One of the most interesting things about having a puppy is to watch them go through predictable development stages.
Tess is now 9 months old. Tonight, she showed some fear behavior when my boyfriend got home especially late and made a lot of noise on the outside of the door. She barked and growled and acted fearful - very unusual for her.
It reminded me of that early fear stage that every young puppy goes through in the first months of life. The change was marked - literally overnight she went from being a bold, independent, happy-go-lucky puppy, to a pup that barked at the bike in the garage that hadn't been there before. It took about 2 weeks for novel situations and objects to stop evoking an automatic fear response.
I've been able to observe most of the development stages in Tess so I wondered whether there was a second fear period around 9 months of age?
After a bit of searching, it looks like there very likely is! I love how development is so predictable.
Tess have reliably moved through each development stage, so I have to assume with the onset of this second fear period, she is very close to puberty.
This is important - because the plan is for Tess to be a performance dog, I do not want to spay her before the onset of puberty.
First, a digression - this is personal opinion based on research that I have read (but I'm too lazy to cite right now), heard in class. I have also grossly simplified the physis closure process and anatomy discussed - obviously more factors than just hormones etc play a role! I using the radius and ulna as an example. I have no idea when those two bones specific growth plates close relative to each other, but as it is 3am, I'm not looking it up.
There is some research indicates that some "performance injuries" such as torn crutiate ligaments etc. may be linked to altering a dog before the onset of puberty. Hormones play a huge role in growth plate (called a "physis") closure. If you alter a dog before the growth plates close, the physis will delay closing because of the lack of hormones.
"What's the problem?" you say, "so the plates stay open a bit longer". The problem is that some physis' close before others on adjacent bones. For example, the radius physis can close, and the ulna (adjacent bone to the radius that "connects" on the elbow) can still be open. This isn't normally a problem - and in fact is normal - because the body has a plan/system/time line for when all the physis' should close so the bones are the correct size in relation to each other. But when you take away hormones, you are altering that dramactically!!!!!
So now, the ulna keeps on growing a little bit longer than it should - but the radius can't compensate for it.
Now that joint and ligaments are inherently under more strain when the dog is doing intense physical activity - like agility and jumping.
I was really really REALLY hoping she would have had her first heat cycle before xmas so I could have her spayed over the xmas break, however, it looks like it's not going to happen :(. My guess is that she will be 10 months old (beginning of January), which means I'll spay over spring break. 10 months is average for a dog of her size, and as she's hit all the other "milestones" on the nose, it was too much to hope that she would be early on this one!