Sometimes your happy - go - lucky puppy suddenly spooks and behaves strangely without warning. Your puppy may do something unusual, like being afraid of the garbage can, even if they see it every day.
This is an important time in your puppy's life and it is vital that us humans understand just what our puppy is going through when they reach fear periods.
A fear period is a combination of brief episodes which can happen somewhere between 1-3 times in your puppy's life. Each period will usually last between 2-3 weeks, but that time can vary. Most often, these periods can be between the ages of 8-11 weeks and 6-14 months old with a possibility of their third one during early adulthood.
All breeds are prone to fear periods and it happens to most puppies, though not all of them will experience these moments. This can make it hard to predict, which is why we want to know what to look for. Nervous puppies and outgoing puppies alike may experience fear periods, they are not based on the personality of your little fuzzball.
A typical puppy in the middle of a fear period can suddenly become afraid of people, animals, noises, and even their own reflection. You will see them bark, back away, tuck their tail, pin their ears, display the whites of their eyes (known as "whale eye") and maybe even pee. One of the worst parts is that these terrors usually get triggered by a familiar person or thing.
Fear periods can be very unsettling to puppy owners, so knowing that this is a normal part of your puppy's development and growth can help you make plans for a less stressful puppyhood.
What Not To Do:
Don't over expose or over socialize your puppy during a fear period. That doesn't mean hide them away, it simply means make sure they feel safe.
Make sure your groomer or Vet is aware your puppy may be going through a fear period so they know to take their time and go slowly.
Don't force your puppy to confront the thing that is scaring them. This will reinforce their fear rather than free them of that fear.
Don't panic! Often times, your puppy will revert to their normal selves once the fear period is over. If you, the human, panic and stress yourself out about the behavior returning, it will further stress your puppy. Time to take a deep breath!
If any puppy or dog is showing symptoms of a fear period for longer than three weeks, or if the behavior is getting worse, you may be dealing with a different issue altogether. It's time to book a private class so we can consult on creating a custom training plan to help you manage the behaviors.