All puppies undergo some element of fear during puppyhood.
Your puppies “fear phase” may be showcased in several different types of behavior; hesitation with novel things, security seeking behavior, barking, or outright leaving the area. The type of reaction depends on the individual personality of the puppy, his overall resilience, and your reaction.
The how and when of fear periods also depends on the individual puppy, so you may or may not see it in your puppy as described. Generally speaking, puppies go through two potential fear periods during puppyhood.
The first fear phase comes when the puppy is just 2-3 months of age.
This also coincides with a very critical socialization period. Your puppy is coming into a new home, leaving behind his mother, and litter mates, and is being introduced to a new family. All these factors are important to remember, and just because a puppy may hesitate over new things during this period don’t try to cease or slow the process of socialization and introducing new things.
What you have to do is just keep everything FUN! Puppies look to you as a security buffer and want to see how you react in a situation. Carry super yummy treats with you everywhere you go. Ask people to give your puppy a treat. Give treats with lots of praise in situations where you see your puppy is a little unsure. Carry a favorite toy with you and play squeaky toys or tug of war. This helps a puppy feel more comfortable. It is important to be upbeat and excited about new things and encourage your puppy to feel the same way.
The second fear phase comes later in puppyhood.
The second phase normally takes place somewhere around 5 or 6 months of age, but some puppies don’t experience it until a few months later. These puppies normally become worried about novel things, or you may see your puppy express fear over something that never bothered them before. For example, it’s not unusual for a puppy to have seen a trash can for months but one day bark when it’s in a different spot! This is a short-term phase for most puppies, and it’s just a representation of development.
The key to this phase is to not force your puppy into situations, and just like before, remember to keep it fun. It’s important not to baby your dog, but you are a source of security for him. Encourage him but don’t force him. For example, if he begins to bark at a statue he just saw, don’t drag him up to the statue. Instead, give a few treats, talk to him, and then YOU walk up to statue and touch it. Encourage him to come up with your voice, your body language, favorite treats and/or toys. If he doesn’t, that’s okay, but he most likely will with patience.
What you don’t want to do is push beyond comfort zone.
That just teaches your pup that he can’t trust you, and he won’t derive security from you. YouTube is littered with videos of dogs being forced to interact (or even being chased!) by things they find scary. This type of interaction can be seriously distressing for your puppy. Remember to keep it fun and positive, and he will move through the phase without any problems.