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Why Poodles Experience Stress and Anxiety

Two poodles looking at camera

Regal, intelligent, and quite posh, Poodles are a highly popular dog breed in the United States. Often associated with wealth and taste, the Poodle is beloved by people from all backgrounds. Their warm and family-friendly nature makes them ideal family pets, and their ability to get along well with children and other animals helps them fit in with families of all sizes. However, like any other dog (or person), Poodles can suffer from the stresses and aggravations of modern life. Let's learn more about these remarkable dogs, their history and temperament, and why Poodles experience stress and anxiety.

The History of the Poodle

The Poodle is frequently associated with France. Some people may even refer to the breed as "French Poodles," but this is technically incorrect. While the French do love Poodles, there is no recognized breed known as the "French Poodle." If you dig a little deeper, you'll discover that Poodles originated in Germany! Centuries ago, people in Germany began breeding dogs for duck hunting. The Poodle as we know it today probably originated from a crossing of the Barbet and the Puli, which gave the breed an affinity for watersports and its distinctively curly hair. The name "Poodle" is an anglicization of the German word pudelin, which is close to the English "puddle" and loosely translates to "splashing in the water".

As a breed developed to help in hunting waterfowl, the Poodle is naturally athletic. These dogs are excellent swimmers and have strong retrieving instincts. If you happen to be a modern-day duck hunter, the Poodle is likely to be a perfect companion for your days at the lake! 

Not only is the Poodle an excellent hunting dog, but it is also a fabulous show animal. Poodles are very smart dogs, and while they can be stubborn, they are relatively easy to train. Their physical appearance is striking: tall and lanky, with fun curly hair setting them apart from many dog breeds. Poodles often sport a distinctive haircut. Like the breed itself, the classic Poodle hairstyle originates in duck hunting. Hunters wanted their dogs to have a warm coat of hair but also to enjoy free movement in the water, so they would shave the legs, neck, and tail to reduce drag and weight while leaving hair on the chest, hips, and leg joints. This kept hunters' poodles warm even when they were dashing into cold lakes to retrieve fallen prey.

Poodles are also known for their splendid nose. While all dogs enjoy a sense of smell exponentially better than that of humans, Poodles have a gift for finding truffles, those prized fungi that so often find their way into fine foods. This made them popular among mushroom hunters, and the Poodle quickly found its way into the echelons of high society. Standard Poodles were eventually bred down into smaller miniature and toy Poodle breeds, which make excellent companions for people who do not have large living spaces. While they may sport a more compact body, Miniature and Toy Poodles are just as intelligent, hard-working, and friendly as Standard Poodles. 

Poodle Temperament

Poodles may have been bred as working dogs, but their fine temperament made them prized companions. Poodles are highly intelligent dogs, and they love their humans wholeheartedly. They love to play games and have even been known to be a little bit mischievous! These canine brainiacs are relatively easy to train: their origins as working dogs give them the drive to please their humans. Poodles are highly energetic dogs, and they need a lot of exercise as well as mental stimulation. Poodles are very good at pattern recognition, so owners must be sure not to accidentally train bad habits into their dog - or even worse, find out their dog has trained them! A bored Poodle is likely to invent their own games or projects if they are not given adequate mental stimulation, so to avoid any unpleasant behaviors you must ensure your Poodle has something to do.

Poodles are very friendly dogs who are good with children and other animals. They can be protective of their people and will often respond to strangers, intrusions, or unexpected threatening stimuli by barking. However, their bark is worse than their bite: these delightful doggos are rarely aggressive to people.

Not only are they smart and friendly, but Poodles are also very physically active. A Poodle might not be a great fit for humans that are couch potatoes as they love to run and play. Poodles are great companions for people who enjoy exercises like running and hiking, and they're more than happy to tag along and more than able to keep up!

Poodles and Stress

Stress is how the body responds to demanding stimuli. For people, this can be something like an unexpected meeting with the boss, a tense relationship with your partner, or a traumatic event. Like people, Poodles can experience stress.

Canine stress can be caused by any number of things. Many stressors are outside of our control: a wailing police siren or severe weather can cause your dog to feel stress. Dogs can also experience secondhand stress. Scientists have found that dogs can detect stress in humans. Not only that, they will sometimes mirror it. In other words, if we are stressed out, our Poodles may also be feeling stressed out!

Luckily, some of the things that help Poodles deal with stress also help people deal with stress. Poodles like exercise, which is convenient because exercise is also a great way for humans to deal with stress. Another convenient way of dealing with stress is aromatherapy. It might sound silly, but there's good reason to use aromatherapy to help with stress. Our brains associate emotions with smells, and filling your space with a pleasant aroma can help soothe and calm you. As dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do, it's easy to see why aromatherapy works for them as well. The dog experts at Calming Dog have developed calming sprays you can apply to your dog's bed or blanket to provide them with a soothing and relaxing feeling. A few spritzes of Tranquility-scented calming spray will help your Poodle feel more relaxed and calm, even in the face of stress and anxiety.

Signs of Stress in a Poodle

When people are stressed out, they will often indicate their level of stress through vocalization. In other words, they might say something like "Gosh, I feel stressed out today!" While Poodles can't vocalize like this, they are known as very vocal dogs. Growling is a solid indicator something is stressing out your Poodle. We humans often mistake it for a sign that the dog is angry, but it is not inherently aggressive. Rather, it means your dog is intensely uncomfortable with something. It could be the off-putting vibe of that creepy stranger, or it could be a rival dog from another neighborhood, but whatever it is, growling is a good sign your poodle is feeling acute stress. The American Kennel Club recommends letting your dog growl; if you train it not to growl, it may learn to skip stress and go directly into biting.

In many dogs, barking is also sign of stress. Poodles are very vocal dogs, so it may be harder to tell when they are barking out of stress. Once you know your Poodle, you'll probably be able to tell when they're barking for fun and barking for stress. A good clue is whining; many dogs whine when they are stressed, and it's a fairly reliable indicator that something is agitating your dog.

Body language is another reliable indicator of stress in dogs. Tail-tucking, raised hackles, panting, and lip-licking are all indications your dog is feeling stressed out. However, it can be hard to read the body language of canines because they could be reacting to any number of things. This is especially true of highly intelligent Poodles.

If your Poodle is reacting to a stressor you can control, you should alter the situation to help the dog relax. Walk away from the creepy stranger and your Poodle will be much more relaxed! A less extreme example might be a loud movie; the rumbling and thundering of your sound bar might be agitating your dog and stressing them out. Turning it down a little might help your Poodle enjoy movie night with the family.

Nutritional supplements can also help to calm your dog down. Merck's Veterinary Manual recognizes the naturally occurring compounds L-Theanine and L-Tryptophan as effective in helping dogs feel relaxed. Your veterinarian can recommend specific nutritional supplements that might help your Poodle feel less anxious and stressed.

An excellent way to provide your dog with plenty of these relaxing compounds is to offer them a Calming Dog Zen Chew. These fun chews will give your dog a pleasant way to direct their nervous energy. The chews have a delicious peanut butter flavor that your Poodle will appreciate! Not only are they flavorful, but Calming Dog Zen Chews also contain natural herbs like chamomile, plus L-Theanine and L-Typtophan. If your Poodle is stressed out or anxious, giving it a Zen Chew will help it relax.

Poodle puppy running through field

Poodles and Anxiety

Any Poodle or person can experience anxiety from time to time. A worrying situation, an unexpected challenge, or an unanticipated stimulus can trigger an adrenaline rush we feel as a fight-or-flight response. If there is not an adequate outlet for this response, such as running away or engaging in combat, the surplus stress hormones such as adrenaline that are released by anxiety can make us feel edgy, antsy, worried, or fearful. This is a normal reaction to many situations.

As a working breed with an active mind, Poodles can be susceptible to anxiety. If your Poodle doesn't get enough exercise, or if it is under-stimulated, it can experience boredom, restlessness, and anxiety. Intelligent dogs have more brainpower with which to worry, and so they can be more susceptible to anxiety than other breeds.

There is a stereotype that smaller Poodles are more anxious dogs, but this is not necessarily the case. There is nothing about the size of a Poodle that affects their anxiety. Instead, the increased anxiety of smaller dogs likely comes from their socialization. Small children, noisy neighbors, and the constant presence of much larger animals can make smaller dogs more prone to fear-based anxiety, which can easily escalate to fear-based aggression. Clearly, anxiety is an issue!

In addition to normal anxiety, Poodles are also susceptible to separation anxiety. This is anxiety that is triggered when a dog is left alone. As highly sociable dogs, Poodles can become very worried when their owners are not around and can find it especially difficult to be alone.

Signs of Anxiety in a Poodle

Poodles can't speak in our language, so the only way to tell if they are feeling anxious is to observe their behavior. As vocal dogs, there is a good chance an anxious poodle will bark a lot. They may bark, whine, and howl non-stop when agitated or upset by something or when alone in the house. This often indicates the dog is feeling very worried about something.

There are also physical signs of anxiety. If your Poodle is pacing, panting, or acting restless, chances are it is experiencing anxiety. Other classic manifestations of anxiety in Poodles are destruction and aggression. If your Poodle is eating the furniture, destroying the walls, or being uncharacteristically mean-spirited, it may be feeling anxiety. Anxious humans also display some of these behaviors, with the exception of panting.

A good remedy if your Poodle is feeling anxious is to give it some exercise. Taking your dog for a stroll or a jog is a great way to help it work off some of that nervous energy. As a bonus, if you are an anxious human, the exercise will help you too! Another way to calm your dog down is to give it a relaxing touch. Poodles are sensitive and smart, and a gentle, soothing touch from it's best friend is going to help it calm down. Gentle pats and scratches will reassure your pal everything is okay.

Preventing Anxiety in Poodles

Poodles are highly intelligent dogs who respond well to human engagement and training. Developing your Poodle's mind will help reduce the likelihood of it experiencing anxiety. Socialization is one of the best techniques to help your dog develop. Introducing it to new people, animals, experiences, and places helps your dog learn about the world. If your dog has experienced a wide variety of people, places, and other creatures, it is less likely to be upset when introduced to other new things down the road.

Obedience training is another useful tool that can help prevent anxiety in Poodles. Part of training a dog is developing a relationship between the dog and it's human. Obedience training helps to build trust and understanding between dogs and humans, and it helps socialize your dog with other canines and other people in the training environment.

If your dog has specific triggers that cause it great distress, avoiding those triggers will help prevent anxiety. If your Miniature Poodle gets agitated around other dogs, you might want to avoid dog parks — at least until you can get it trained. Avoiding known triggers will help prevent the development of anxiety in your Poodle.

How to Help a Stressed or Anxious Poodle

Providing a safe, stable, and relaxed environment for your dog will help it thrive. Poodles don't do well with boredom, so it's important you create an enriching environment for them. If your Poodle's space is engaging and relaxing, they'll feel safe and secure.

Sometimes, dogs need to burrow to feel safe and secure. Burrowing makes them feel comfortable. This is probably a remnant of dogs' ancient origins, when wild dogs would dig burrows to raise their young in. Burrowing into a safe space helps your dog relax and feel safe from the outside world. Calming Dog has developed a specially engineered dog bed designed to provide dogs the feeling of warmth and security they crave. The Calming Cuddle Bed is built with specially designed deep crevices that allow your friend to snuggle up in their bed and feel like they're in a burrow. The Calming Cuddle Bed comes with a removable cover for easy washing, although Poodles are naturally very clean and don't get smelly. The Calming Cuddle Bed also comes in a range of dimensions suitable for Poodles of all sizes and has tasteful colors that will match your home.

Finally, healthy Poodles are far less likely to become anxious or stressed out. One of the best ways to keep your dog healthy is to keep it hydrated. Dogs prefer to drink from a fresh, flowing source of water when they can, so providing them with a reliable source of fresh water helps them keep hydrated and healthy. The Calming Fountain Plus+ from Calming Dog is a great way to provide for your dog's need for fresh water. It is triple-filtered and runs continuously, so your dog has constant access to fresh, flowing water. This will help keep them healthy and happy — which reduces their chances of developing stress and anxiety!