A dog is most impressionable before 14 weeks of age. Proper socialization will help her become desensitized to her surroundings and therefore reduce the likelihood she will be afraid of things as she grows older. You should continue with socialization as your dog grows in order to maintain her confidence and help her over any bumps in the road. As a responsible pet owner, it is your job to provide your dog with as many positive and enriching experiences as possible. 

Keep introducing your dog to new people. The more opportunities your dog has to meet different people, the less she will be afraid as she matures. 

Introduce your dog to as many other social dogs as possible. Make sure that the interaction is as smooth and pleasant as possible. Before introducing your dog to another dog, be sure that the other dog is okay with it by reading his or her body language. For more information on canine body language, please see our Canine Body Language article. To avoid potential mayhem, it is always best for both dogs to remain on a leash during their initial introduction. For more information on dog-dog introductions, please see our article on Introducing Dogs.

Change up your walk. Rather than doing the same loop around the neighborhood, take your dog somewhere else for her daily walks, such as a forest preserve or a trail. Switching up places to walk your dog will allow her to experience new environments. 

Allow your dog to be alone periodically throughout the day to prevent separation anxiety. If your dog tends to follow you around the house all day, gate off a pet-proofed room in the house where she can spend some time by herself. Avoid confusing this with punishment by giving your dog a Kong or something else to keep her busy while she is alone. 

Do not punish fear. During adolescence, dogs typically show they’re afraid of something by either challenging it or shying away from it. No matter the reaction, do not punish your dog for being afraid. Instead, remove your dog from the situation and calmly ask her a command she knows such as “sit.” Later on, reintroduce the scary thing to her in a calm, patient, and positive manner. For more information on how to deal with your dog’s fear, please read our article on Understanding the Fearful Dog.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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