Published: May 3, 2023  

Last updated: February 6, 2024  

Puppy fear periods are phases in a puppy’s development during which they may become more easily frightened or anxious. These periods usually occur between the ages of 8-11 weeks and 6-14 months. It is important to be patient, gentle, and supportive with your puppy during these periods to help them develop confidence and resilience.

We brought home our first puppy, Thunder, at 8 weeks old, at the beginning of his first fear period. And our second puppy (Wizard) was 11 weeks old when we brought him home, so at the end of his first fear period. Wizard just turned 6 months old with no signs of his second fear period… so I am waiting for that sudden change to occur.

Both dogs had different methods of coping with their newfound fear. But with our support and positive reinforcement techniques, they passed with flying colors.

close up of 8 week old puppy
Our puppy, Thunder, at 8 weeks old

First puppy fear period (8 to 11 weeks old)

Get ready for your puppy’s first fear period! At 2 to 3 months old your adorable puppy will be experiencing a pivotal moment in their life.

As they are just settling in with their new family and beginning to explore the world, it’s important to be mindful of how you introduce them to new experiences.

Puppies are very impressionable, so make sure to give them the right support and environment to feel comfortable meeting new people and exploring the world without feeling pressured or overwhelmed.

Second puppy fear period (6 to 14 months old)

Brace yourself for the second fear period that can catch you off guard.

As your 6-month-old puppy begins to look more like an adult, it can be easy to forget that they are still developing emotionally. Small breeds may experience it earlier than large or giant breeds.

Suddenly, everything you’ve taught them seems to have vanished, and your confident and smart pup is now anxious and fearful in the most innocent scenarios.

But don’t worry, this is only temporary, and with the right approach, you can help them regain their confidence in no time!

How long do puppy fear periods last?

Puppy fear periods can last for several weeks or months and vary in length depending on the puppy and situation. It’s important to be patient, positive, and supportive of your puppy during these periods as they navigate their emotional development.

6 month old puppy outside for a walk on a leash
Our 6 month old puppy, Wizard, out for a walk.

Recognizing a Puppy Fear Period

You can recognize a puppy’s fear period by observing changes in your puppy’s behavior. During a fear period, a previously confident and outgoing puppy may become more anxious, shy, or fearful.

They may startle easily, avoid certain people or objects, or even regress in their training. Additionally, they may exhibit physical signs of stress, such as trembling or panting. It’s important to be patient, understanding, and supportive during these periods and to avoid pushing your puppy too hard or forcing them into situations that make them uncomfortable. By providing a safe and nurturing environment, you will help your puppies overcome their fears and develop into confident, well-adjusted dogs.

How to Build Your Puppy’s Confidence During Fear Periods

Here are some tips on how to build your puppy’s confidence during fear periods:

1. Create a safe and secure environment

Provide a comfortable and secure space for your puppy to retreat to if they feel scared or anxious. A crate or a quiet room can work well for this.

2. Avoid scolding or punishing

Punishing or scolding your puppy for its fearful behavior can make the situation worse. Instead, remain calm and patient, and try to redirect their attention to something positive.

3. Socialize your puppy

Expose your puppy to a variety of people, places, and situations, but do it gradually and at a pace that your puppy is comfortable with. This will help them develop confidence and resilience.

4. Positive reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats, praise, and playtime to reward your puppy for good behavior. This will help build their confidence and strengthen the bond between you.

5. Desensitization

Gradually expose your puppy to things that scare them, such as loud noises or unfamiliar objects, in a controlled and positive way. Start with a low-intensity version of the stimulus and gradually increase the intensity as your puppy becomes more comfortable.

6. Professional help

Consider working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can help you develop a plan to address your puppy’s fear issues and build their confidence. I highly recommend Spirit Dog’s Ultimate Puppy Program Bundle for all new puppy parents.

Remember, building your puppy’s confidence takes time and patience. Be consistent with your training, and avoid overwhelming your puppy with too much too soon. With the right approach and plenty of love and support, you can help your puppy overcome their fears and become a confident and happy dog.

Understanding Puppy Fear Periods: How to Help Your Pup Get Through Them

Resources to help you through your puppy’s fear periods

If you find yourself struggling with your puppy’s behavior during a fear period or anytime during this important developmental stage, it may be time to seek professional help.

There is no shame in getting help from a professional trainer or behaviorist. Raising a puppy is hard work, even for someone that’s done it before. 

Here are a few resources to consider:

  1. Read the First things to teach your puppy
  2. Attend a local puppy training class
  3. Get help from a local dog behaviorist
  4. Sign up for Spirit Dog’s Ultimate Puppy Program Bundle
  5. Get the Rescue Dogs 101 Dog Body Language 101 Bundle

Every puppy is different, but most will push you to your limits, sometimes past your breaking point. It’s not uncommon for new puppy owners to experience the puppy blues, especially during a puppy fear period.

It’s important to address any issues during a fear period early on before it becomes an ingrained behavior that is difficult to change in an adult dog.  

Puppy Fear Periods Summed Up

I understand that seeing your adorable puppy struggling with a fear period can be a challenging and emotional experience. But please know that you are not alone, and there are many things you can do to help your puppy through this difficult time.

Remember that this is a natural part of your puppy’s emotional development, and with the right approach, patience, and love, your puppy will overcome their fears and grow into a confident and happy adult dog.

Trust your instincts as a loving and attentive puppy parent, and take comfort in knowing that you are doing everything you can to support them.

With time and effort, this too shall pass, and you and your puppy will emerge stronger and closer than ever before. Remember, your puppy will go through two stages of fear periods, one between the ages of 8-11 weeks and the next between 6-14 months.

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About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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