Bringing home a new puppy is something that comes with a lot of preparation, sacrifices, and frustration, something that many dog parents fail to realize until after they've adopted a new furry friend! Complications like financial sacrifices, late nights, puppy blues, and potty training are a few well-known situations of raising a puppy. Still, there are many more unexpected problems a new owner will discover.
A commonly overlooked obstacle when taking home a new puppy is the fear period during puppy development. Has your scared puppy ever jumped out of fear of something they were seemingly tolerant of before? If so, congratulations: your puppy has hit their very first fear period!
What Is a Fear Period in Puppies?
A fear period is a stage in every dog's growing cycle where they become susceptible to what's happening around them, becoming fearful of things that may leave their owners perplexed. During this stage, puppies are especially prone to traumatic experiences and must be introduced to things like water, grooming, and training with lots of positive reinforcement!
Puppies go through two significant fear periods in their lives.The first is from 8-11 weeks old, which usually lines up when an owner takes their pup home.
The second fear period can occur anytime from 6-14 months old, catching many dog owners off guard when their pup runs crying from a loud noise.
Each of these periods lasts about 2-3 weeks on average.
A once extraordinarily confident and playful dog may turn into a fearful, overwhelmed dog overnight, which is an entirely normal aspect of a fear period! Many new dog owners think there is something wrong with their dog or dog training when a fear period is a healthy cycle that every pup goes through.
Why Do Dogs Get Fear Periods?
Fear periods are nature's way of teaching a dog the "fight or flight" response in the wild. In the wild, growing puppies needed to quickly learn what is dangerous and life-threatening to ensure they stayed safe in the future.
However, domesticated pups don't face life-threatening events nearly as often as wild dogs do. Though the fear periods aren't necessary anymore for a dog's survival, this time in your pup's life can help build trust in you and your dog's relationship.
If you're about to take home a new puppy, chances are their fear period is coming up. Luckily, there are a few ways you can prepare for this to make sure they get through it as smoothly as they can! First, let's discuss the symptoms of a fear period.
Symptoms of a Puppy Fear Period
While a fear period is an entirely normal aspect of growing up, your pup will still display some symptoms that demonstrate they've entered this stage. If your puppy is in the age where the fear period most commonly develops, keep an eye out for any of these symptoms:
Freezing or moving slowly
Showing the whites of their eyes or "whale eyes."
Tucking their tail
As previously stated, your dog might become afraid of things they once weren't fearful of. Here are some of the most common triggers for dogs going through a fear period:
Being left alone
Being touched or handled
Children and men
Dogs and other animals, like cats or rabbits
Riding in cars
There are many other things a dog will come to fear during their fear period, which is why it's important to be alert. During a fear period, a single bad experience could stick with a dog for life, having lifelong effects on their behavior. As an owner, it's essential to learn to help your dog through this impressionable time.
How to Help Your Puppy During Their First Fear Period
When your pup's first fear period is coming up, it's essential to know how you'll handle your dog's fear and what you'll do to prevent traumatic experiences. Here are a few of our best tips for making sure your pup gets through their fear period successfully:
1. Avoid triggers or situations that your puppy is afraid of.
During your pup's fear period, you'll discover that your dog will have a handful of new fears. Your puppy may run away from the vacuum cleaner or shy away from strangers. Since dogs are so impressionable around this time, it's best to avoid these fears altogether if possible.
2. Establish positive associations with "scary" things.
Though it's best to avoid anything that may cause your dog to fear during this period of growth, some things are just unavoidable.
For example, though your puppy may be deathly afraid of water, they'll still need a bath from time to time! For this reason, make sure to go extremely slow when introducing your pup to what they're afraid of, praising them infinitely along the way with treats, toys, and belly scratches.
3. Stay calm and relaxed- dogs model our behavior.
As most pet parents know, a dog is a man's best friend! Being our best friends, dogs can sense their parent's emotions in their voice, facial expression, and body language.
If there is something you're afraid your dog will react poorly to, do your best to portray yourself as cheerful and confident to your pup! Doing so will ease any of their anxiety significantly.
4. Provide your dog with a crate to establish a safe space.
Having a safe space is an integral part of every species' physical and mental health. When dogs get scared, they feel most comfortable when there is a place to revert to, knowing they'll stay safe.
It's advised to begin crate training your dog as soon as you bring them home. Never force your pup into their crate or invade their privacy inside; it is, after all, meant to be your pup's own safe space.
5. Allow your pup to adjust at its own pace.
Being rushed into things is something that nobody enjoys. Pushing your dog into situations they're uncomfortable with is a way to create long-lasting trauma.
If you notice your puppy is scared, let them back off and explore the fear factor independently. Your pup will make sure to let you know when they had enough, so being aware of the signals and body language they send out is a good idea.
6. Invest in CBD oil for your dog.
CBD oil has been becoming increasingly popular in the dog community, and for a good reason. It has many uses for natural health, being a natural anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, and calming supplement.
Feeding your puppy some dog CBD oil before they face something potentially scary is an excellent way to calm their nerves before the storm. You can read more about the benefits of CBD oil for dogs here!
7. Start your pup on a new diet.
When a dog doesn't feel their best physically, their emotions can be impacted. Many dogs, when fed a processed diet, experience stomach pain and digestive issues. Unfortunately, kibble can cause both of these symptoms, bringing constant discomfort to your pet.
Feeding fresh, raw dog food for puppies is a great way to ease this physical discomfort and boost your puppy's overall health in the process. As a puppy, your dog has a long life ahead of them- why not spend that life in optimal health?
Cali Raw Nutritionis a raw dog food business specializing in a BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet for dogs. This diet consists of raw meat, fruits and vegetables, and supplements, being the perfect diet for adult dogs and puppies alike.
To Wrap Up…
The fear period is nothing but frightening for dogs and can be stressful to get through as an owner. By following these tips and giving your puppy all your love and support, they'll make it through their fear period without a scratch!
Good luck to you and your puppy on your endeavors in life, and know: the fear period is just a small hurdle in your upcoming years of adventure!