The 7th month critical stage of dogs.
Most dogs will go through a very trying stage when they turn 7 months of age. I call it the "stupid stage". You will probably notice your dog doing some very odd things or exhibiting behaviors that have not been seen for a month or more. This is the time a lot of dogs get kicked out of the house to become outdoor only dogs or worse yet, wind up in the shelter.
This stage will only last 2 weeks and if the dog is handled properly it will come through it with no ill effects. If you are not aware that the dog is in this stage you could cause long term damage to his/her personality.
This is what your dog will be experiencing in those 2 weeks:
1: Major fear impression period with disassociation of fear causing stimuli.
Here is an example of what this means: You are walking your dog down a quiet street and he/she is playfully chasing a leaf blowing across the ground. A car comes down the road and backfires scaring your dog. Your dogs attention was on the leaf so it is now afraid of or avoids things moving on the ground!
It is critical that you do not expose your dog to potentially scary situations. Do not make this the time to have your pup fixed, give vaccines, take to groomer for the very first time, trim toenails, fly in an airplane etc.
2: Last teething period.
The dog will not be losing or gaining teeth but the teeth are setting firmly into the jaw bone causing the dog to feel discomfort. He/she will chew anything they get their mouths on. You will need to provide plenty of safe chew toys for the dog. A kong stuffed with a mixture of moistened dry dog food and a teaspoon of peanut butter or grated cheese or hotdog and then frozen over night will keep your dog busy chewing and the cold will soothe the mouth.
3: Loss of memory and learning ability.
The dog seems to shut down mentally during this stage. Most dogs forget they are housebroke, that they know the command “sit”, what their name is etc. You will probably notice this part of the phase early on. It seems that your dog is just not listening or is ignoring you. This is not the case….
It appears that everything I teach my dog up to this phase is not in long term memory. That may be why I have to repeat lessons so many times! At 7 months of age the brain seems to shut down as this information is switched to long term memory. If the dog has had training before the onset of this phase it seems they obey better than they did before with little to no repetition. The light bulb comes back on!
My opinion is that while this information is transferring to long term memory the dog cannot assimilate anything new and the parts that are in current “download” mode cannot be accessed by the dog (forgetting how to “sit” on command).
When you notice strange things happening with your young dog don’t get angry or frustrated. Treat your dog as if he were 8 weeks old and just learning. Go back to showing the dog what to do when you give commands, watch pup closely so potty mistakes do not occur and keep things you don’t want chewed out of reach. If your pup does something wrong during this phase don’t scold or punish in any way. Instead, scold yourself for not watching the dog close enough to avoid mistakes.
Don’t introduce your dog to potentially scary situations and most of all have patience, stay calm and help you dog through this phase!
The most important thing to remember is this:
Whatever hurts or scares you dog in this stage could affect him for the rest of his life!
Bad experiences that produce a negative reaction in this 2 week phase seem to be difficult if not impossible to reverse!
All opinions in this article are entirely that of the author Diane Morrow.