How to Help Your Labradoodle Puppy Manage Separation Anxiety
You spent months searching for the perfect puppy. You read up on breed characteristics, scrolled through countless adoption apps, and spent hours browsing local shelters in search of the ideal companion.
All that work paid off the day you finally brought your Labradoodle puppy home. With their playful disposition, hypoallergenic coats, and teddy bear faces, what's not to love?
But wait — we have an issue here. Maybe it started as soon as you brought your Labradoodle puppy home, or maybe you enjoyed a blissful honeymoon period. Either way, you're having a problem now.
Your puppy, although great while you're around, has been getting into some mischief while you're out. Chewed up furniture, unusual potty accidents, or neighbors texting that your dog is barking nonstop during the day.
It's a nightmare for any dog owner to spend their commute home dreading the discovery of what their pet has destroyed this time, and owners of Labradoodles are no exception.
If this scenario sounds painfully familiar to you, your Labradoodle puppy may be experiencing separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in dogs and puppies is incredibly common. If your Labradoodle is experiencing any of these symptoms, you've come to the right place.
In this article, we are going to delve into the psyche of your Labradoodle puppy, understand the specific causes of their stress, identify triggers, and find out how to help your Labradoodle puppy manage separation anxiety.
If you're ready to look forward to coming home to your puppy again, then keep reading.
Does Your Labradoodle Puppy Have Separation Anxiety?
There is a big learning curve when bringing home your Labradoodle puppy. It can be difficult to spot the difference between ordinary puppy behavior and a case of true separation anxiety. We're here to help you spot the difference.
Common symptoms of separation anxiety include:
Destructive behavior like chewing or digging
Excessive barking or howling
Urinating or defecating outside of established potty areas
Self-harm (chewing themselves to injury)
Frantic behavior when you leave or come home
Distinguishing Separation Anxiety From Other Issues
Sure, some time or another, every puppy goes through these behavioral issues. So, how are you supposed to know if this is just normal puppy behavior or a genuine case of separation anxiety?
The most important step in answering this question is observation. Ask yourself, “Do these behaviors occur when I'm home as well?” If the answer to that question is yes, that's a powerful indicator there is an underlying cause other than separation anxiety.
How many of these symptoms of separation anxiety is your dog experiencing?
If after a long day at work you come home to find your Labradoodle has chewed the arm off your couch and gutted all the cushions but is napping peacefully in her bed, then separation anxiety may not be to blame.
That incessant chewing that has led to a raw and bleeding tail is, again, not an indication of stress or anxiety. Although these issues might cause you more anxiety, they aren't necessarily a sign of separation anxiety in your pet.
Observation is Key
Your Labradoodle's desire to vandalize your apartment could easily be a sign of unmet exercise needs.
Those terrible raw spots on your pup's tail and paws ... could it possibly be a food or environmental allergy?
You know your Labradoodle puppy better than anyone else. Before diagnosing your Labradoodle with separation anxiety, ask yourself the following questions:
Do these behavioral issues occur when you're home as well?
Does your pup display a heightened level of concern surrounding your arrivals and departures?
Have these behaviors started around the same time as a major routine change, such as a change in diet, exercise, or work schedule?
Are your dog's basic needs for food, shelter, companionship, and exercise being met?
Running through this checklist may help you identify whether separation anxiety is what's causing your Labradoodle puppy to act out.
When the symptoms mentioned at the beginning of this article present individually, there may be underlying causes not associated with separation anxiety, but when the symptoms are occurring simultaneously, there is a high likelihood that separation anxiety is the culprit.
While your Labradoodle has a long list of endearing qualities, you might discover a few not-so-desirable traits as your journey together progresses.
Are Labradoodles Prone to Separation Anxiety?
The short answer is — yes.
Not that you're sentenced to a life of drudgery with your dog. By understanding the traits that make your Labradoodle puppy unique, you are also uncovering the solution to their separation anxiety.
Understanding Your Labradoodle
The first step to understanding who your dog is, is understanding what your dog is.
The Labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle. Both breeds are playful, loyal, affectionate, and highly intelligent. However, a dog owner must remember these are working-class dogs bred to fulfill a purpose other than making you feel loved when you come home from work.
The Labrador Retriever was bred to be both an assistance animal and a valuable asset to hunters. Similarly, the Standard Poodle is an energetic, brilliant animal bred also to accompany its owners on hunting trips.
The resulting cross between a Labrador and a Standard Poodle is a dog that craves mental and physical stimulation, forms a strong bond with its owners, and can be highly sensitive (even seemingly telepathic!) to its owner's needs and emotions.
Understanding the makeup of your Labradoodle puppy is crucial to helping them manage their separation anxiety.
What is Causing My Labradoodle's Separation Anxiety?
There are a variety of issues that may trigger your Labradoodle puppy's separation anxiety.
The first factors you want to look for are:
It's especially common for rescue dogs to experience separation anxiety. After all, their worst fear (being left by their owner) has actually come true, perhaps even more than once.
Inconsistencies In Routine
Dogs thrive on routine. Because they depend on their owners for all of their physical and emotional needs, they need to learn that they can trust you with that power. Letting them know when to expect food, exercise, and bathroom breaks lets them know you're a trustworthy leader.
Pent Up Energy
Never forget your dog is a dog. She needs to do dog things: run, dig, bark, chase. Just like humans experience psychological distress from lack of exercise and sunshine, so does your dog.
Your Stress Is Contagious
You are your Labradoodle's #1 hobby. They watch your every move. All. Day. Long. They were bred to be highly in tune with their owner's emotions. If they sense stress in their leader, that tells them they should be stressed, too.
Use a Routine to Ease Your Labradoodle's Separation Anxiety
Creating a structured routine is the first step to creating a sense of stability and confidence in your Labradoodle puppy. They are highly sensitive, intelligent dogs. Dogs with this temperament thrive when they know what to expect daily.
Take Charge of Mealtime
You might think it would make your Labradoodle feel confident knowing they can wander over to their bowl for a snack at any time of day. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Dogs are incredibly food-motivated. When they aren't thinking about their owner, they're thinking about food. By only allowing your dog to eat within certain windows of time, you are communicating to her that not only are you in charge, but you are also to be relied upon.
Let Your Puppy Know What To Expect
Everything else in your dog's life will revolve around their mealtimes. By making this a predictable activity every single day, you are sending a message to your Labradoodle that you are a reliable pack leader, and they don't need to try to take control of the food situation.
Of course, your Labradoodle should have fresh, clean water available at all times.
By having a set schedule to consume food, you're also creating a schedule to expel the food. Yes, we're talking about poop. Generally, dogs and puppies will need to poop and pee within 30 minutes of mealtimes. A great way to combine bonding time, restroom time, and exercise is to take your dog for a walk at least once a day. Remember, puppies will have significantly higher exercise needs than adult dogs.
Cue Alone Time Positively
We just discussed how to use a schedule to meet all of your pup's needs. But we left one off the list.
Once your Labradoodle has eaten, pooped, exercised, and gazed lovingly into your eyes, they're going to be tuckered out. This is a fantastic time to give your puppy a chance to practice being alone.
This is the perfect opportunity to give your dog a light pat on the head and a treat before you head out for a while.
If you're looking for the ideal treat to offer your Labradoodle during this process, try Calming Dog brand Calming Zen Chews. These homeopathic treats offer a blend of chamomile, L-theanine, and L-tryptophan.
By incorporating these calming treats into your dog's routine, you're not only creating a positive association with you leaving (they get a treat!) you're using naturally occurring ingredients to increase your pet's sense of well-being while you're gone.
Training Yourself is as Important as Training Your Dog
By being the pack leader, you set the tone in your home. Your dog's anxiety is often directly related to your anxiety. It may be surprising to learn the behavior modification that needs to happen most is your own.
Do you have some anxiety of your own before you leave for work? In trying to preempt bad behavior from your dog before you leave, do you try to give her extra affection, attention, and cuddles before you walk out the door?
Stop doing that.
Your Labradoodle is a highly intelligent dog breed, and they can see right through you. Remember, Poodles and Labradors are bred to sense the needs of their masters. They will sense your nervousness and interpret it as a reason to be anxious themselves.
Be vigilant about making your arrivals and departures as non-eventful as possible. Do not create drama or excitement regarding this time of day. No extra pets, no excessive coddling, no shouts of excitement when you come home. (I know it's hard!)
Just a pat on the head, their calming treat, and be on your way.
Give Your Dog A 'Zen Den'
Dogs are den animals. While your Labradoodle could run alongside you on a trail endlessly, their den is their safe space where they recharge.
Crates for puppies and adult dogs alike replace the den in the American home. Veterinarians, trainers, and enthusiasts all avidly recommend the use of crate training for your puppy.
The logic behind crate training is ingrained in a dog's psyche to not soil where they sleep. Therefore, crate training can be very beneficial to potty training.
It also fulfills your dog's need for security, having a quiet space that is all theirs to curl up and recharge before their next outing.
However, many dog owners disprove crate training. They wouldn't dream of 'locking' their beloved Labradoodle up all day long.
Whether you're comfortable with the concept of crate training is entirely up to you and your pet. But the concept of providing your puppy with a safe space where they can rest and decompress when tired or afraid is absolutely non-negotiable.
Your dog's confidence and security require a den-like space. You can create this for them by first choosing a quiet, low-traffic corner of the house. To console your pup, place the dog’s bed, a favorite toy, blanket, or any other comfort item your pup shows a preference for in this corner.
To elevate the tranquility of their zen den, Calming Dog offers a wide selection of dog beds and pet sprays specifically designed to provide your pup with the highest sense of peace in their surroundings.
Train Your Labradoodle Puppy How to Be Alone
We often overlook separation training when bringing a young dog home. With all the training and preparation that goes into your puppy while you are with them, it's easy to forget they need to be trained how to be without you.
The best thing you can do for your Labradoodle is to start separation training early. When dealing with adoptees and some older shelter dogs, you may not always have the luxury of getting them started on the right foot.
Don't let this discourage you. Know that wherever you are starting your new Labradoodle in their separation training journey will be a tremendous benefit to them (and you).
Wherever your dog's separation threshold is—that's where your training needs to begin. For example, if your dog yelps and howls starting as soon as 5 minutes after you walk out the door, that is your baseline separation threshold.
You might ask yourself how you would know when your dog experiences anxiety if it only occurs when you're not there.
There are a couple of different solutions to this:
Spy On Your Dog
When you 'leave' the house, don't actually leave. Stay near the door or window and look for cues that your dog is showing symptoms of separation anxiety. This will help you figure out your dog's tolerance for being alone.
Spy On Your Dog (Using Technology)
If you don't want to explain to your neighbors why you're peeking in your own windows, consider investing in one of the many home and pet cameras on the market. This way you can watch your dog on your phone all day long while you're gone. Going this route will definitely give you the most comprehensive view of your dog's behavior in your absence.
Once you've established your dog's separation threshold, start by trying to extend that window in small increments. Begin this training on a day where you have minimal distractions and plenty of time and patience to devote to this task.
Go through your normal routine of feeding and playing with your Labradoodle, and then “leave”. Remember, don't make it a big deal.
Whatever your dog's separation threshold is, return after that amount of time has elapsed. When you come back in, acknowledge your pup, do some dishes, use the restroom. Basically, be normal. Be cool.
After 10-15 minutes have passed, repeat the procedure, increasing the time your dog is alone each time. Gauge your dog's reaction when you walk back in the door to get an idea of their anxiety levels. You'll know the separation training is working when your puppy's enthusiasm over your arrival wanes.
The goal here is to desensitize your puppy to its owner's coming and going. The more they associate you with leaving as a pleasant experience, that always ends up with the two of you back together, the more confident your Labradoodle will become about spending time by themselves.
We cannot emphasize this point enough times. When you or your pup seem to grow distressed with the training, take a break. Do something enjoyable together, like going for a relaxing walk.
It's very normal for regression to occur. In fact, expect it. Whenever you or your Labradoodle have a major disruption in your life or routine, it's likely to arouse those feelings of insecurity again.
Consider these training sessions to be fun opportunities to interact with your dog and repay them for all the companionship they happily offer.
If you feel you are just not getting through to your puppy, never hesitate to seek help. There are plenty of dog behaviorists and trainers more than happy to offer their services. Take advantage of this!
But remember to never punish your dog out of your own frustration. Only punish your dog to correct unacceptable behavior, and only when you catch them in the act.
Be sure someone properly diagnosed your Labradoodle with a case of true separation anxiety before embarking on any course of treatment.
Implementing a predictable routine your pup can rely on will do wonders for their mental health. Tending to their basic needs for exercise and companionship will help them welcome a chance to rest up while you're gone.
Although it can take a lot of hard work, providing your pup with the training and products outlined in this article will be a rewarding investment for years to come.