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Puppy Fear Periods: When, How Long & 7 Tips for Success | Pupford

December 29th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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One minute your puppy is playful, happy, and outgoing. Seemingly the next, they are scared of new people, hesitant of different environments, and jumpy when they hear sudden noises. Enter the puppy fear period!

This can be really startling for a lot of pup parents, and even worry them that they are doing something wrong or something bad happened to their puppy.

Although sometimes disheartening, this is a completely normal part of a puppy’s development. It’s called a fear period and happens to dogs during critical periods in their early lives.

These phases are nothing to fear (sorry, had to get one out of the way!) – in fact, you can use them as great opportunities to lay puppy socialization foundations that will benefit your dog their whole life.

So whether your dog is about to hit the age where a fear period may strike or in the midst of one now, there’s something here for everyone to learn!

In this article, we'll cover:

  • What are puppy fear periods?
  • When are the puppy fear periods?
  • 7 tips for getting through your dog's fear periods

Let's dive right into it. 👇


socialize your puppy to new environments to help them through fear periods

Fear periods are a time in a dog’s life when they are much more sensitive to their environments and stimuli around them.

Characteristics and signs of puppy fear periods include:

  • Fear of new objects
  • Hesitancy to go to new environments
  • Being afraid of things that were once enjoyable to them (the car, a bath, etc.)
  • Becoming jumpy in response to sudden movement or sounds

The bad news is that there’s no way to prevent fear periods and phases in puppies – even the most well-socialized pups will experience them.

But the good news is that these periods are just that: periods. They are temporary. And if you take a few key steps, your dog will come out the other side of these periods more confident than before.

As a note, this is often why dogs suddenly refuse to go on walks!

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scared puppy going through a fear period

Dogs generally experience two fear periods in their lives: one at 8-11 weeks and another between 6-14 months, depending on the breed. Smaller breeds tend to experience the second fear period sooner than larger breeds since they reach physical and developmental maturity earlier.

Let’s take a closer look at each one. ⤵️

Fear period 1 (8-11 weeks)

Many families bring home their puppies at around 8-12 weeks old. Unfortunately this lines right up with the first fear period.

As puppies adjust to their new homes and families while learning to explore the world around them, it’s easy for them to get super overwhelmed by everything new in their environment.

Definitely encourage them to experience new things, but follow their lead and back down if they become overwhelmed.

Fear period 2 (6-14 months)

The second fear period is often more alarming for parents because their dog has had time to get used to their environment, learn their basic behaviors, and overall settle into a groove.

So when, out of nowhere, their confident pup seems to take a few steps backward, it can be surprising. But remember, dogs’ brains continue to develop up until (on average) two years old, so another fear period is understandable.

If you know roughly when to expect fear phases, you can be better prepared to help your dog through them – and set them up for boosted confidence on the other side of them!

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for the 100% free online video training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Sign up here! 🐶


puppies socializing to get through their fear periods

During fear periods, dogs can undergo a large amount of stress. If consistently pushed to discomfort, it can lead to behavior issues or permanent fears down the line.

Yes, even well-socialized pups are at risk during fear periods. So what can you do? Luckily, a lot!

Here are 7 tips for getting through puppy fear periods:

  1. Don’t force your puppy to engage with things that scare them. Whether it be playing with other dogs, people approaching, or a toy that makes a loud noise, allow your puppy to move away from whatever is scaring them at that moment. Act as your dog’s advocate if a scary situation arises.
  2. Let them explore at their own pace. Give your puppy control over how close they get to whatever is scaring them so they slowly gain confidence.
  3. Reward your dog often. Give high-value training treats often when your dog remains calm in new situations or in the face of something that typically stresses them out. Reward them when they check in with you so they learn they are safe with you.
  4. Keep training sessions short and sweet. A consistent training schedule will help keep your puppy on track with other training goals and build their confidence during the fear period. However, it’s best to keep training sessions short and focused during this time so they don’t get overwhelmed.
  5. Stay calm and confident during training. Our puppies look to us for guidance and feed off our energy. Staying calm and using a positive tone of voice can literally make training sessions more enjoyable for your puppy.
  6. Take counterconditioning training slowly. Counterconditioning and desensitization training are great ways to slowly get your dog to overcome new fears, but it’s important to take it slowly and follow your dog’s lead.
  7. Make socialization a fun experience. Puppy socialization is the introduction of your puppy to new people, places, and things. Using positive reinforcement during socialization will make it a fun experience rather than add to the stress your puppy may already be experiencing.

While puppy fear periods can be challenging, they will pass. As long as you are showing your puppy support and love, they will come out of the fear period ready to tackle any new situation that comes their way.

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While socialization isn’t going to get your puppy out of a fear period faster, it’s still a critical part of their development during this time. Socialization also sets a solid foundation for your dog to confidently and comfortably explore new people, animals, and environments.

Not sure where to start with socialization? We have a printable PDF Puppy Socialization Checklist that you can use to make sure you are exposing your dog to a variety of animals, vehicles, surfaces, sounds, people, handling, environments, and objects.

Again, this won’t prevent puppy fear periods from happening, but general exposure & socialization to a variety of things will help your puppy get through their fear period without developing permanent fears or problem behaviors.


a gray puppy during the 2nd fear period | Pupford

Remember, the goal is to get our dogs through their puppy fear period with the support and tools they need to be confident and comfortable throughout puppyhood and into their adult years.

As a recap, there are typically 2 main puppy fear periods:

  1. 8-11 weeks
  2. 6-14 months

Your goal in those time periods is to help your dog comfortably and safely acclimate to new stimuli and their environment! You can do that by minding these 7 tips:

  1. Don't force your puppy to engage with things that scare them
  2. Let them explore at their own pace
  3. Reward your dog often
  4. Keep training sessions short and sweet
  5. Stay calm and confident during training
  6. Take counterconditioning training slowly
  7. Make socialization a fun experience

What has been your experience during puppy fear periods? Tell us in the comments below!

And don't forget to sign up for our 100% free online dog training & behavior course, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here!

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for the 100% free online video training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Sign up here! 🐶


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