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I'm trying to word this question properly.

What age do young poodles begin to develop phobias and fears? I kind of recall there are two stages in their first year of life. It seems this would be a barrier to one degree or another to learning new things or tricks, no different than with children/teens.



See graph and article by Dr Cam,
From Chaos to Calm – The Complexity of Mood Control in Pets


In my own tpoo, now she's barely 13 months old and lately she's developed a fear of leaving my side when we walk down the two very long apartment hallways to the elevator. I used to say, Run Bella! and she'd run ahead then wait for me before turning the corner. Now she won't leave my side as we walk, although I can see the urge to run is there. The thing is, nothing bad happened for her start doing this. It's like she's afraid maybe I'll disappear or she'll be stolen.

So, back to the generalities. In my mind I visualize a graph that starts high then slowly goes down and plateaus.

To maximize their most receptive age(s) to be trained and to set the dog up for a love to be trained to please it's owner, what's the window of opportunity?

I'm thinking about Chanda-Leah, the toy poodle who held the Guinness World record for the 'Most Tricks Performed by a Dog'. Her owner got her at a mere 7-1/2 weeks of age.

With Chanda, her learning rate was constant and didn't plateau, which is the ideal:


We could also add another graph where it plateaus then drops for many dogs, and that's a question - at what age does that happen?


From all I've learned so far, major keys to the maximizing smarts are socialization at an early age, calmness of mood in dog and owner, and innate intelligence of the poodle.

Of course, all dogs like people are different. But in your opinions, what ages is the window of opportunity opened the widest for training it before (if) the learning curve drops off and it becomes more of a challenge?
 

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I have noticed that many dogs have a fearful stage at about a year of age - just like human toddlers.
 

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First thing is that we really need to think carefully about fear as a developmental stage. If you are very familiar with Ian Dunbar's teachings you will know that he thinks the idea of the fear period is based on very flawed research. My recollection is that he is familiar with the original paper and that it was a small study using just five puppies in a lab setting with people wearing lab coats. Why in the world do we accept the findings of such a study as gospel for all puppies everywhere? Does it not become a self fulfilling prophesy that we will see fear when we think it is supposed to occur and that we may play a large role in amplifying it when we see anything that resembles fear.

There are good reasons for puppies to be cautious about things at certain stages in their development. These presumably harken back in evolution to wild canid ancestors, where for example being cautious once pups first leave the den and are more vulnerable is advantageous. But is being cautious the same as being fearful? I don't think so.

I also somewhat disagree with the concept of the first graph. I don't think being easily aroused has a correlation with fragility. I also don't think that a state of total calm is the only state in which learning can occur or should occur. If you only train your dog when it is totally calm then it will not do what you have taught it when it is stressed. This is something I have been dealing with recently with Javelin. Most of my training is done in a relatively quiet environment and we are often alone or only have Lily with us. In our last two trials (at a somewhat noisy location) his head almost fell off when we got in the ring. Since then I am working on upping the level of environmental distractions and pressures so that he will come to see a trial ring as an easy place to be.

While most people don't have those issues with their dogs here is a more practical way the idea of stress in training is important. Look at the emergency stay or recall. If one only practices the desired behavior in a calm state it will not be reliable when there is a real emergency and your order to stay so you can go get your dog or to have your dog recall won't work. So with Javelin in my home environment we have the issue of his stronger than I like interest in pressuring the chickens. Every time (nearly) that I go in the yard with him and approach the chicken coop he will run ahead of me and slam into the wire as close to the birds as he can. He gets them all flustered and then just bounces around in front of them. I get annoyed. Everyone is stressed and agitated, but because I have worked on his behavior around them all the time at high levels of arousal I can always call him away from them even if they are loose and approaching him. And I don't have to scream bloody murder at him to get him to do it either. I just say his name and come in a low key way and he does.

Is the last graph your concept? I think I disagree with it too. I do think you can teach an old dog new tricks at any time as long as you have consistently been teaching the dog throughout its life. The same applies I think to us. Those of us who had great educational experiences in K-12 and have then gone on to college and graduate school are always learners. My college views itself as helping to reinforce the foundations for successful life long learning that have been laid by K-12, but even people who didn't go on to college are often great life long learners as they engage in trades or jobs that require acquiring new skills.

Obviously a blind and deaf newborn puppy has learning limitations, but that changes quickly as their ears and eyes open to the world. There is probably a lot that breeders can do with things like puppy cultures to set foundations for learning before puppies go to their forever homes, but after that I think they sky is the limit if learning is fun and rewarding for the dog and connects them better to their people. I actually suspect that Bella sticking closer to you in the hall is that connection showing itself in a new way.
 

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I’ve always been opposed to the concept of fear periods because the label boxes you in. I think that can impede on a puppy’s training and they won’t ever reach their full potential. I also hold Catherine’s assessment when it comes to people. It is never too late to educate!


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snow I do think we have to acknowledge developmental events and stages, but yes, we shouldn't look for things that we then allow to define the work we do with our dogs or the opportunities we engage for ourselves either.
 
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I think there is a stage in a pup's development when it is happy to explore new things, and that caution about new stuff tends to increase with age. Add in the hormones and neural reprogramming that comes with adolescence, and those middle months can feel like a roller coaster! But more and more research is pointing to much greater plasticity in the brain than used to be believed possible, which is good news for dogs and humans that had a poor start in life. I think the question may be less a matter of boosting IQ than how to set the youngster up with a lifelong love of learning. There is also an element of beware of what you wish for when it comes to intelligence - I am running out of places to put the cats' food bowls that Pippin can reach but Sophy can't...
 

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I think there is a stage in a pup's development when it is happy to explore new things, and that caution about new stuff tends to increase with age. Add in the hormones and neural reprogramming that comes with adolescence, and those middle months can feel like a roller coaster! But more and more research is pointing to much greater plasticity in the brain than used to be believed possible, which is good news for dogs and humans that had a poor start in life. I think the question may be less a matter of boosting IQ than how to set the youngster up with a lifelong love of learning. There is also an element of beware of what you wish for when it comes to intelligence - I am running out of places to put the cats' food bowls that Pippin can reach but Sophy can't...

I think that is one of the keys to all of this. And while it does mean there is hope for progress with developmentally deprived individuals it points to how enriching great foundations are. One can definitely say there is a bit of a beware what you wish for aspect to having a dog that is on occasion too smart for their own good too.
 
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A calm dog is difficult to focus, they will notice everything happening on their periphery. If my dog is too relaxed, I start training with a game of tug or fetch to get her excitement level up and keep it there during training by quickly changing up the lesson from one thing to another. The more exited, the better the focus as long as I don’t let it transition into red zone zoomies lol.

How age-related getting a dog into an excited/wired state? Maybe it has more to do with temperament than age up to a point?

I like this Level of Fun chart by Susan Garrett.


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doditwo yes! If the dog is too relaxed it isn't very motivated and not much learning happens. Later in the piece that Vita's original post refers to the author discusses the idea of pulsed arousal and calm being trained through tugging followed by a release of the toy and a settle to be repeated or cycled. From calm to chaos and back
 

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doditwo yes! If the dog is too relaxed it isn't very motivated and not much learning happens. Later in the piece that Vita's original post refers to the author discusses the idea of pulsed arousal and calm being trained through tugging followed by a release of the toy and a settle to be repeated or cycled. From calm to chaos and back

Absolutely, I use sit/down stays to build tension then release it with whatever command I’m teaching. Mimi can hardly wait to do the fastest “come” or “bring it” retrieve ever... almost as good as shouting “chicken dinner” She’s like a slingshot.


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doditwo yes! If the dog is too relaxed it isn't very motivated and not much learning happens. Later in the piece that Vita's original post refers to the author discusses the idea of pulsed arousal and calm being trained through tugging followed by a release of the toy and a settle to be repeated or cycled. From calm to chaos and back

I read that article you posted and it’s interesting. One way Mimi signals that she’s gonna tip over to zoomies while training is anxious whining because she either doesn’t understand what I want or can’t do it (ex: poop on command if she’s got no poop to give). If I keep it up she’ll either zoom at breakneck speed or start chasing her tail. So I always tell her it’s ok when she starts whining or telling me she’s frustrated. Then we stop and have free time to restore her confidence.

Maybe Garrett’s Anxious level should also be shown between Wired and Red Lining or there are two versions of anxiety- fear type & frustration type.

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... If you only train your dog when it is totally calm then it will not do what you have taught it when it is stressed... Look at the emergency stay or recall. If one only practices the desired behavior in a calm state it will not be reliable when there is a real emergency and your order to stay so you can go get your dog or to have your dog recall won't work...
That's a really good point.

... I think they sky is the limit if learning is fun and rewarding for the dog and connects them better to their people. I actually suspect that Bella sticking closer to you in the hall is that connection showing itself in a new way.
I was concerned she was showing anxiety; maybe what you said is it. I've been thinking of putting a treat at the end of hallway and walking back, then letting her go and saying Run! It hasn't worked with a ball or toy in the hallway. Maybe that's b/c it's the place she hears strange noises sometimes when we're inside the apartment and then gives me a little warning growl to let me Ma, someone is out there!

... I think the question may be less a matter of boosting IQ than how to set the youngster up with a lifelong love of learning...
Yes! As soon I read this, bingo! She has always learned best when we're having fun.

...If my dog is too relaxed, I start training with a game of tug or fetch to get her excitement level up and keep it there during training by quickly changing up the lesson from one thing to another. The more exited, the better the focus as long as I don’t let it transition into red zone zoomies lol... ...I like this Level of Fun chart by Susan Garrett.
One way Mimi signals that she’s gonna tip over to zoomies while training is anxious whining because she either doesn’t understand what I want or can’t do it... So I always tell her it’s ok when she starts whining or telling me she’s frustrated. Then we stop and have free time to restore her confidence.
I've seen this behavior too in Bella.

A nice example of learning thru play is we went from tug o war with my socks and slippers to me saying get my socks or slippers as a command, which is very handy. I like the chart too and can see that play out daily with students at my school, with too many who have their default setting on wired.

About the last graph. It's a modified bell curve; my idea that kids and puppies are like little sponges that absorb new information more quickly than any other time in their lives. My curiosity is at what age is this the maximum in dogs; although I realize some dogs never seem to dip down in the 3rd graph, and are more like the 1st graph in their rate of learning.

Also here's a cool video of world record setting trick dog Chanda-Leah:

 

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This is such an interesting thread! I read a lot about fear periods and it just didn’t match up with Sage, which got me kind of confused! He’s often a cautious dog and even when I first got him he would sit and watch other dogs playing in the park and getting balls etc. I learned I had to be so encouraging about so many things, and still do. I’m sure I was going about a lot of things the wrong way to start!
Anyways, I couldn’t ever pinpoint a specific fear period. I told someone once he must be going through a fear phase (I can’t remember the situation) and she said “Oh no, he’s too old.” See — confusing! I spent a lot of time socializing him, but I haven’t done nearly as much training as most people I read about here on PF.
He’s definitely learning more now because I am trying new things and as everyone said, it works best when he’s having fun! And he can do so much:)
 

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JenandSage, Javelin sounds a bit like Sage in that I don't think he ever had specific "fear periods" but there were situations where I found him to be cautious about things. Because of the timing of his gotcha day I wasn't able to do a puppy class with him, but I was able to take him to a free puppy play group at Petco. It wasn't a great set up since the area was very small and it often was more like a small dog play group that was dominated by two pugs that were adults, but it was better than nothing since the "trainer/supervisor" was attentive to helping little ones who were being overwhelmed. Javelin spent much of his time there sticking to the trainer and not interacting with the small adults. When there were puppies his age/size he did play a bit, but he was cautious. I remember thinking at the time that he was acting like an adultified human child in that it seemed to me (anthropomorphically) like he thought doing puppy things was sort of silly. In the long run, like Lily, he has become an adult dog that prefers people to dogs he doesn't know.
 

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I have never noticed a fear period in a dog I have had before. But with luna there have been some VERY obvious times where she is easily shaken up. These times seem to happen overnight and I feel like they are probably hormonal (as her biggest one was around her first heat cycle.) Even if they arent really “fear periods” they are still real and seem very detrimental to her training while we work through them. I don’t believe that they have anything to do with her training as a puppy or how she was raised, as she never had any fear problems as a puppy. It is interesting that she has gone through 2 or 3 of these now. Not sure where I am going with this - I just find it interesting that she has them. Honestly I felt better about them when I thought they were “fear periods” and could just blame normal puppy development, but having learned here on pf that fear periods may not exist at all, it makes me worry more and blame myself because I wonder if I am doing a bad job with her training and socializing.
 

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Chinchillafuzzy, nah, don't blame yourself and trust your own eyes. I've read here and other places that many dogs do go thru periods where they suddenly develop fears, phobias or anxiety. Maybe it's like a lot of kids who suddenly fear the boogeyman or heights or being in the dark and needing a night light, or young teens who dread to be seen shopping at the mall with their Mom or get tongue tied around the opposite sex or can't go anywhere without their BFF.

I think the trick is to do all you can do so they don't get stuck in a particular stage. You mentioned Luna getting weird after her first heat; Bella has become more clingy since hers last month. I'm hoping it will work itself out, and it probably will.
 

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First thing is that we really need to think carefully about fear as a developmental stage. If you are very familiar with Ian Dunbar's teachings you will know that he thinks the idea of the fear period is based on very flawed research. My recollection is that he is familiar with the original paper and that it was a small study using just five puppies in a lab setting with people wearing lab coats. Why in the world do we accept the findings of such a study as gospel for all puppies everywhere? Does it not become a self fulfilling prophesy that we will see fear when we think it is supposed to occur and that we may play a large role in amplifying it when we see anything that resembles fear.
Whew, thank you Lily! None of these supposed stages or theories has correlated to any of my Spoos life! But then I never studied them ahead of time, so they never became a self fulfilling prophecy. This is just such a huge relief to hear you talk about this.

Having fun has always been the key with him. Even when training Service Dog work. Some SD trainers and owners told me that he was absolutely not supposed to learn through play. Bunch of baloney!
He is awesome and never would have learned all he has if we hadn't had fun doing it.

Note the 'we'....:)
 

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kontiki it is not really so much about debunking theories, but rather calling out poor experiments or limited and ungeneralizable data. I am a strong defender of Theories (rigorously tested hypotheses) but a skeptic on the topic of theories (or really hypotheses) that are just people's thought experiment results.
 
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Hmm, and have often wondered if blaming 'stages' was an excuse for not being able to train our dog to do something.... Could it just have been our own lack of training ability?
 
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