For those raising a puppy, it is important that you are aware of documented critical stages that all dogs can go through. The “Fear” periods which if not calmly anticipated and handled with proper guidance, could manifest in YOU developing a fearful adult dog.
These 3 “critical fear periods” can occur at around 8 weeks, 6 months and 11 months. IF they enter one of these periods, it can last for weeks. Some pups will whiz through the new noisy and visual experiences of life barely fazing them, while others will act like the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end.
Be proactive and plan the activities and noises of life to be introduced to your pup in easy to handle increments. Your pup’s experiences will expand and immature nervous system can become more sturdy by steady exposure to urban life. Take the time to gradually and methodically expose your pup to the world.
Depending on your pup’s reactions will determine whether or not you increase the stimulation. By taking the time to proceed with caution, you will maximize the chance of your pup becoming a steady, reliable and confident companion who can truly enjoy life with you.
When your pup displays fear, the most effective way is to “redirect” your pup’s attention to something which will get his mind OFF of whatever scared him. OR, simple be quiet and let him check it out until he calms. It is important that you wait until your pup calms himself before continuing on.
The WORST thing an owner could do is coddle or soothe him which would inadvertently nurture the fear! From the canine’s point of view, YOU would be nurturing this FEAR. YOU would be reinforcing his acting fearful. DON’T DO IT!!!
Example was when Ola was in his first fear period at 8 weeks, his Dad accidentally broke some dishes where he proceeded to yell at himself. This sent Ola scurrying away, so I didn’t even address his noisy Dad, but redirected Ola to play with me. It took some work but he eventually refocused and played with the toy….ending on a positive note!
During the waiting period until immunity was achieved, he had to be confined at home. I made sure to expose him gradually to various noises and experiences at home. Some examples–chopping food, banging pots, things dropping on floor, sliding laundry basket and boxes across floor, cooperative friends to visit, flapping plastic bags outside, popping noises from those plastic packing squares, towel being snapped, new areas of home for him to explore with me just observing, car rides with windows down to listen to noises and experience new smells, etc. Ola became super steady and confident within our home and yard and comfortable in the car.
Ola with calm Uncle Ed to teach him trust and being with different people.
Eventually when Titer results indicated his immunity, we initially just explored outside our home and neighborhood. Since this was all NEW, he was reactive to cars, trucks, workmen coming out of their vans, barking dogs, etc.. It was important for me to be QUIET and calm to let him experience this new part of life and come to understand that it was part of life. You must be aware that you can NOT make him be brave. Confidence comes from within and you need to be there to keep him safe but be calm and quiet to let him process whatever the new stimulation may be. It is important to wait until he calms before moving on OR you will have created one of those dogs dragging their owner away when something scares them or worse yet, bolting loose.
Regular exposure will make it familiar and depending on his reaction and comfort level determines whether or not to increase the level of stimulation.
In time, we worked Ola up to going around Kahala Mall and sitting at Whole Foods’ outdoor eating area (initially on the perimeter and later right in the middle), Kaimuki Town where we visited Stu at Pillbox Pharmacy and the ultimate on Christmas Eve (7 1/2 months old–already out of his second fear period—would we have taken him if he was still in this fear period? NO.) we took him with us to eat outside of Roy’s Hawaii Kai. When we were finished, we asked our server to take our photo. Since Ola was so well behaved, she hadn’t realized he was even there. Also, at 8 months he was my demo dog for a Qigong for Dogs talk at Alice Inoue’s Happiness U School and displayed confidence and calm.
Being alert to the fact that even though Ola has a strong foundation, he may still go through a 11 month fear period. So I will continue to regularly socialized him to the life around him and am “staying the course” to develop a confident, reliable and bonded companion.
Puppyhood is so fleeting and if you are willing to consciously socialize-train him through maturity, you will have provided the foundation for an absolutely awesome companion. One who hopefully will be with you for many, many years.