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24–27 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

How to Help Your Puppy Through His Fear Imprint Period :: Prevent Future Health Issues by Screening Your Dog Early :: What to Do With a Frenzied Puppy :: A Guide to Advanced Obedience Training

How to Help Your Puppy Through His Fear Imprint Period

If your puppy jumps out of his skin when a plastic bag blows by him on a walk, he's exhibiting a normal sense of fear. If you notice that your puppy is suddenly afraid of the pillow on the couch, this is a sign that his Fear Imprint Period has begun. Puppies go through several developmental periods including the Flight Instinct Period and the Adolescent Period, and during the Fear Imprint Period, your puppy is susceptible to conditioning from pain and fear.

So, though the fear itself is not a sign of this period, it is an outcome. How you handle it can greatly affect your puppy's ability to handle the data that's being given him in a calm way. You can help your puppy with some simple techniques.

Helping Your Puppy React Sensibly

  • Recognize what's happening. A puppy might bite through an electrical cord and get shocked but associate the shock with something else, even someone in the house. You must be creative when deciphering exactly what happened and what your puppy is associating it with.

  • When something does happen, take action quickly. For instance, if you're popping your gum and humming a tune and you step on your puppy's toe while carrying some magazines and, startled by your pup's yelp, you drop the magazines near him, it's time to pull back and think about what your puppy is actually going through. Most likely, a fear of magazines, associated with his hurt toe, is getting imprinted on your puppy's brain. Not the popping gum or your inability to carry a tune. Then, resist your first reaction which is to coddle him. This only reinforces the imprint, the thought that there's something to be afraid of. You're best bet is to calmly say, "What's up, pup?" and leave the magazines on the floor. Let your puppy investigate the magazines at his own pace. If he continues to go around them, make them seem like good things by placing a treat on them.

  • This Fear Imprint Period is actually the second one your pet has gone through. Puppies around six weeks old often have their first one, which is probably not something you had the privilege of experiencing. Handling this period well can fix any problems from the first one. If you don't work with your puppy and his imprints, you may end up with a dog who is fearful of thunderstorms because the cat once scratched him during one or even more complex situations.

Always keep in mind that you are the Alpha providing direction for your pup, not a parent soothing a crying baby. Your puppy will thank you for your clear and calm instruction and you'll have a well-balanced adult dog.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Start Training Your Puppy Right Away

Even though the old saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," in reality you can start training a dog at any age - if the dog is nine weeks, nine months, or nine years old.

Even if you bring home a very young puppy, training and working on wanted behaviors starts immediately after the dog comes home with you. You would start teaching the dog to recognize her name and get her used to a set schedule of when you go outside, when she's fed, when it's time for walks and when it's time for bed time. Even playtime can be training - you're teaching her what she can and cannot play with, not to bite your hands, and rules for your games (such as, when you bite me, the game ends).

Formal training, such as sit, down, and come, can be started at a very young age as well. It's never too early to "shape" behaviors using positive rewards. A good time to enroll into a class is around 6 months old - puppy class.

~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd

Dealing with a Puppy That Chews Everything in Sight

Try offering your puppy a variety of chew toys. Notice the texture and softness of what he usually chooses to chew on (that he's not supposed to chew on) and try to pick a toy with that texture and softness. But don't get any toys shaped like any of the inappropriate items he chews. Dogs don't know the different between a chew toy shaped like a shoe and a real shoe.

Also, redirect the behavior. It's very simple to do this. All you need to do is when you see him chewing inappropriate items, show him the chew toy and encourage him to chew that instead. Praise and richly reward him for chewing the right things. Whenever he chews the wrong things, just redirect.

~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix

Tips on Housebreaking a Puppy

The best thing I found was crate-training at night, and when you're away from home. I didn't keep my dog crated when I was home with him, I locked him in the kitchen the first week, staying in there to play with him. On the second week we slowly let him have more freedom in the house.

We were always watching, and after all activity (sleeping, eating, playing) took him out right away. I took him out as much as every 15-30 minutes. We took him out the same door always, out to the same spot (by a big field we have beside our yard), said 'go potty, go potty' (he's 2 now, and still goes to the same area to poop) and petted/praised like crazy when he did (good BOY, good potty!) Then right back inside....no playing right after potty. If we played, it was inside, then back out to play, so he'd 'get it' that that trip out was for potty alone. When you pair whatever words (like "go potty") to the action, I think it helps...and he'd go potty on command after awhile. That's nice when you're getting ready to go somewhere in the car, and need him to go!

If he had accidents when in the crate, I never scolded...never. Just cleaned everything up. Nature's Miracle worked wonders for me; it cleans spots and odors great. We would never rub the puppy's nose in it if there were accidents in the house. That's what worked for me.

~Donna C., owner of Labrador Retriever

Training Your Puppy to Sleep Through the Night

My trainer told me that puppies can usually hold it longer during the night, when they are sleeping.

If your pup is waking up and crying to go out at night, you might try pushing her potty breaks back a little. If she normally wakes up at 12, wait an hour, then take her out at 1. If shes fine with that, push it back another hour, til 2, and so on. That's what I did with my dog and it worked well and quickly. Instead of taking her out at 5, I'd wait til 5:30. Then 6, then 6:30, etc. She was sleeping through the night by 12 weeks or so (but I'm sure every pup is different).

~Dana S., owner of German Shorthaired Pointer

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