Second fear imprint period

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Affects dogs usually between 8th and 14th month of their lives. Often corresponds to the growth spurts. And I have never seen a better example of it in real life than Brian. My confident little boy can suddenly get frightened out of his mind by a leaf, a piece of rubbish and, of course, people. Thirty seconds later he’s back to being a happy puppy, playful and obedient.

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I make sure I don’t increase the fear by reacting to his irrational behaviour in the most natural way: by getting startled or frustrated myself. I usually say ‘silly Brian, there’s nothing to be scared of’ in a monotone, if anything: being cheerful rather than soothing. I keep him close -on the lead- we stop and wait till he’s fine enough to be stroked on his chest (‘that’s better’ signal). I would never use force with any of my dogs, but in Brian’s case that would put him off training for life. And it would guarantee the lack of trust – he does not trust people as it is, so force would just confirm his worst fears. I try to increase his confidence while training and playing, making sure at the same time that there are rules that need to be followed (chewing on other puppies ears stops the play, jumping at me means I turn around and walk away without looking at him). I ask people not to approach (or touch) him but I encourage him to interact with people -sniff at them, take treats from them or even just be calm around them. Easy it is definitely not. But it’s vital that anything I do with Brian now is done properly as he missed on the most vital human socialisation period (2nd to 3rd month of the dog’s life) and he might find it very hard to be around strangers for the rest of his life.

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All my dogs have been challenging (most of them much more than Brian) and in some strange, masochistic way it feels refreshing to have quite an ordinary puppy, with quite ordinary problems for which there are quite ordinary solutions.

 

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15 thoughts on “Second fear imprint period

  1. It’s so hard when they’re frightened not to make a fuss but it really makes them feel there IS something to be afraid of..I had to persuade the girls that the vacuum cleaner was all right really, just a bit loud…lovely post with some good, sensible pointers too x

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    1. thank you 🙂 I think there’s a lot of motherly feelings in you and you’d probably just want to cuddle and comfort Brian (he actually is really cuddly) 🙂 What’s more: I’m sure he’d LOVE that!

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  2. hello brian its dennis the vizsla dog hay i am glad to heer yoo ar handling yore feer peeryud wel i am shoor that yoo wil grow up to be a gud brayv boy just like my brother tucker and my sister trixie!!! umm wel trixie wuz not a brayv boy she wuz a brayv girl but yoo no wot i meen!!! ok bye

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  3. Sounds to me like you’re doing everything right. The best thing is that you are not nurturing the anxiety. Keep up the great work – and trust that Brian will eventually figure out that nothing bad will happen to him when he’s with you. 🙂

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    1. He’ll be fine-after just a few days it’s getting better. Some sources quote as many as 4 ‘fear periods’-so I do expect some surprises in the nearest weeks, but we’ll work on it 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

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    1. I use papers from universities doing research (just ask, they are very helpful) Portsmouth (but Yale and Duke both have canine cognition studies, too). Alexandra Horowitz books are good, though technically, they don’t deal with behavioural problems.Anything by Miklosi is always informative. My favourite authors are rather popular (John Fisher, Ian Dunbar, Stanley Coren, Brian Hare) but for the newest research it’s better to follow the scientific research -most is available online (if not, ask, they really are helpful). I have an old list, but google helps (‘dog cognition/psychology research’)
      This one needs updating, but here you go: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/whos-doing-research-on-canine-cognition

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      1. When I did my PhD I’d have been happy to share my papers (that was my thinking behind the idea). Most Universities are very friendly 🙂

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    2. And, funnily enough, this branch of science is so new, that we’ll probably learn more in the next five years than we’ve done so far…
      My book would be rubbish-I just write about my dogs, like millions of other people. But I’m not naive enough to forget that it’s my love that makes them special to me (it’s like parents going on and on about their kids…I do the same, just swapping kids for dogs). I am extremely flattered by your comment, nonetheless 🙂 x

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