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By Published On: April 4th, 2022

It makes sense that people would ask me about fear periods in dogs. The most I feel comfortable saying (due to my limited understanding of physiological and neurological development) is that it is not uncommon for dogs at some time in their lives, to be more sensitive to learning to be afraid of things. A general definition of fear period frames what’s going on in an animal’s nervous system in an overly simplistic way.

During a recent webinar presented by Dr. Wailani Sung on adolescence in dogs and cats, the often mentioned second fear period was noted as possibly occurring between 6-18 months in dogs. Dr. Sung points out how the complexity of interactions between an organism and its environment, and their effect on an animal’s physical and social development, matters throughout their lives. Certain changes may occur more easily when animals are younger. No surprise there, but animals can learn to be afraid of something throughout their lives.

Fear acquisition is learning. We can assume that the degree to which it occurs has a basis in natural selection. How we have bred animals, selecting for one trait or characteristic over another has also had its impact. Understanding this, rather than simply assigning time frames for animal’s fearfulness, gives us more information regarding how to respond to minimize maladapted responses to their environment.

We can usually get any paper to burn. Wet paper won’t catch fire as easily as dry paper. When living with our dogs we are constantly observing how close to the flame our dogs can get. We put out or avoid blazes before they cause too much damage. Going up in flames is NOT just a period to be suffered through.

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