Expert Q&A

What are “fear periods” for puppies? I just got a new puppy and I keep hearing that term, but I’m not sure what it means. Please explain.

BY: The Dog Daily Expert

To understand “fear periods,” you need to imagine what life is like for your dog’s wolf ancestors. In the wild, you don’t often get too many chances to escape a dangerous situation. Learning to avoid something potentially dangerous can be a lifesaver. Fear in those moments can be a good thing. Young wolves, and puppies, are therefore heavily imprinted by their early social experiences.

According to Nancy Frensley, behavior and training manager at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society in California, fear periods in puppies generally occur during these ages: 7 to 9 weeks; 4 to 6 months; at about 1 year; 14 to 18 months.

“During these periods, puppies may show fear of items, situations or people with whom they formerly felt safe,” says Frensley. Submissive urination, crouching, shaking and other related behaviors might be evident.

Frensley advises that you remain patient during these times and keep to a familiar routine. Avoid reprimanding your dog and abruptly introducing it to new situations. If you do, you could be establishing a more permanent level of fear that could turn into aggression as the dog grows older.

A better approach is to praise your puppy for good behavior. Verbal praise, favorite food treats and gentle petting will encourage your dog to act appropriately again in the future. New introductions to people, places and things should happen gradually instead of suddenly. Your puppy, as part of your pack, is also very watchful of you during these “fear period” times. If you act confident and calm, your pet will watch and learn, hopefully mirroring your reactions to some extent.

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Tags: dog behavior , dog care , dog training

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