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Lets talk about fear periods in pups. I put this in the working section as Im only interested in this topic as it applies to work / sport, not the usual "my dog was timid as a puppy but now he is friendly stuff".

So I have recently seen a pup purchased by a guy I know at 8 weeks for schutzhund and protection. The dog is from a well respected breeder who works his dogs, and also from exceptional lines. Both parents titled, strong civil dogs. 3/4 Czeck 1/4 WG. The stud is fairley well known. This is a repeat breeding the last one apparently produced some exceptional pups.

So with that preface I see the pup taken out of her crate on the field, owner bangs the crate accidentally the pup startles a bit then goes to investigate the field. He is tooling around sniffing stuff at times he appears hesitent or unsure but seems to bounce back. Seems fairly social but aloof.
Owner says the breeder also noted the pup was acting a bit off for the first time when they met up the previous day and noted that the dog must be entering a fear period as he has seen no such behavior previously. Breeder advises to keep the pup away from too much stress and exposure to too much until about 12 weeks.
Also note the litter had coccidia which was cleared up but the pup was a tad under weight.

Owner tells me the pup can be a bit hesitent at times, has acted a bit fearful about random things like the cat a child running by etc. The pup does seem to recover in the main but can still be a bit hesitent or spooky at times. That being said he has not exposed the pup to much.

So that begs the question have you seen working pups go through fear periods and what has been the end product result in terms of work?

Do these dogs lack some confidence as adults?

Do you find they are weaker then pups that barely seemed affected by their fear periods or didnt even seem to have them?

Are they weaker when it comes to ability to handle fight / pressure?

Are fear periods a red flag to you or do you expect them?

How long do you expect them to last?


Now my friend tells me that the breeder will guarentee the dog so he isnt worried but Im just curious about this topic.
 

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I don't really believe in "fear periods". I strive to find a balance between assuming that I've stacked the deck in my favor based on the research up front (observing the parents, other progeny, pedigree, etc), but also not introducing an inappropriate level of stress and pressure to a young puppy. I want my puppy to think he is The Poop, if you know what I mean, all the time. I try to set them up for success. I do expose my puppies to a LOT of things because all my dogs even sport/working dogs are house dogs that live in the city, travel with me quite a bit, *must* be safe with my family and friends (think running around off lead at a cottage with a dozen people and other dogs), and usually participate in other sports that involve a much higher level of chaos and environmental stress than Schutzhund. So far with 4 GSD puppies (two show line, two working line), none have gone through any sort of "fear period" so maybe I've just been lucky. I do believe that genetics trumps everything when it comes to temperament, but I also believe that *most* dogs have a pretty wide spectrum of behavior/temperament and there really is quite a bit of room for "nurture" type influence. I haven't raised that many GSD puppies but with each one I find that a lot of things can be self-fulfilling prophecies and the more I worry about my dog's reaction or behavior towards a certain stressor, the more likely the dog will react unfavorably. When it comes to puppies I try to be confident, communicative (I let them know when they are right and when they are wrong), predictable, and I want them to understand we are a team, we will always have each others' backs.
 

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Fear periods are a normal part of a dogs developmental stages. Usually when leaving the litter and then when they hit adolescence. Some show more, some don't miss a beat. Poor socialization and reactivity should not be confused as a fear period. That is for a behaviorist to determine. Fear periods are developmental phases that can be dealt with, not reactive behavior.

If proper socialization continues thru these periods there is no reason the dog cannot be a wonderfully confident, loving adult companion.
 

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Czech lines tend to carry more suspicion and I think they are sometimes uber aware of their surroundings because of that.
And focusing on the handler is sometimes a challenge because the dog is watching the world, not just focusing on the handlers face.

Does the puppy engage with a tug/flirtpole or act inhibited?

I don't think keeping the pup away from "stress or exposure" would be helpful, nor would it be helpful in pushing it beyond its comfort level.
There is a fine line in building confidence or pushing too quickly.
I'd ask the the pup to try things~ encourage the pup on if it balks or shows some timidity towards trying, and throw a party when pup succeeds!
I'd try to set up scenarios for success, nothing too difficult. Taking to a kids Playground/the equipment is great, because of the different textures.
It sounds to me that this pup may be a bit soft right now....doesn't mean it won't blossom with some good shaping/handling.
I'd be more interested in checking out the puppy's thresholds and the recovery(which you say pup does recover).
As far as handling fight/pressure in the dogs future, that is individual and how the dog is worked(or not) early on.
I think a young dog should grow a bit and not do any protection, work on the other phases. If the dog has "it"~ "it" will be there.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Oh Iv seen him play tug with the pup, it definitely has drive.

I think a dogs ability to handle pressure is genetic more then trained. The question is are fear periods an indicator of a weaker dog down the road.
 

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I think the question still depends on the individual dog. My male never went thru any type of 'fear' stage', he isn't weak as an adult(Czech/WG WL's)
I've seen a couple dogs that show a bit of hesitant type behavior(but I wouldn't say they were in a fear stage) and they aren't weak nerved.

If you put pressure on a young dog, it may avoid....as an example(not recommended), putting a young dog in the blind teaching a hold and bark. Will the dog show avoidance, leave the blind(or shifty behavior) because it was pushed too early instead of learning the H&B out in the open. There are many ways to put pressure on, and even a genetically strong young dog may show avoidance. And that avoidance may carry over at maturity.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So by no fear period you mean as a pup he never ever hesitated or showed avoidance what so ever?

If anyone has direct experience with pups that went through fear periods I would be interested to hear the end result good / bad.
 

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I agree with Jane, it still depends on the dog. Knowing the parents, siblings, repeat litters, etc is very useful. I've seen a few dogs that were awesome puppies, super confident and bold, never hesitated that got really weird as adults. I've also seen the same but with the drive plateauing an then fizzling out (often show lines). Even if a puppy doesn't ever have a "fear period" doesn't mean it's going to be a rock solid adult either.
 

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There are working lines, both Czech and W German that carry weak nerves that can result in the behaviors that the puppy is exhibiting.
 

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i don't believe in the stages/periods. i think the first year of a dog's
life is a delicate time for them. they're being exposed to so much.
i slowly introduced my pup to things and a lot of things i did from
a distance slowly moving closer to the pup.
 

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I think some dogs do go through a period where they become somewhat unsure of things.. And then go back to there normal selves..

I've seen a lot of dogs that people would write off as spooky or nervy as a young dog and with maturity were totally different. More confident and outgoing..

So who knows...
 

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It certainly can be, but could be other reasons. But the majority of times I see fear periods in young dogs, the nerves are not optimum. Lets put it this way, the dogs that I know with stellar nerves, very seldom have fear periods of any significance. One last thing, I did not equate what you wrote as fear periods, I SAID the behaviors you described..........more often than not are associated with weak nerves. Of course a lack of socialization can also duplicate the hesitancy.....but I am assuming you have a pup that has been exposed to things. My point really, is that there are working lines and working line dogs that are and will produce weak nerves on occaisons. It is important to know those lines so you don't have a working line pedigree that looks impressive because it has all working lines and is saturated with WL that will throw higher percents of weak nerves than is acceptable ....at least for me!
One last thing, it's similar to hips, just because you have two certified hip parents being bred, doesn't mean the litter won't have pups with bad hips, substitute weak nerves for hips and you get the picture.
 

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It certainly can be, but could be other reasons. But the majority of times I see fear periods in young dogs, the nerves are not optimum. Lets put it this way, the dogs that I know with stellar nerves, very seldom have fear periods of any significance. One last thing, I did not equate what you wrote as fear periods, I SAID the behaviors you described..........more often than not are associated with weak nerves. Of course a lack of socialization can also duplicate the hesitancy.....but I am assuming you have a pup that has been exposed to things. My point really, is that there are working lines and working line dogs that are and will produce weak nerves on occaisons. It is important to know those lines so you don't have a working line pedigree that looks impressive because it has all working lines and is saturated with WL that will throw higher percents of weak nerves than is acceptable ....at least for me!
One last thing, it's similar to hips, just because you have two certified hip parents being bred, doesn't mean the litter won't have pups with bad hips, substitute weak nerves for hips and you get the picture.

Cliff, what are the lines have you seen produce weak nerves? Just curious.
 

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Too many to name, practically all can produce a pup or pups with weak nerves in a litter. But you are missing the point, it's more about the combination of two dogs/lines that when the variables mix both sides give enough of the weak nerves to produce SOME pups with less than optimum nerves. It's not as much about individual dogs/lines as it is about combinations that combine or recombine. That's why when I see people make important breeding decisions on individual dogs, especially the stud....I know they have limited knowledge of breeding. This goes for temperament or health( hips).....there is not a dog in the world that does not have many mates that are incompatible for them....NONE!
So these people that select a stud because of hip rating, or movement, or structure.....ALONE.....are missing the point in my opinion. It's about compatibility as opposed to I'll breed to that OFA excellent to improve hips or I'll breed to that top schutzhund three champion to improve working performance. These are BYB tactics, IMO.
So working lines can throw pups/dogs with weak nerves for sure, now they don't tend to through pups that are skittish to everything like some lines/dogs will....but there are weak nerves in workinglines that can be brought out with BYB practices....jmo!
 

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I think the pup deserves the benefit of the doubt-think its not fair to evaluate the pup over the internet and the best people to comment are the ones seeing the dog-the people he is training with and the breeder. I don't think not exposing a pup to things is the answer
 

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I think ALL pups deserve the benefit of the doubt:), but the benefit of the doubt won't change what is!.....but any and everything can grow, learn and be loved.....people or dogs!
 
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