There is a lot to do when preparing for your new puppy. Puppy proofing the house, buying food and toys, and brushing up on your potty training skills, are just a few. One important but often forgotten part of raising a confident puppy is helping them get through their stages of development, after leaving their mom.
All puppies go through stages of development. Two of which are often referred to as the “fear period” or “fear stage.” These stages can leave an everlasting imprint on developing puppies. Care should be taken to familiarize yourself with these stages so that you can help your dog get through them so they can mature into a confident, happy, socialized dog.
Fear Period 1
Most of this development will take place when your puppy is still with the breeder, starting about 3 weeks of age until they are ready to go to their new home at around eight to twelve weeks.
Eight weeks is the age when puppies begin to imprint and learn what can development into unnecessary fears. Building their confidence and exposing them to new things in a fun, positive, and non-threatening way at this age is very important.
Some of the important experiences they should have include:
• Walking on new textures such as carpet, grass, and hard floors.
• New sounds, such as the vacuum, music, television, outside noises.
• New scents in their environment.
• New things such as their toys and indoor and outdoor items.
• New people.
• Other dogs, once vaccinated.
Fear Period 2
The next fear stage in their development is when they reach adolescence at about four to six months-but it can begin later and last up to age fourteen months, depending on the dog.
At this age, once confident pups can suddenly get cautious, worried, or approach things differently than they did when they were younger. They may suffer a negative experience that makes them nervous, begin to mistrust the vet they once loved, get more cautious around strangers, or seem overly concerned about new things, such as a trash bag.
Some of the things that can cause them fear may seem silly but this stage in their development is normal and helping them get through it without being traumatized will help build their confidence and help them mature into a dog that doesn’t suffer from anxieties.
While they are going through a fear stage, it’s important to stay patient and not force the dog to approach or accept something they find worrisome. Some things you can do to encourage your pup to face their fears include:
• Stay patient, calm, and relaxed, your dog is an expert at reading your body language.
• Don’t panic and think your dog is overly timid, this is normal.
• Let your dog move away from whatever they are scared of.
• Stay in the vicinity of the object.
• When your dog looks to you for guidance, praise and reward them.
• Allow your dog to move toward whatever is worrying them (assuming that it’s harmless) and praise them while acting like the object is no big deal.
• Let the dog set the pace.
• Never nurture or reward fearful behavior.
Stages of Development
Some stages of puppy development include:
• Canine socialization with mom and littermates – 21 to 49 days
• Human socialization with new people/family – 8 to 12 weeks
• Fear impact stage 1, fear can imprint for life, avoid scaring the puppy - 8 to 12 weeks
• Teething, testing dominance/leadership – 13 to 16 weeks
• Test their independence/wings – 4 to 8 months
• Fear impact stage 2, fear of situations, important to build confidence, avoid reinforcing negative behavior – 4 to 14 months (larger breed such as German shepherds usually go through this later than smaller breeds)
As you can see, as puppies mature in their new homes from around twelve weeks until six to fourteen months, they should continuously be exposed to new things, people, sights, and sounds.
This is also time when they are trained and continuously socialized. Any bad habits such as resource guarding or being over protective should have already been corrected or if recently developed, quickly be corrected.
Making training a fun and positive experience will go a long way into helping your dog grow up to be confident, happy, and bonded with you. Negative or scary experiences can stick with puppies and imprint them for life resulting in dogs that are nervous and anxious.
Only you can set the stage to give your puppy the best possible foundation to mature on.
Please feel free to pass this along to your family and friends.
You may also like: How To Prepare For Your New German Shepherd Puppy