
Don't sympathize (reward)
jShow patience and kindness and help the dog work out the fear
Adult (1 - 4 years, smaller dogs mature faster)
Sexual maturity (as young as 6 months in small dogs) New attempts at aggression, dominance, guarding territory/family (many breeds ~2 years)
Settle into firm behavioral patterns. You can "teach an old dog new tricks"
***The socialization process should go on through the first two years. The puppy, adolescent or young adult who misses the important lessons of socialization will have difficulty as an adult. This animal will be fearful, distrustful, and/or aggressive toward other dogs, new people, animals, and/or situations. The puppy needs to learn that the world is a place of wonder, new surprises, and fun!***
Canine Consultant LLC
Tyler interacting with adult. All one big happy family.