Helping a Goldendoodle with their stress and anxiety is one of the most important aspects of helping your dog lead a healthy life within the family pack. One of the ways to help them is to know how Goldendoodles are built, their traits, and how to best meet their needs.
A Goldendoodle is a mix between a golden retriever and either a standard or miniature poodle. The Goldendoodle started with the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever and Poodle Mix) about 30 years ago by Wally Conron in his quest to create a hypoallergenic guide dog. He does, however, state that he regrets the breed that he created, which includes Goldendoodles, and calls them the “Frankenstein monster” because breeders (both good and bad) are creating every kind of “doodle” known to man, which is any breed mixed with a poodle.
Backyard breeding has resulted in Goldendoodles that may have significant hereditary problems and increased anxiety. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, stated that to reduce some of the negatives that come with poorly bred dogs, a buyer must do research. There are a lot of litters of Goldendoodles to be had and a lot of them can be found in local rescues and shelters. There are even breed-specific rescues that have a majority of one breed. Looking into those you may find some amazing Goldendoodles to bring home.
Goldendoodles are touted to be hypoallergenic (but do still need regular brushing and grooming), great with families with small children, those who like to be outdoors, and first-time pet owners. With relation to their size, Goldendoodles can range from 35 pounds and 14-17 inches tall (miniatures) to up to 100 pounds and more than 21 inches tall (standard), highly dependent on the poodle that was used for breeding.
A Goldendoodle's needs are important and discussing those will lead to assisting in reducing some of the stress and anxiety they can have. While Goldendoodles love to be inside cuddling with their owners, they also need daily playtime and exercise as well as mental stimulation. Without these needs being met, your Goldendoodle can be prone to severe separation anxiety.
How to Tell Your Goldendoodle is Stressed or Anxious
When around your dog, there are certain things to watch for to determine how your Goldendoodle is feeling. Just like people, where you can tell they are uncomfortable, stressed, or anxious, dogs are the same way. Some of the more noticeable traits of anxiety and stress in Goldendoodles could be pacing or shaking, whining, panting, or yawning and licking. Your Goldendoodle could also refuse food, attempt to hide or escape a situation, change their posture with their ears pinned back, or they could shed more (a hard one to tell sometimes).
While your Goldendoodle may not experience all these signs, you may be able to observe them and notice their anxiousness and stress and assist in reducing it before it becomes worse. Some animals will also defecate or urinate out of stress, and if that can be prevented (especially in the home) it would be best for everyone involved. If it does happen, however, instead of punishing them, realize they are stressed, remove the stressor, and comfort them.
One important thing to note regarding a Goldendoodle's stress indicators is that while a lot of times it’s out of fear, also understand the dog might also be trying to tell us something is wrong, and we, as humans, should follow them. Goldendoodles can smell and hear far better than a human can and may try to indicate a problem to protect you and your family. They can also pick up on energy better than a human can which is why a lot of people trust their dogs' instincts about people. Dogs have sensed fires within walls that were unknown to a human and got them out safely. Medical alert dogs are sensing an issue with their handlers, and while it’s not stress, they may indicate some of the same behaviors. So, the key is knowing your Goldendoodle and what they are sensitive to and being able to determine if it’s genuine stress and anxiety, or related to something that might save your life.
Socializing a Goldendoodle
Just like humans, confidence is essential to a Goldendoodle to help them reduce their stress and anxiety in many different situations. Socialization doesn’t mean just being around people, it also means being around other dogs, new situations, loud noises (thunder and fireworks are a big stressor for many dogs), and other experiences. Building a Goldendoodle's confidence can help mitigate some of the problems being faced by owners.
While Goldendoodles are cute and everyone wants to pet them and play with them, they need to learn some manners first. The best time to socialize a Goldendoodle is when they're a puppy, with the vital period being between 3 and 20 weeks. Allowing them to experience new smells, sounds, and sensations (such as trimming nails and brushing teeth) can help to aid in reducing the stress surrounding these things.
Goldendoodles can be prone to separation anxiety as they love to be around their humans. Puppyhood is the ideal time to start teaching your Goldendoodles to be alone for some time. This can include crate training them, or leaving them for short periods to help them know that you are always going to come back. No one wants the neighbors calling and saying your Goldendoodle is howling/barking all day and/or destroying your home. It can be dangerous for them if they're doing this and ensuring they are comfortable and confident when alone is essential.
Just because your Goldendoodle isn’t a puppy anymore (maybe you got them older or rescued them), doesn't mean they can't be socialized and learn to become confident and comfortable dogs. Introduce them to new dogs and new people regularly, but don’t punish them if they are fearful (which can sometimes be mistaken for aggression). If you are having problems with this, instead of punishing, remove your Goldendoodle from the situation and have them sit or lie down until they are calm and try again. Changing what they are focused on can drastically change the outcome of the situation.
Other Common Solutions
Before we get into other modalities, some more sophisticated, let’s look at a few of the simpler ways to help calm an anxious and/or stressed Goldendoodle. While you don’t want to praise what is happening in their anxious state and, ideally, redirect their mind, sometimes we need to follow their lead and try something else.
Goldendoodles love to be near their owners, following them around and getting general comfort from them. That being said, one of the best ways to help your Goldendoodle through an anxiety-inducing situation is to engage in some form of physical contact, especially during times of thunderstorms or fireworks. In addition to just holding them, letting them cuddle next to you, or just giving them extra pets, you can also initiate a dog massage. Just like humans, you may be able to determine where the dog is holding his stress (massaging along your Goldendoodle's neck and spine, gently, of course) and go to that spot earlier the next time.
Another way to help your Goldendoodle is to put on some noise. Classical music is ideal, but you can put anything soothing on that your dog might like. Sometimes people leave their TVs on when they go out to have some noise as well. Try different music and sounds, and you can even have it just loud enough that it might drown out whatever other noise is causing stress, if that is the root cause.
Sometimes your Goldendoodle just needs some alone time. If a dog was crate trained, putting them in their crate can help them feel safe and secure. It’s someplace where they can't be bothered by others, it’s quiet and relaxing, and away from the noise (or even gatherings in a home) that are causing stress. This will only be a stress reliever if they have previously been trained because putting them in a crate without the proper conditioning can have the opposite effect that you're looking for. Another way to help them keep calm or could be added to their crate or room is the Calming Dog Bed which emits a natural scent that inherently helps calm the dog and keep them stress and anxiety free.
Separation Anxiety: What it is and How to Prevent it
Goldendoodles tend to be “velcro dogs” which can best be described as dogs that follow their humans around all day long. They may focus on one person more than the other, but they still always want to be with their family. One of the things to look for to determine if separation anxiety is affecting your Goldendoodle is to pay attention to the behaviors of the dog. This could be excessive vocalization when you are out, relieving themselves in the house after being housebroken, destruction, overly friendly greetings when reunited, and excessively following their owners around.
Some dogs are genetically predisposed to anxiety (because Goldendoodles are so popular, this is a common issue with backyard breeders and poorly bred dogs), or they were never taught to enjoy being alone. They can also be bored which we will dive into later. Socialization and training can help prevent some of the issues with anxiety, especially when it comes to separation, as well as meeting their needs.
Meeting a Goldendoodle's Physical Needs to Prevent Anxiety and Stress
A Goldendoodle that has pent-up energy as a result of not having its physical needs met can be destructive as a result of stress and anxiety. When their minds and bodies aren’t stimulated by their owner, they will exert energy in other ways. But how do you meet those physical needs? By catering to their breed as well as ensuring they are not just pent up in the house all day.
How do you meet the physical needs of your Goldendoodle regularly? At a minimum, a healthy adult Goldendoodle requires 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, which can be just their daily walks. However, this can include other activities such as agility sports, swimming, fetch, nose work, and training; senior dogs can benefit greatly from swimming and slow walking which is gentle on their joints. Your dog, however, is unique, and it depends solely on them, as some need to expend more energy than others.
What are the physical needs of your dog? Some of the physical needs of a Goldendoodle are dependent on their mix; the type of retriever and/or poodle they were mixed with. There are show lines and hunting lines of retrievers that can alter their needs for exercise. A hunting line will need more exercise as they are bred to be more active than a show line, which is bred to look good. A line that was bred for therapy and guide work might need less exercise, as well, because they are bred to be calmer and more attentive. The same goes for a poodle. Certain lines are bred for more specific uses. Knowing the lineage of your Goldendoodle can make an impact on how you tire them out.
Meeting the Mental Needs of a Goldendoodle to Prevent Anxiety and Stress
What are some ways to meet the mental needs of your Goldendoodle? Training is one of the best ways to meet the mental stimulation needs of a Goldendoodle. They are a highly intelligent breed, and if their minds aren’t worked properly or left to their own devices with no direction, they can become stressed and anxious as they don’t know what their owner expects of them. Clear communication between yourself and the dog will help to ensure they're confident in what they are doing and knowing when they're right and wrong.
One of the main ways to know your Goldendoodle isn’t mentally stimulated enough is to watch when you're done playing, running, and/or going for a long walk and noticing if they still have energy left. If they remain anxious when they are left home alone or destructive after all this activity, this means that while they might be physically tired, their minds are still plenty active.
Using mental games and training will help your Goldendoodle feel more tired (and confident), leading to a less stressed and anxious dog in the long run. If you can’t get outside more, start in the house by teaching them obedience and new tricks. Training sessions are important as they are the basis of a confident and less stressed dog.
Other Possible Solutions for you Goldendoodle's Stress and Anxiety
There are also natural routes you can take with your Goldendoodle such as aromatherapy and pheromones to help with their anxiety and stress. Calming Dog, offers many natural options to regulate your Goldendoodle's anxiety. The zen chews, sprays, and comfy blankets help to make them feel relaxed and comfortable. This is, of course, to go in conjunction with the calming dog bed.
Your Goldendoodle's anxiety might be beyond what exercise, training, and socialization can do for them. When it comes to situational anxiety and stress, sometimes you have to try and be prepared beforehand. These types of situations can be fireworks (July 4th is a rough holiday for a lot of dogs and their owners alike), thunderstorms, car rides, or even going to the vet. Being able to predict the situations that are stressful for your dog can help to also prevent them or mitigate them. The zen chews mentioned above can be perfect prior to going into the car, so they are already calmer. And spray your car with the Peace Calming Spray before leaving which helps with travel anxiety, or the Zen Calming Spray for thunderstorms or fireworks.
Some Final Thoughts on Decreasing your Goldendoodle's Stress and Anxiety
We've covered a lot, so when assessing your Goldendoodle's mental health always start with the basics. If you’re just getting a Goldendoodle puppy, you can start by focusing on socialization and basic obedience drills and commands. Getting your puppy or dog to associate you with good things (despite if you're there or not) is just as important as ensuring your Goldendoodle's needs are met physically and mentally.
A lot of people will say that crate training is bad, but giving your Goldendoodle a space of their own, where they can go and hide away (much like humans do sometimes) is important. Spend as much time as you can with your dog and watch their cues and what makes them tick. Being able to prevent a situation from happening can be just as important as learning how to calm them down when the situation arises. How do you prevent the anxiety and stress and following destruction if that's what they turn to? You take your time and give them the exercise they need both mentally and physically.
Your Goldendoodle is like any other dog or human out there. Figuring out what causes them to feel uncomfortable and how to help them is essential to raising a healthy and confident dog. They may not be able to speak to you, but they can give you the signs that let you know how they are feeling. After all of this, you may just have the best Goldendoodle around.