Fear Periods In Dogs: A Survival Guide


It may seem strange when your normally energetic puppy, who has always been so fond of being petted by strangers and family alike, starts to cower between your legs whenever they see a visitor. When dog owners notice this behavior from their dogs, they become pretty concerned. This development stage of the dog is labeled fear period, and it manifests in a variety of ways, as we will see below. However, if your dog’s behavior is making you worried, you can check out our pup trainer – Ridgeside K9 NorCal Dog Training.

What Exactly Is A Fear Period?

A fear period is a developmental stage where a dog becomes more apt to perceiving certain external stimuli as threatening. It manifests in various ways, such as resisting meeting new people or interacting with other dogs even though they had no such issues before. The dog may also become overly cautious and suspect anything and everything. The dog may also become very defensive and, as such, barks or growls at items or people who it used to accept before. It is important to note that dogs have several cognitive milestones to undergo at the puppy stage, and this is one of them. It occurs naturally and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.

Dog experts believe that the fear period is a normal pathway for a dog’s development. The contribution of a certified dog trainer can help during this period so that the puppy can learn good behavioral patterns and get through the fear period faster.

When Does Fear Period Appear?

Dogs undergo several fear periods. The first fear period starts as early as the eighth week of your dog’s life. Some dogs may experience the first fear period ten weeks after their birth. During this stage, the dog is very sensitive, and any traumatic occurrence can scar the dog for the rest of its life. It can last anywhere between a few days and several weeks.

During this period, the puppy learns from its mother about which stimuli are dangerous and which ones aren’t. In nature, a lack of caution means the puppy can easily get killed and hence the reason for the first fear period. Interestingly, the first fear period coincides with the time many people separate puppies to be adopted by different homes. It is important to identify their early signs and take preventive measures to help your dogs heal.

Survival Guide For The First Fear Period

It’s natural for your dog to feel afraid and insecure during the first eight weeks of its life. Every traumatic experience within that period creates stressful feelings that could last for several weeks or years. Since most puppies are adopted after their 12th week of life, many dog owners are not aware of the first initial fear period. However, if you own a puppy that is younger than that, you need to take these actions to survive from its fear periods:

First, make it feel comfortable with vaccinations that are frequent at that age. The best way is to play the injection game using a common pen and then offer the puppy a treat after the fake vaccine injection. Canine training may also begin within the fear period, but it should follow the usual treats rewarding system. It’s also necessary to introduce your puppy to car travel. During this period, you should always use food to make positive associations.

Survival Guide For The Second Phase Of Fear Period

The second fear period starts when your dog reaches adolescence. That’s almost 20 weeks after its birth when the dog is sexually mature. Many dog owners fail to identify the second fear period, which could put the dog’s health in jeopardy.

It’s important to keep your dog away from traumatic and stressful experiences during this stage. For example, it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave your dog in a pet hotel or have it take some vaccination alone during this period. The key thing to remember when your dog goes through a second fear period is to allow it to socialize with other dogs. You should allow it to spend as much time as possible with your kids. More training and exercises will help your dog get through the second fear period safely.

When you first identify that your dog is undergoing a fear period, you shouldn’t feel frustrated. Your dog can sense your anxiety and react negatively. Staying close to your dog and offering it care and affection is the right way to survive through these periods.


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