Few dogs can match the combination of charm, looks, and smarts that French poodles possess. But they are a high-maintenance breed, and, as such, French poodles can quickly develop a heightened and chronic state of anxiety without attentive care. But don't worry – you'll find a comprehensive set of tips here that will help you identify the symptoms of anxiety and give you ways to manage or alleviate your French poodle's stress.
The Causes of Anxiety in French Poodles
All breeds of dogs have triggers that can produce anxiety. But the overall temperament of a specific breed is vital in identifying the symptoms of anxiety and its underlying causes.
What are the causes that produce anxiety in French poodles? The underlying reason is that French poodles require a significant amount of stimulation. They are high-energy and highly sociable dogs who need several hours of direct attention from their owners daily. While adult French poodles can be left alone, prolonged and frequent stretches of inactivity or inattention can produce a cumulative anxiety effect upon them.
French poodles are hunting dogs by their original breeding. However, they are German in origin (French is a misnomer). The German word for them is pudel, which means "to splash in the water." This title explains another one of their less familiar names, "water retriever."
It becomes easier to understand, then, why French poodles contain seemingly limitless energy. They are at home when they are running and doing jobs! As such, a French poodle owner must possess the time and energy to provide for their dog's innate need to exercise.
Remember that exercise for French poodles means much more than simply taking them for a short walk or letting them out in the backyard. Their energy output needs to simulate what they would experience if they were working as active hunting dogs. Other outlets will manifest if they don't release this energy, including excessive barking, chewing, or breaking household items.
French poodles have a strong need for human interaction. They often prefer the company of their owners over that of other dogs (except for other dogs in their household). Therefore, physical AND social stimulation is crucial for your dog to remain healthy and low stress.
Separation anxiety is a condition that afflicts approximately 14% of all dogs. A dog with this anxiety is unable to comfort itself when it is apart from its family members. French poodles are particularly susceptible to this due to their innate need for socialization.
A variety of symptoms appear in dogs who experience separation anxiety. For example, French poodles frequently manifest this anxiety through "manic" behaviors such as barking excessively, crying, and constantly pacing. On the other end, they can display signs of depression and inappropriate urination or defecation.
In extreme cases of separation anxiety, French poodles may also display potentially harmful signs. For example, Coprophagia, the condition in which dogs regularly eat their poop, is a major red flag, especially for dogs who haven't previously displayed this behavior. In addition, French poodles prone to pacing when stressed can become obsessive-compulsive in a significant separation anxiety attack to the point of being completely unable to calm down.
The high level of intelligence French poodles possess exacerbates this tendency for separation anxiety. They don't simply want to be around their owners. Instead, French poodles desire to engage and work with their humans. At the risk of anthropomorphizing them, French poodles wish to contribute and offer something to you!
Fear anxiety is also common across all dog breeds. This behavior is most associated with fear aggression, or a tendency to compensate for nervousness by over-the-top threat displays. Often, a trigger - a sound, person, or event - precipitates the negative behavior.
French poodles can display these behaviors. But a significant cause of fear anxiety in French poodles is in their routine or, more appropriately, a lack of or considerable change in their daily rituals.
Like many humans, French poodles relish schedules. They like to know what is coming next. So, there is obviously some slight variation in their day-to-day schedule. But French poodles are easily trained to follow a pattern of eating, exercising, and interacting with their owners. Of course, like any dog, the owner trains the French poodle, but the poodle is also training the owner!
Owners of French poodles must understand this level of commitment before taking on this responsibility. Anxiety is rarely just on the dog. It appears in conjunction with the owner's behavior and/or lack of attention to their dog. It's a virtual guarantee that one or more of these types of anxieties will set in with your French poodle if you do not invest the proper time and energy into your dog.
Solutions to Helping Reduce French Poodle Anxiety
How do you manage the high-maintenance needs of a French poodle? The good news is that your French poodle's personality equips you with many ways to maintain or reduce the anxiety they may have. By nature, they are playful, eager to please their owners, and always ready for a new adventure!
Exercise, exercise, exercise! French poodles are game for all kinds of physical activity. However, keep in mind that they can keep pace with you and often have a greater need than humans for movement. So here are some suggestions for ways to make sure your French poodle gets the bodily stimulation to keep them free from anxiety.
Walk vigorously and frequently! At a minimum, your French poodle requires at least two 30-minute walks per day. Although they love a good jog, you do not need to run. But make sure that you are moving briskly on your walk.
Perhaps just as important as the exercise itself, set specific times for these walks each day. Your French poodle will anticipate and look forward to these times. It is okay to adjust the routine, but be careful not to change it too drastically and suddenly.
Harkening back to their origins as duck-hunting dogs, French poodles are apt to jump into any body of water they can find. In addition to their natural swimming ability, their hair is moisture-resistant. They also possess webbed feet, a unique characteristic that allows them to move rapidly through the water.
It is important to note that not all French poodles eagerly take to the water. Some poodles (particularly the smaller breeds) can be hesitant or even a little skittish around water. Therefore, take care not to force any poodle into the water.
Is there a way to make poodles love the water? If you are adopting a puppy, start exposing them to water at an early age. Their instinct of loving the water is much more likely to take hold when they can associate water as a fun activity from the start.
Because of their athleticism and intelligence, French poodles are tremendous dogs for agility training. In addition, training gives them a job, which provides them with a sense of purpose, therefore, reducing anxiety.
The most important thing about agility training is to keep it fun. Do not set the expectations too high for your dog, or it will have the adverse effect of making them more anxious. While they are typically obedient, French poodles also like to be encouraged rather than forced. As they possess strong problem-solving skills, slowly introduce them to each new routine. Let them get comfortable with each one before moving on to the next one.
A professional trainer is great for those who can afford it. But there are many tools and methods that you can use to teach your French poodle at home. While this article is on the nuts and bolts of stress, a critical exercise that can help French poodles build self-confidence is balancing. Use a simple plastic box to teach your French poodle how to place their front paws up on it, jump up and down, and learn how to control their movement and weight. A confident French poodle is an essential ingredient for a less anxious one.
Above all else, reward good behavior. Your French poodle needs consistent and frequent positive reinforcement as it learns new tricks. Treats and praises simultaneously boost the French poodle's confidence and make agility a pleasurable experience to which they will eagerly anticipate their next turn!
Relieving Separation Anxiety
It is no exaggeration how much socialization - or lack thereof - contributes to the presence of separation anxiety in French poodles. Exercise provides physical stimulation, but their keen minds require consistent engagement.
How do you begin providing appropriate social stimulation? French poodles are easier to socialize as puppies, but they are malleable to social training as adults, provided that certain precautions are heeded.
Socializing as Puppies
French poodle puppies are highly energetic and very playful, even compared to puppies of other breeds. They love to cuddle, jump, and romp all over and around their owners!
Potty training for French poodles becomes an opportunity to prevent accidents and is the prime method for YOU as an owner to learn how to interact appropriately with them. Of course, crate training is an essential part of potty training. But a general rule for French poodles is to leave them crated and alone no more than 1 hour for each month of age (up to 8 hours for a one-year-old). It is never a good idea to leave any dog, especially a French poodle, crated for that length of time.
The point is, for young puppies, you will need to make sure you can attend to your French poodle regularly to let them out at frequent intervals. When you do, don't let them potty and then throw them back in their crate. Instead, spend around ten minutes playing with them. Let them have a chew toy, run with them, pet them. Use that "break time" from the crate to stimulate their bodies and minds. Again, you will be doing critical work to make them happy and prevent prolonged separation anxiety outbreaks down the road.
Socializing as Adults
Many owners acquire their French poodles as adults. In some ways, this is easier as you often spend less money with breeders. You also miss the fun but time-consuming moments of raising a puppy with all its various needs!
But one of the most significant errors French poodle owners make is to assume that their adult dog is socially mature. Dogs who did not have the interaction described for puppies above can often be shy or standoff-ish. In addition, French poodles are extremely sensitive by nature to excessive activity and noises. If you overwhelm a French poodle who is not used to frequent interaction or an active environment, it can lead to nervous or even aggressive behavior.
Leaving the House
The most common trigger of separation anxiety is dramatic good-byes! Seriously, the way you exit the house can leave your dog either a contented canine or a nervous wreck! So, it is perfectly natural for owners to make a big fuss about leaving the house when headed out for the day. Of course, you will miss your fabulous French poodle, so you want to shower your dog with love and affection.
However, from your French poodle's perspective, they think that something is very wrong. Your dog might interpret your actions as though you may never be coming back. So if they are in this state when you leave the house, the worst separation anxiety behaviors - destructive and frenetic outbursts to melancholy bouts of depression - will undoubtedly come to fruition.
How can you leave the house and keep your dog calm? First, as you exit the house, leave a task for your French poodle. One of the best solutions is to find a toy in which you can stuff treats, peanut butter, or some other delectable option. Ideally, you want this to occupy your French poodle for at least 20 minutes - long enough for you to get out the door and for your poodle not to dwell on the fact that you are not there.
Offer this treat or task to your French poodle, and then get out! As much as you want to dote on your dog, don't. When you get home, your French poodle will be ecstatic to see you. THEN you can play, run, and baby talk all you want because you are staying! But a quick and efficient exit makes the difference between a dog that greets you upon your return out of frantic relief and one that greets you, ready for new experiences with you.
As your French poodle waits for your return, make sure they have a comfortable bed to claim while they are alone. A good recommendation is the Calming Cuddle Bed. It gives your French poodle the perception of snuggling, helping to reduce any anxiety your dog may have during your absence.
In addition to a cozy base, you can do a few other things to facilitate a calming environment for your French poodle while you are out. Gentle sounds and sights that are already familiar - such as leaving the TV on at low volume and keeping a couple of lights on - give your dog a sense of peace since they can, at least, associate these light stimuli with your presence.
Coping with Fear
Your French poodle will likely have a particular trigger that elicits a fear reaction. These triggers are more common in dogs that have not received proper socialization training as puppies or have experienced a traumatic episode of some kind. Intelligent animals tend to express anxiety more acutely. As mentioned before, keeping your French poodle on a schedule is a great foundation to help deal with phobias.
Nevertheless, what do you do when your French poodle is overcome with fear at a particular person, thing, or situation? The first rule is not to force a confrontation with the object of their anxiety. It is a virtual guarantee that this will worsen the anxiety. If at all possible, remove the trigger (this is not an excuse to disinvite your in-laws if they happen to be the trigger!).
Teaching your French poodle basic voice commands is also an essential tool for helping them cope with fear anxiety. For example, if your dog barks excessively at a person, make sure you give them a clear and firm command to stop. If you are consistent in giving these commands, it will reduce the fear response and help your poodle calm down in the face of their fear.
There are two other strategies for countering fear anxiety in French poodles. One is counterconditioning, in which the owner replaces the fear-inducing stimuli with a positive behavior such as sitting. The other method is desensitization, which is a SUBTLE way of exposing the dog to its trigger stimuli in a way that allows it to coexist in the same space. You can undertake these two methods yourself, but if the fear anxiety has reached a level to where either of these strategies is warranted, consider contacting a professional trainer.
Understanding the causes and responding appropriately to your French poodle's anxiety is a constant exercise for any owner. But being proactive in monitoring these stresses is the key to unlocking the full potential of these fantastic dogs. When they can live with low anxiety levels, French poodles will offer you an incredible package of companionship and experiences.