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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Why Is My Puppy Scared & What Are Fear Periods?

Did you know that as your furry friend grows, they'll go through various developmental stages, including what are known as "puppy fear periods." These periods are a natural part of your puppy's growth, and understanding them is imperative in ensuring your puppy develops into a happy and confident adult dog.


In this blog we will explore what puppy fear periods are, the time frame in which they can occur, and tips on how to survive fear periods to ensure your puppy's overall wellbeing.

What are Puppy Fear Periods:


Puppy fear periods are specific developmental stages during a puppy's life when they may become more sensitive and hyper aware of the world around them. During these periods even things they once enjoyed can become scary or worrisome. These periods are a normal part of a puppy's development and occur twice as they mature physically and mentally. No amount of socialization can prevent fear periods, but with proper training you can help your puppy to overcome their fears and become more confident.


The Two Fear Periods:


The First Fear Period (8-11 weeks) : This usually occurs between 8 and 11 weeks of age, ironically this is the exact time when puppies are adjusting to their new family and exploring the world. During this time, puppies can become cautious of new things, people or experiences. It's imperative not to overwhelm your puppy with to many new experiences during this time. Instead create positive experiences where they can explore at their own pace and are not being forced to interact


The Second Fear Period (6-14 months) : This second fear period usually takes dog owners by surprise, at 6-14 months your puppy looks like an adult dog. During this time is can be hard to remember that your dog is still a puppy who is developing emotionally and physically. It may even seem as though everything you taught your puppy has gone out the window, your once confident engaged puppy is now insecure and fearful. Don’t worry—this will not last forever!


Tips for Surviving Puppy Fear Periods:

  • Never force interactions: if your puppy is scared and wants to move away from something or someone...LET THEM!

  • Allow your puppy to set the pace: do not lure or pressure them to get closer

  • Reward your puppy: Use a high value treat to reward your puppy for being brave by looking at the object, stepping towards it, sniffing, etc.

  • Keep Training sessions short and fun: its okay if your puppy doesn't overcome their fear. End on a positive note and try again at a later time

Don't Panic!!


Fear periods can take us all by surprise, but don't fret. Start by making a list of all of the things that scare your puppy and include them into your future training sessions. By including these into training sessions you can help your puppy build positive associations and overcome their fear. Although you wish you could speed up the process, there are no shortcuts through a fear period.


During this time your puppy is taking in an overwhelming amount of information about the world around them. Each dog is unique, and some may be more sensitive during fear periods than others. But as responsible dog owners it is our job to reassure and guide our puppy through scary experiences. Remember be patient, be positive, and enjoy the journey of raising a happy and well-socialized puppy.

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