Helping a Pup Fearful of Other Dogs and Puppies

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 23, 2023

pup fearful of other dogs

Patches is a 8 month-old Great Sheep Dog pup fearful of other dogs and puppies. Although her fear of other dogs developed before she enrolled in our puppy classes, we dedicated ourselves to helping this sweet pup develop confidence around other dogs.

After having 10,000+ puppies come through our puppy classes, we have found that one of the most common mistakes people make is failing to socialize their puppies around other pups when they are young. Specifically before 4.5 months.

Puppies go through a few important developmental periods and after these, its not unusual for their personality and confidence to change substantially, sometimes for the better and sometimes in the other direction.

A common mistake many new puppy parents make is mistaking the developmental period their pup is going through as their actual personality. They see a pup who seems to be open to all the new people, puppies and dogs they meet and think their pup is set. But this open period of time (from 3-16 weeks) is called the CRITICAL socialization period (CSP) and the openness can go away if not taken advantage of, leaving you with a pup fearful of other dogs and puppies

During the Critial Socialziation Period, if your pup has a lot of positive experiences with people, pups and other dogs, they gain confidence from the experience. And another great thing about this period of time is you usually only have to expose a pup to something positively once for it to be confident about whatever that was for the rest of thier life. That’s why its called the Single Exposure Period.

Once a pup hits 5 months of age, they enter adolescence and they suddenly become considerably less open to new experiences. The pup who was happy and relaxed is now anxious, cautious and untrustng. We think this is mother nature’s way of saying anything you meet the first few months of your life is a friend or family member. After 5 months, the pup is more cautious and less open to steel them against predators or things that may not be so friendly.

If you get a young puppy into a positive puppy class like ours, that places a heavy emphasis on early socialization to take advantage of the CSP, you end up with a adolescent pup who is confident about the things they experienced in their life. If you skip puppy classes, stop too soon and dont expose your pup to new things during the CSP, its very common to end up with an adult dog that barks, snaps or lunges at things they arent compfortable with. This is the dogs way to deal with their insecurity, the lunging makes things go away. These are common behaviors from a pup fearful of other dogs and puppies.

And once this happens, you no longer have the benefit of the Single Exposure Period. You may have to expose your pup to those things in a positive way, 2, 3 or even 400 times to help them stop being fearful. Or it may never feel comfortable with that thing. Sadly we see this happen all too often. Puppy parents message us saying they think their pup learned enough, its too distracting or too much time. But the time spent now pays dividands over time, if you spend it wisely.

We have worked with thousands of adult dogs who people label as human or dog aggressive, fearful, bark at sounds, loose control of their bowels or worse all because they didnt get early puppy socilization or they stopped doing so too soon. Their quality of life is a shadow of what it could have been. And the longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to fix.

How to Help a Pup Fearful of Other Dogs and Puppies

Patches guardians are wonderful people dedicated to her well being. When we saw how fearful she was around other dogs, we knew we needed to help Patches develop confidence around other pups and dogs as quickly as possible.

We set up a special puppy play class just for Patches. We hand picked a couple of other puppies who had personalities and confidence levels that would help us build up some confidence in puppy Patches.

It didn’t start off as well as we would have liked. Patches started barking as soon as she saw the other pups arriving. We moved Patches away (increasing the distance between a feaful dog and what they are scared of is always a great thing to do) and came up with a game plan to help a pup fearful of other dogs.

David arranged for Patches to go for a structured walk several feet away from Millie, a shy Coonhound mix. We had to use some treats, increase distance a few times and go for a few passes. But once Patches body language showed she had relaxed, we started to decrease the distance apart. After a few passes, the dogs were able to meet and get some sniffs in.

We repeated the process for Rex, a male Medium Goldendoodle pup who used to be very feral, but has come a long way in growing his confidence in Lydia’s puppy classes. It took a few extra passes for Rex due to his higher enegy level, but we were successful with him too.

We skipped the group walk for Cookie due to her laid back energy and having already met Patches. In retrospect we probably should have had them walk together too as when we moved inside, Patches had a small outburst when she saw Cookie over the visual barrier we put between fearful pups in class.

We ran though a few group lessons then moved to the outside play area to facilitate some playtime. We brought the pups out one at a time to do a similar walking game and then started introducing the pups together. How did it turn out? Watch the short puppy playtime video below to learn for yourself.

Now this isnt a normal puppy class for us, but one we are very proud of conducting. It took a lot of exptra work, but seeing the dogs all playing together and Patches choosing to come up to sniff, wrestle with or chase the other pups without any fearful behavior had her guardians and the other puppy parents ready to cry.

If you have a young puppy, get them into a positive puppy class as soon as you can. Patches is still a work in progress, but based on what we achieved in this class, we think she is going to be ok. But that’s not guaranteed for her and you shouldn’t assume your pup can have the same result. Enrolling in puppy class as soon as you bring your pup home is the best chose for you and your puppy.

If you want to get more information or sign up your pupppy for our next class, use this link.

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This post was written by: David Codr