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Fear Not, Wee One

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Puppies need to learn early on that calm responses are the most appropriate

Pat Miller discusses the prevention and modification of fear-related behaviors in puppies and the importance of early learning

he goal of puppy socialization is to convince the amygdala, that part of the puppy’s brain that reacts emotionally to his world that, in general, the best/most appropriate emotional responses are calm, relaxed and happy. These days, the importance of puppy socialization is well-known and widely accepted. So it is interesting that many behavior professionals, myself included, report seeing an increasing number of canine clients with fear-related behaviors. There may be several reasons for the apparent increase in fear-related behaviors in dogs including: 1. Less ‘natural socialization’ as responsible owners keep their puppies safely at home rather than allowing them to roam the neighborhood. 2. The availability of more behavior professionals who are willing and able to work with dogs who have fear-related behaviors, and the awareness of more dog owners that behaviors can be modified. 3. A lack of understanding among dog owners who recognize that socialization is important but don’t realize that the key to good socialization is positive exposures to the world. A pup who has negative experiences 14

BARKS from the Guild/July 2014

during the primary socialization period (3 - 14 weeks) is very likely to grow up fearful unless prompt remedial action is taken. 4. A lack of awareness of the existence of secondary fear periods which, according to various information sources, can occur for a dog anywhere between the age of four -11 months and perhaps as late as two years of age. A fear-causing event at any time during this period when a dog is more sensitive to aversive stimuli can also have far-reaching implications for fearful behavior. 5. The emergence of puppy mills over the last 30 years. Puppy milling only began to boom in the late 1970’s and beyond. Puppy mill puppies do not receive adequate socialization – if any. They are also likely to be shipped to retail outlets during the very significant early fear period (eight – 10 weeks or maybe 12 weeks) 6. The emergence of the ‘no-kill’ movement, which promotes the placement of all dogs, including those with behavior challenges who, in the past, were more likely to have been euthanized. 7. A growing number of hoarder case investigations by animal protection agencies that result in the

Profile for The Pet Professional Guild

BARKS from the Guild Summer 2014  

Your BARKS summer edition. The quarterly publication from The Pet Professional Guild

BARKS from the Guild Summer 2014  

Your BARKS summer edition. The quarterly publication from The Pet Professional Guild