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.
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.
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.