“IS THAT A TRASH BAG BLOWING IN THE WIND?!?!?! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!”
This is exactly how your puppy might react when they are experiencing a “fear period”
So what exactly is a fear period? Well it is as exactly as its name implies: a span of time (typically between seven to ten day) of your puppy showing irrational fears to objects and experiences that they may have been around before, and also are particularly sensitive to new and unknown things.
When a puppy is developing and maturing, they go through periods of time where they will be exceptionally sensitive and fearful of new and random things. This can happen anywhere between seven weeks, to six months with varying degrees of severity. If you notice your puppy suddenly showing unexplained fear to something they have previously paid no attention to or had no fear towards,it’s a safe bet to say that they have entered a fear period.
Now that we know what they are, how do we react to them?
The best way to care for and help a puppy through a fear period is with gentle guiding and exposure with positive reinforcement when fear is exhibited. Being observant and attentive of your puppy’s behavior will help both you and your pup through this delicate time.
In order to help your pup, you need to understand that they are easily overwhelmed and frightened, so be understanding and gentle but don’t shield them from all experiences. They need to continue to experience new things, and learn that even if something is scary it won’t hurt them.
Introducing and exposing them to these things can be a delicate balance, the experience needs to be controlled so you are positive that you can monitor your puppy’s stress levels and respond appropriately if they’re becoming overwhelmed. When they are showing signs of fear or hesitation, immediately redirect their attention to you, and treat! This will (after a while) show them that it’s okay to be around scary things, and that you are there to protect them.
Most puppies experience their first fear period while still at the breeder’s home, in order to appropriately respond to this, breeders should be very attentive of their puppies’ behaviors and notice the signs.
A great example of something the puppies might show a new fear towards is the infamous vacuum cleaner, the dog’s worst nightmare...or does it have to be? The answer is no, if the fear towards it is dealt with early on before they ever even come home to you! If your breeder regularly desensitizes them to things such as the vacuum, with positive associations such as food, toys, attention etc., your pup will not view the vacuum as some evil spawn of the devil.
With all this being said, it isn’t wrong or bad for your puppy to go through these, in fact it is normal and expected! All puppies go through multiple fear periods and that’s ok, but it is up to you and your breeder to have the knowledge on how to recognize what is going on and know how to accommodate and appropriately react to these delicate times of your pup’s life.
Here at Sweethaven, we regularly desensitize our puppies to various sounds, smells, and objects. We have carefully crafted a 30 point checklist to ensure your puppy comes home prepared to take on the world! We also offer lifetime breeder support to help guide our puppy families through fear periods and more.