The answer? Week 8 and 9 in puppy’s life.
Second Fear Imprinting Period
Canine behaviorism literature puts the Second Fear Imprinting Period at week 8, with slight deviation from this timeline in smaller breeds, which tend to stretch everything in their lives as if their timeline was written on a rubber band. The boys staggered the onset of this sensitive period in each of them, and had me guessing daily who would be next.
In the First fear Imprinting Period, at week 5 both Banzo and Primo, the two reds, were showing a little reserved reactions about two days before the black and tan team of Derby and Nugget joined them in feeling slightly unsure. In week 8, however, the order got totally scrambled.
Derby was first to be visibly sensitive/ unsure/ scared and was he ever. One day he was racing up and down a crinkly tunnel and the next eyeing it with suspicion. He adored playing with his brothers in a ball pit fashioned out of an old soft crate, but all of a sudden he would not enter it. In helping him to cope with the new fear I made a second ball pit in a plastic container without any enclosure. After checking it out Derby started playing in the open ball pit and after a couple of hours was ready to rejoin his brothers in the soft crate.
Banzo was next to exhibit insecurity, at the very end of week 8, but his was slight and not nearly as pronounced as in Derby. He would startle easily but then recover almost immediately. I witnessed a lot of internal dialogue that went on something like this: “What’s that?”, pause “Oh, OK, only a leaf blowing in the wind.”
Nugget followed with a mildly reserved attitude towards new objects and people, but also warming up immediately after confirming that the world was still a friendly place. He did a lot of physically visible sequence of tail lowering stance, cocking his head or sniffing something intently, and then continuing on his merry way. He did some hiding, or backing into walls or bushes, but only in response to louder noises, like a really loud landscaping crew cutting our neighbor’s lawn.
Primo never showed any change, till week 9 that is. Smack in the middle of week 9 Primo showed some insecurity, just as his brothers were over their sensitive period. Primo was hiding a fair amount of time, for seconds at a time, to emerge to play shortly.
This individualized timing and expression of the week 8 fear period underlines how important it is for breeders to pay a close attention to each pup separately, and be aware of their particular developmental stage. Week 8 or 9 is a typical timing for a vet visit and vaccinations, however, puppies are better served being provided quiet and secure environment without major stress. They stress themselves enough with heightened emotions. A few days of safety, security and helping them cope with fears (like helping Derby to not be afraid of the ball pit) goes a long way towards building emotional resilience.
“So What” Response
The puppies have been specifically conditioned through Puppy Culture protocols to develop “so what” response. Numerous exercises delivering mildly startling experiences in a safe context have resulted in hundreds of memories of immediate recovery from mild stress. Now that the puppies have gone through two fear imprinting periods, and have experienced deepened feeling of being unsure and recovering, they are masters of “so what” response. We see it daily.
I happened to be bringing in a box delivered to my house today and I dropped it with a bang, luckily not on anyone’s head. The puppies scattered and immediately came to investigate, tails wagging.