Fear periods in dogs are a normal and natural part of their development journey, but they can be difficult and concerning for dog owners to witness. What is a fear period, how can you recognize one, and what can you do to help your pup through this transition? Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of fear periods in dogs.

What is a fear period?

A fear period is a critical stage of socialization and development that occurs in puppies between the ages of 8 and 11 weeks and again between 6 to 14 months.

During this period, puppies are especially sensitive to any new experiences, and their reactions can range from curiosity to fear. It’s essential for you to be observant and respectful of their puppy’s fear period, as this is the time when pets learn how to interact with the world safely and comfortably. If left unaddressed, fear periods can lead to long-term consequences such as difficulty with socialization and trust with humans.​

8-11 weeks Fear Period

The FIRST fear period for puppies occurs between the ages of 8-11 weeks, and typically lasts between 2-4 weeks. This is a very important period during which puppies are learning to trust and interact with their environment. During this time, puppies are especially sensitive to new experiences and their reactions may range from curiosity to fear. Owners should strive to minimize their puppy’s stress by providing gentle, positive encouragement when introducing them to new situations.

Signs of a Fear Period

The most common symptoms of a fear period in dogs are trembling, hiding, cowering, barking, and even aggression. During this sensitive period, pets may become scared of new experiences such as loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals, or new environments. If a puppy is scared or threatened, they may bark, growl, snap or even bite in order to protect themselves. It is important for owners to be aware of their pet’s fear period, as it can be triggered by seemingly harmless experiences.

The 6-14 month Fear Period

During this time, puppies are most susceptible to developing long-term fear-based behaviors, so it is important to introduce new experiences and environments in a positive manner. Unfortunately, if left unaddressed, fear-based behaviors can persist into adulthood and lead to serious issues. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the two fear periods in dogs and how to manage it. During this time, puppies should be provided with plenty of positive reinforcement and positive exposure to novel situations.

What can I do to help my puppy during their Fear Period?

The most important thing that you can do to ensure your puppy has no long-term effects from the fear period is to provide a safe and comfortable environment. You should try to minimize the intensity of new stimuli and should not force the puppy to confront things that it fears. Instead, you should provide gentle, positive reinforcement when the puppy displays curiosity or bravery. Additionally, you should take care to provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation, such as short walks and playtime.

When is it NOT a Fear Period?

It’s important to note that a fear period is different than generalized anxiety or fear, which may be more of an ongoing struggle for some dogs. If your pup’s fear seems to persist beyond the fear period, it may be time to seek the help of a professional. A veterinarian or an animal behaviorist can help diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your pup’s anxiety or fear. With proper guidance, it’s possible for your pup to overcome their anxiety and develop a confident, trusting relationship with their owners and the world around them.

 

Other Resources to check out:

 Shih Tzu Puppies working through curriculum by Divine Pups YouTube Channel

 

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Ara Hughey
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