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Puppy Fever! How Much Do You Know About Their Mental Development?

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

I have been getting a ton of requests for training of puppies lately. Many of these owners have not owned a puppy in some time, and we know so much more now than we did back then! There's a ton to know about their mental development and how to help them grow into well adjusted adults.

You have no control over the first 8 weeks of your puppies life, despite if you get them from a breeder or not. Hopefully you did your research and if you are buying from a breeder they are raising their puppies to nurture them mentally. Unfortunately some people get their puppies well after the first fear period, and equally as unfortunate vets will tell you to keep your puppy in a virtual bubble during that time as well. Their first fear period is right around the time they come home, between 8 and 11 weeks of age. During this time negative things that happen to them, and also things that they do not get exposed to, have a huge lasting impact on your dog. It is equally as important to expose them to things they have a positive or neutral experience with as it is to make sure they do not have negative ones. Do not just think of "my puppy must meet every one and every dog and every situation during this time", that has been proven to do more harm than good. Your puppy is actually much better served to watch and learn than be right in the action. You should be hand picking the people and dogs your puppy is around during this time. You should not force interactions and instead let your puppy lead, or allow them to be on the outside looking in. In the long run this will cause them to develop less anxieties and insecurities.

From 13 weeks to eight months your puppy will really start testing their boundaries with you. They will start testing your leadership and may start tuning you out. You must be consistent! If you would not like your adult dog doing it, your puppy should not be allowed to do it. Period. Do not take for granted that you can "teach it later", not only is this much much more difficult to do but sometimes it does not even work. Your puppy will need direction and leadership to build a bond of respect and trust with you. Affection is earned and always on your terms. Much like raising kids, raise them well when they're young so you can be true friends when they're older. There is a major imbalance in most owner dog relationships.

Your dog also has a second fear period from anywhere between 6 to 14 months. You must be firm but fair during this period. You can cause irreparable damage to your dog if you are overly negative with them. Seek training any way you can during this time. You can never over train your dog! Training should be viewed as a life long process for them. If you got your dog once they matured (between 1 and 4 years of age) there is still hope. It may be more difficult, and might never get to exactly where you would want them to be; but they can be amazing with your help! As always, if you have questions we'd love to help you! Raising puppies is not for the faint of heart! Good luck out there.

For the Dogs,

Christina, DTFC

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