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Dog Behavior: Understanding the Dog Flight Instinct Period

Updated on August 20, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Is Your Dog Testing its Wings?

Puppy flight instinct
Puppy flight instinct | Source

Dog Developmental Stages: The Flight Instinct (4 to 8 months)Period

In the previous article, we took a look into a dog's fear periods taking place when the puppy is between 8 to 10 weeks and then 6 to 14 months. This article is about another important developmental stage known as "the flight instinct period." As the name implies, a puppy during this stage will put on its wings and start "flying". Of course, not in the real sense of the word!

What Happens During a Puppy's Flight Instinct Period?

What happens during this period, which generally takes place between the ages of 4 to 8 months, is the puppy becomes more independent and confident. At this stage you may see more curiosity to investigate things but also a certain level of stubbornness.

During this stage, the puppy is about to enter adolescence and there are hormonal changes taking place. Owners report dogs becoming more disobedient and "testing" and it is not a coincidence that this is a time when dog obedience trainers see many clients pleading for help.

In nature, this period takes place when young canines are old enough ( 4 months old) to leave the den and start learning how to hunt and start exploring their surroundings.

A Time of Exploration

From a domestic setting, during this stage the puppy begins to explore places out of the home. This is when dogs start becoming reluctant to come when called. If your puppy was always sticking by your side, now the honeymoon phase is over; he may likely ignore you now.

Because this is a developmental stage, it may still take place regardless of how much training you did before, therefore, better be prepared for it. Failure to address this stage properly, may lead to a dog that believes a recall is optional.

Increased Bouts of Chewing

This is also a stage when the puppy goes into increased bouts of chewing. Now, that the puppy teeth are starting to fall out and the adult teeth are starting to come in, the puppy feels compelled to chew, so make sure to provide safe edible and non-edible chew toys suitable for puppies.

Introducing the Puppy 'Zoomies"

Some dog owners report seeing the first "zoomies" during this stage. In other words, the puppy starts zooming through the home running at full pace in circles, over tables, under tables, across the lawn as if possessed. This is actually fun to watch and an integral part of puppy hood. The tecnical term for zoomies is Frenetic Random Activity Periods (often abbreviated as FRAP).

A Taste of Freedom with Safety in mind

Hi Kiss Dog/Puppy Obedience Recall Training Agility Lead - 15ft 20ft 30ft 50ft 100ft Training Leash - Great for Training, Play, Camping, or Backyard - Orange 30ft
Hi Kiss Dog/Puppy Obedience Recall Training Agility Lead - 15ft 20ft 30ft 50ft 100ft Training Leash - Great for Training, Play, Camping, or Backyard - Orange 30ft

As a dog trainer, I use long lines quite extensively. They come helpful with dogs who have a poor recall or need to learn it better, while giving them a taste of freedom. Not all dogs have the luxury of exploring their surroundings safely courtesy of a fence. Long lines come in different lengths and they can be found also in horse tack stores.


Catch Me if You Can!

Puppy flight period, a critical developmental stage.
Puppy flight period, a critical developmental stage. | Source

How to Deal With the Flight Instinct Period

So Rover is no longer listening to you and is acting as if he has never hear your commands before? Thankfully this phase will pass, but it does not hurt to polish the training you have done so far.

What to Do During this Stage:

  • Keep the young dog on a leash or a long line until this phase passes
  • Work on recall exercises following important rules to train a dog to come when called.
  • Never punish your dog for coming to you, no matter how frustrated you are.
  • Always make a big deal, throw a party when your dog obeys the recall command
  • Make yourself more interesting than anything else around; act silly!
  • Keep up the training!
  • Avoid chasing your dog or you will train a new game: the keep away game, a popular game among canines!
  • Never call your dog to you immediately followed by something perceived as unpleasant by your dog such as clipping nails or leaving the dog park.
  • If you need to leave the park or give a nail trim, call your dog, let him play with a tug toy or give some treats and then a minute or so later proceed to the unpleasant task; yet, work on making the unpleasant task more pleasant (read how to make nail trims fun for your dog and if you must leave the park, make the walk back home fun and entertaining)
  • Provide chew toys that are appropriate for your dog's age and safe
  • Enjoy the zoomies, and if you are afraid your dog may break something, let him out in the yard to release some steam.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli


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    • nadelma profile image


      7 years ago from NEW ADDRESS: Melbourne, Florida

      Great hub. Sometimes dogs can be so frustrating when they are young, but turn out to be such a pleasure and

      and your best friend.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      The puppy's developmental stages have always attracted me, it is so intriguing!

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      wow, that all makes sense reading it like that. Dogs are doing just what comes natural for them.


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