PUPPIES AND FEAR STAGES
If you’ve ever welcomed a puppy into your family (even if it’s just the two of you) you’ve experienced the pure joy of puppyhood – the curiosity, playfulness and unbounded affection plus the intoxicating smell of puppy breath. Puppyhood can last too long for some rowdy puppies and seems all too short to others when we miss that sweet innocence they bring into our lives.
If you had the blessing of bringing a puppy into your life you may have noticed that seemingly out of nowhere your outgoing sociable puppy suddenly becomes fearful of new people coming in to the house; or perhaps common household noises send your puppy running for shelter. This is a very common but misunderstood issue.
WHAT FEAR STAGES ARE AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR
These episodes are called “fear stages in puppies”. Typically there are four fear stages that puppies may go through. The age of the puppies can vary but a general guideline is: around five weeks of age (prior to your having acquired the puppy), around six months, around one year of age and around one and a half years of age. These are average ages and will vary from pup to pup. Some puppies have very mild or even no signs of fear stages; other puppies may show severe signs of fear. Here is a short list of symptoms to watch for:
- Abnormal reactions to noises
- Nervousness around things to which they have never reacted before
- Aggression towards other dogs or people when being walked
- Reacting towards people they know as if they were strangers
- Isolating him/herself and/or hiding under beds or furniture
An average fear stage can last two to four weeks although I have known a fear stage to last eight weeks. This is the ONLY time during their puppyhood that I recommend you “bubble” your dog, meaning don’t take them out on walks or introduce them to new experiences, dogs or people.