Common Fears that seem to pop up at various ages.
4-6 months old
Nature has created this stage in our puppy's life as an exploration stage where they start to explore their world a bit more, often going away from "mom" a bit further. The world around them starts to open up which is why puppies start to struggle more with distractions and their recall begins to fade away. Before this stage hits, puppies were hardwired to stay close to mom and the other puppies because there is safety in numbers. At this stage, they start wandering further away as the distractions of the world become more interesting, exploring becomes more rewarding, and adventures start to happen.
8-10 months old
Let's think about a knock on the door for a minute...Some of us want our dogs to bark or give us an alert when someone knocks on the door yet others don't want our dogs barking for every single knock. Susan Garrett has a great podcast about the "boring or non-event knocking" to help our dogs learn that when we hear a knock nothing exciting happens. Naturally in life, someone knocks on our door and our dogs and us rush to see who it is and spring into action, either greeting enthusiastically or trying to scare them away. Susan's approach to this is to get neighbors, friends or family to knock at your door and simply walk away. You do nothing and reward the dog for choosing to stay with you and do nothing instead of unintentionally rewarding the dog by allowing them to greet a friend at the door. We can also ask our visitors to call or text us when they arrive instead of knocking at the door to prevent our dogs from building the association that a knock means something exciting is about to happen. Once a dog becomes desensitized to the knock we don't have to follow this somewhat silly but effective practice. We can apply this type of training to nearly any sound that our dogs might find fearful during this young adolescent fear stage.
12 months - The Happy Birthday Stage
With my experience and understanding of canine body language I did all I could to protect Azul's optimism at this stage. We stopped going to dog parks and playing with dogs we didn't know that well, instead focusing on playing with a few special friends as often as possible. Azul has had 2 bad experiences that could have impacted his feelings of other dogs. I think that's quite amazing that this number isn't higher. Truth is we've simply avoided doing anything that could lead to a bad interaction with other dogs. Now that Azul is an adult, I can use him as a demo dog to help fearful dogs learn to build better skills of teamwork with their person.