We were expecting to see more fear related issues when the lockdowns happened with COVID and we did see a very large increase in fear cases as suspected.
Pups go through a socialization period from roughly 5 to 12 weeks of age. Whatever they see during that period and have a good experience with they tend to like later on. Whatever they have a bad experience or just no experience with, they tend to not like later on. This is why I can’t even count how many times I have had clients tell me they think their dog is racist because they only bark at black people or elderly people with walkers, etc. It largely has to do with what types of people the puppy saw during that socialization period. I have even had clients tell me their dog was racist towards white people because they lived in a neighbourhood that had virtually no white people living there.
During COVID when people were social distancing and just not going out to do as many activities the dogs didn’t see as many different things and people. Interestingly we even saw a number of pups that had been socialized as a puppy prior to lockdowns and as they got a bit older and there was more social distancing they still developed fear issues.
The 5 to 12 week mark is approximate and there are still a lot of variables at play. Some pups go through that socialization phase faster and some are slower. We see a number of Lab puppies and if we show them a horse at 8 weeks of age they sit there like a potato and don’t care at all. At 10 weeks they will be a little bit cautious. At 12 weeks even more cautious. At 16 to 20 weeks you are likely to see fear barking if they haven’t seen a big animal like a horse before.
What happens if a pup is fearful? Some will get scared and hide. Others will become reactive with barking and growling and can escalate to aggression where they attack things they are fearful of.
The biggest predictor of which way the pup will go is how quick they are at pattern recognition. If they are slow at pattern recognition in training they are more likely to be the type to run and hide. If they are very fast at pattern recognition then they are more likely to become reactive and aggressive.
The Aggression Issue – Many trainers these days advocate for reward only. Every technique has its own set of pros and cons. The problem with reward only training is that rewards are good at rewarding behaviour. Many of our clients who have dogs with fear issues have gone that route and made the fear reactivity worse because they are unknowingly rewarding reactive behaviour. We tell clients that it is like trying to drive your car everywhere with only the gas pedal. You are going to have a wreck.
There are a lot more variables at play to solve these issues. If you or anyone you know has this issue you can contact us to help you solve this problem. We teach clients how to understand the variables and modify their dogs behaviour for the better. It is common to have 2 fear related issues that get solved differently. So what works for one dog may not work for the other. As you see hundreds of these cases you start to see where the dogs group. As we put the dogs through some training scenarios we can quickly see where they are going to group and how quickly they will overcome the issue.
Contact us: Tyson@DogSquad.ca