Updated: Feb 4
Yep, developing pups have this thing about them. They go through a fear period, actually they go through two of them. The second fear period last longer and starts around sexual maturity which is around 6 months to one and a half years of age. It dog puberty. Such a horrible time for humans and canines. It’s a delicate time too, so knowing that it is coming and preparing ahead of time on how you will deal with it is vital for your puppy’s success!
Adolescent canine fear periods can be both concerning and comical. I am here to tell you that you need not worry about it at all, and the VERY best thing you can do is appropriately address their silly, strange, outrageous behavior. I mean that rock that in the flower garden yesterday that they ignored, is today a scary monster that is going to EAT them! Bark, Bark, Bark, backing up with tail between their legs. And you think to yourself, really? At least that is what I think. And this is what I do, I go and sit on that rock with their favorite toy or their kibble, AND dog gone it, they do too! EVENTUALLY.
The first thing I do is redirect attention. I have my pup focus on me and get him to “shake it off”. Each time my dogs went through their second fear periods, I was taken by surprise. But I was not helpless because I knew what to do. ALL my goldendoodles LOVE praise. I asked my pups to do an obedience command. Then praise, praise, praise! You see by the time that my dogs reached their second fear period, I had several hours of training with them. I NEVER coddled…. EVER. I didn’t pick them up or pet them. I distracted them and made them gently deal with the "garden rock". They learned that paying attention to me and not the scary thing is a praise/reward event. Then we walk away.
The next day, I take him back to the object of fear closer each time and when he sees it and freak out again, I ask him to do an obedience command and this time reward with a treat or toy. Now the balance of fairness comes into play here, you have to press their fear button, but back off if your press it too much. Kind of like learning how to drive a stick shift, there is a perfect balance between go and stall. It is important to keep dealing with whatever frightens your buddy, without overwhelming him. Remember “EVENTUALLY”?
The key to helping your pup through the second fear period (which last longer than the first), is to always encourage your dog to do better and deal with him fairly about it. You MUST help him through it and put on the pressure gently. Consider the clutch comparison, too much pressure it stalls, too little pressure and you go nowhere. A dog will get defensive if you put too much pressure on him. However, if you don’t put enough pressure on him, he may stay stuck and afraid for a very long time. You have to be a good leader. You have to hold him accountable. By creating engaging experiences with you around his triggers, you will begin to see his fear period melt away. You can do it and so can he!