Over the last week 5 people have described a situation in which their once relaxed puppy has growled. The situations of all these puppies are different but they have one thing is common: The second fear impact phase of their development.
Firstly, this is a very normal part of puppy development as I will go on to describe and not a blog about aggressive dogs. That is a different subject all together. This stage is temporary, completely normal and you are not alone!
The second fear impact period or phase of a dog’s development is anywhere between 4 and 14 months. They suddenly fear situations or experiences they didn’t before. They may be wary of new situations and people. Don’t worry this is not a continuous period but rather a series of short bursts popping up occasionally.
You might experience territoriality, resource guarding (protective behaviour), fear of strangers to name a few.
Why does this happen?
Dogs are like humans in that they produce altricial offspring- they require care from their parents for a period of time after they are born. This is unlike a giraffe for example who has to be able to get up and run away from danger from day one. You will notice with altricial offspring that they have no fear, they try and jump from heights, walk towards a fire that sort of thing. As they get older and more independent, the more cautious they become.
How can I help my puppy during this stage?
1. Keep actively building your puppy’s confidence
2. Do not force them into situations they are not happy in or you may make the aversion stronger
3. Keep up appropriate socialisation with other dogs, environments, people, noises etc
4. Talk in a relaxed, gentle, and reassuring tone “oh yes that is a noisy hoover!” They don’t understand you, but the conversational relaxed tone can calm them down.
5. Don’t panic or react dramatically. Your puppy will panic if you panic!
4. For every situation you want your puppy to feel relaxed in start straight away rather than waiting for a problem to arise.
5. Pair something they love with something they fear. If they are guarding their treats because they fear losing them, give them an even better treat! If they fear new people, get as many new people to toss them a treat.
What if your dog has developed a problem towards something specific (bikes/ men in hats/ horses/ guarding treats)?
1. Teach them that this scary situation is actually safe (no nasty surprises)
2. And fun (they get a treat every time they are in that situation)
3. Let them call the shots (when they feel ready to approach or move away)
4. Look out for calming / appeasement signals from your puppy that is their way of telling you that they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable. There are 30 calming signals in total but the most common are: yawning, lip licking, turning the head away, averting the gaze, scratching as a distraction, stretching (gives them time to think), sniffing the ground (diverting attention away from what they are finding scary). Google calming signals in dogs for more information.
5. Ease up on the situation and take you dog away if you notice the above signals.
6. Try again in an easier setting and work back towards the real life situation.
You need extra patience and understanding at this time to allow your puppy to come around on their own. If they were a ‘normal’ happy, playful, and confident puppy before this phase they will return to being so. If you need any further advice or support during this time please message us HERE