As opposed to what some may think, being a puppy isn’t always fun. Yes, you get to run around like crazy, bark at everything that moves, pretend that you are deaf, and get away with it all (“Awe, look how cute…!”). But there is a time in every pups life when it’s time to go through something equivalent to human puberty. Around seven to eight months (for Lakelands, that is; it differs a little depending on the breed), puppies reach sexual maturity. Around this time, they go through what is called a ‘fear period,’ during which fright and pain should be avoided. Around this time, your puppy loses its confidence. Depending on the dog and the situation at home, this period can be very prominent or even go by unnoticed (especially if you already have a confident, adult dog in your household).
… yet totally cool when rollin’ with her buddy Miles… Look at those cute terrier bums! 😉
To be more precise, there are two fear periods in puppy’s first year. The first one is between eight and twelve weeks. Eight weeks is usually when new owners take their puppy home, and this is not without reason. Not only is the dame’s job of raising the puppies done by now, but this first fear period also helps the puppy bond with its new family. Because this period occurs when people first get their puppy, most don’t notice the symptoms, as they are still getting to know their new family member. Once puppy is about to go through its second fear period, however, it has been a member of the new family for roughly 6 months, and the owners are more likely to notice the change this time.
We definitely experienced the changes in Jaz, because right as her second fear period started, Jaz’ dad was away on a business trip. Any change can affect your puppy during this vulnerable stage. Jaz, who was perfectly capable of contently sleeping at least 9 continuous hours every night, woke me up at all hours of the night, crying and barking for attention. The physical changes (she was about to come in heat for the first time) as well as the dramatic change in environment (her daddy being away) proved to be too much for her. Not only did she keep the entire neighbourhood up at night, she also was quite a wimp during our walks and whenever we were at the dog park. The puppy that charged full speed ahead and was dying to meet everyone (human as well as canine), changed into a scared, nervous dog.
There are many different theories about how to handle these fear periods. The problem is that anything traumatic that might happen to your puppy during this period will stay with it for its entire life. Handling things properly, therefore, is crucial! Some say not to do anything new, meet anyone new or visit any place new. Others say you should introduce your puppy to new things place and people, but just to be careful about it. Whatever you choose (we were more moderate in the beginning -especially since Jaz had such a sudden reaction due to her dad leaving- and then gradually started adding new experiences), just make sure you are monitoring things. Adding short, confidence-building exercises (i.e. asking your puppy to do things it knows how to do such as sit/down/come) into the daily routine will help as well.
We have left Jaz’ second fear period behind, but are still working on building her confidence back up. Our trainer has told us that, besides reaching sexual maturity, the blur that used to be the outside world has become fully in focus. With its new, perfected senses, your puppy experiences the world afresh for the second time around. One can only imagine… quite a change! I’ve found that the short, confidence-building exercises really work, as well as having familiar people and/or dogs around to give your puppy that much-needed boost of confidence.
Hanging out with Miles. —Check out Miles’ blog!—
Have a great weekend!