Dog trainers must take special care when working with young dogs who are going through a fear period, also known as fear imprint period.
These stages – most dogs experience two during their early life – are a normal part of your pet’s development, socialization and cognitive growth. However, unless these phases are addressed with great care and skill, the pup’s future ability to socialize and function may be compromised.
How Dog Trainers Explain Fear Imprint Periods
In every dog’s neurological development, they undergo two specific periods where neurological stimuli can affect them more significantly than others.
During these stages, your dog is at his most impressionable. Consequently, if he has any frightening or negative experiences, they will stay with him throughout his life. These developmental stages are designed to help your pet develop healthy levels of caution, allowing him to make decisions that favor self-preservation throughout his life.
Your pet may be perfectly normal one day and then, the next day, he may exhibit fearful behaviors around strangers and in unfamiliar settings.
When Do Dogs Experience Fear Imprint Periods?
The first fear imprint phase typically begins around the age of eight to 11 weeks. It may last only a few days but it may stretch into a matter of weeks. The second fear period typically occurs around the five-month mark, during the pup’s juvenile stage of development. This phase typically lasts approximately three weeks.
It is important to note that not all dogs proceed through their developmental phases on the same schedule. The second phase could come later, during the adolescent phase, which begins at approximately six months of age.
Some (but not all) dogs undergo a third fear-imprint phase later n the adolescent stage, around the eight-month mark.
Dog Trainers Advise Using Care During Fear Periods
You must be on the lookout for these phases so that, when they do occur, you can take care to keep your pet away from any negative situations or stimuli – at least as much as possible.
Never force your pet to do anything he hesitates to do, even if he was perfectly fine with it yesterday. If he exhibits fear at any specific stimuli, do not try to expose him or desensitize him to it. It’s also important not to coddle your pet too much during this time.
You can help guide your pet through the fear period by maintaining a calm and steady manner yourself, which will help to provide confidence for him during this frightening time.
You may have to scale back a bit on dog training during the fear periods, at least as far as introducing new skills. Instead, focus on the skills he’s already developed. This allows your pet to have some easy wins and earn ample praise and encouragement from you.
Innovative K9 Academy provides expert puppy and dog training services to customers in Salt Lake City and throughout Northern Utah. We offer a variety of puppy camps and dog boot camps, as well as customized individual training solutions and group classes. Contact us today to speak with one of our experienced dog trainers.