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When a Poodle is Acting Moody


Most Poodles have a very close bond with their humans, so when something is off, such as the Poodle’s mood, this is almost immediately picked up on. 

While it is normal for a dog’s mood to be a bit up and down during the day (often depending on what’s happening in his world), sudden instances of moderate to extreme moodiness is not normal and should be assessed. 

For this reason, we will look at:
  • Symptoms of Moodiness
  • Top Causes of Mood Changes
  • Agitated Mood
  • Female Mood Swings
  • Helping Your Poodle Improve His/her Mood
  • Signs That a Vet Visit is in Order

Symptoms of Moodiness in Poodles

Typically, when home with his owners, a Poodle will mimic the general vibe of the household, though there are a few exceptions. For example, if his humans are relaxing and the house is quiet, a Poodle will often join in, cuddling up on the sofa and being quiet as well. 

And if there is a lot going on, such as his humans preparing for an outside barbecue and everyone is hustling about, a Poodle will often run around inspecting the flow of activity and be alert.  

Some examples of exceptions would be if the Poodle was overdue for exercise, yet his humans kept him inside; he may become antsy or even sullen over missing his outdoor time. And if things in the home are getting a little too chaotic, a Poodle may show interest as first yet then withdraw to stay out of the fray.
Standard Poodle resting on couch
Lucy Lou DOB 3/21/2014
Photo courtesy of David & Rebecca Klein
Therefore, the general mood of a Poodle will often fluctuate throughout the day, depending on what is or what is not happening at any one time. This said, if a Poodle is having mood issues, there will be marked changes that are chronic. 

Signs and symptoms  of moodiness that points to a problem include:

Chronic depressed behavior – The Poodle may withdraw to be alone. He may rest in his bed much more often than normal, but some will seek out new ‘hiding’ spots such as a closet or other area to curl up in. Physically, the Poodle may display a sullen disposition, such as hanging his head low and/or not making eye contact. 

Decreased interaction – There may be little to no interest in things that a Poodle used to enjoy. 
This can include walks or play time. An owner may urge the Poodle to interact, yet the puppy or dog does not respond in a positive way. 

Changes in appetite – While it is not uncommon for Toy Poodles to be a be picky with their food, a Poodle of any variety, when displaying moodiness, may be particularly fussy with food, either just picking at it or outright refusing some meals. 

Changes in sleep – When something is bothering a Poodle, whether this be something physical or emotional, it often presents in sleeping patterns. The dog may sleep a lot more or may have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep.  

Agitation – While may people equate moodiness to a depressed, quiet demeanor, in some cases a Poodle may have times of appearing to be quite agitated. The dog may growl when others approach or show trouble with tolerating noises, people and/or other pets that in the past, the dog had no problem with.

Vocalization - When there is a marked mood change, a Poodle often does become quiet, however in some cases, there may be an increase in crying/whimpering/whining. In cases of agitation (above), there may be an increase in barking. 

Health Issues Causing Moodiness

Whenever there is a marked change in behavior and mood, the first thing to look at and rule out is some sort of health issue.

Even if your Poodle just had a checkup and everything was fine, something could have developed from then to now. Just about any health problem (injury, disease, condition) can and often does change a dog’s mood.

In some cases, if the dog is in pain, he will become moody and withdrawn. 
Along or alternatively to this, pain can cause a dog to feel vulnerable, which in turn triggers a canine instinct to self-protect, which can present as an intolerance to others coming close or attempting to pick him up. 

Top issues for this breed include Addison's disease (in which lethargy is commonly one of the early signs), Cushings disease (a malfunction of the adrenal glands which will present as coat issues and increased food and water consumption) and hip dysplasia (in some cases, the Poodle will only let out a yelp at the moment the hip joint and socket slips out of place, but as inflammation and pain develops, the dog will become sullen and moody in response). 

Yet any issue can cause a dog to act moody when first developing, before there are any other signs. This includes everything from tooth pain (tooth decay is more common with Toy Poodles, but a concern for all varieties), to hypoglycemia to worms and more. 
Toy Poodle black with brown markings
Toby, photo courtesy of Mark Kleinberg and Ana Carter
Therefore, any time a Poodle is moody, with or without changes in eating or sleeping patterns and even if there are not yet any other signs, it is wise to have a veterinary examination to rule out any health conditions.

Top Reason for Poodle Moodiness & How to Resolve Things

Keeping in mind that all possible health issues should first be ruled out, these are the most common reasons why a Poodle may be acting moody:

1) Less time with owners – Dogs are creatures of habit, very well aware of when they are expected to be with their humans. If there has been a major change to the Poodle’s schedule in which he is spending more time alone, this can lead to a depressed mood. And particularly, if a Poodle already struggles with separation anxiety

What to do: The best way to help a Poodle that is having to spend more time alone, is to reassess if all steps are in place to combat separation anxiety. This includes having a comfortable set up (not too confining, a properly sized canine playpen or gated off area for Toys and a gated off area for Mini’s and Standards. 

It’s suggested to experiment with a window/door view vs non-view to see which one the Poodle does best with. Leaving on lights and having background noises (TV or radio) often helps. Providing interactive toys (those that speak/make noise), great chew and treat-release toys and companion toys can help greatly as well. 

If your Poodle is moody because he does not have your companionship as much as he used to, do make the most out of the time that you do have together. Go out an explore! Take him to a new park, change up the walking route, take him out with you when you run errands, work on a new puzzle game together, etc. 

2) Change in environment - A move to a new house is a common trigger for moodiness, as is a change in the household (either missing or adding a member). This can even include the sudden disappearance of a dog that the Poodle played with on a regular basis. While most dogs will eventually adapt, some really struggle with making a transition. 

What to do: 

If a Poodle is moody after moving to a new house: It's best to plan for this before it happens. If possible, you will want to visit the new residence before the actual move, taking time to walk through the house and surrounding yard. It can also be advantageous to take walks in the new neighborhood a couple of times each week, well before it is the only choice. 

In any case, it is suggested to keep things as similar as possible. For example, the food and water dishes to the left of the fridge, the Poodle’s bed to the right of the sofa, toy bin to the side of his bed, etc. Make sure that your Poodle has a good sense of his ‘den’ by walking the perimeter of the property often. In time, the puppy or dog will gain a better sense of his surroundings and feel at home. 

If a Poodle is moody after the loss of a pet or family member: A disturbance to a dog’s ‘pack’ such as this is expected to bring out mood changes. Any time that a connection is severed, a dog will react as he feels the pain of the loss and works to accept the new household status. While cliché, it is true that this will get better with time, as a dog needs to move through the mourning process much the same as humans do.

However, it is not uncommon for a Poodle to take such a thing really hard and end up in a slump that seems impossible to get out of. In these cases, moodiness can grow into depression. For this issue, it can help to give the dog a couple of weeks, allowing him to feel as he naturally should, and then to introduce a new activity of interest.

This would be something that the Poodle has never experienced before, as this will often ‘awaken’ the dog to focus on something new. This may include an outing to a beach or other shoreline, a trip to a new pet supply store or even a play-date with another dog. 

You may need to try a few different things to see which one(s) help to bring the Poodle out of his slump. If you do find something that perks him up, try to make an effort to repeat that event or activity a few times a week. This will give the dog something to look forward to, which always brightens a dog’s overall mood. 

If your Poodle is very sad over the loss of a pet and you are wondering if you should get a new puppy, we do suggest giving this some serious thought. The relationship between a Poodle and a new pup will never be the same as the previous relationship. And the introduction of a new pet done too early can add stress to an already difficult situation. 
3) A need for more exercise – There are many things that can alter the frequency that a Poodle is taken out for walks or general outdoor play; an owner may find that they have a busier schedule, the weather may not be agreeable and/or an owner may assume that the Poodle is doing fine and does not need more activity. 

However, any reduction in exercise or not offering enough, can affect a dog’s mood in a negative way.  

It is important to note that even with small Toy Poodles, there is no such thing as ‘self-exercise’, and any pacing, running or playing indoors is not the equivalent of purposeful exercise.

When a Poodle of any variety is routinely exercised this has many benefits: 

It is great for the heart and the muscles, it gives the dog something to look forward to, it is a fantastic opportunity to socialize the Poodle to outside elements, it allows the pup or dog to release pent-up energy that has been building up since his last outing and importantly, it allows a dog to be a dog.
Molly, 2 years old
Photo courtesy of Dorothy
In addition, canines need to engage their senses; they need to pick up scents, to hone in on noises, to see sights.  

Stuck in the house, without all of this, a Poodle can certainly become moody and with good reason. 
What is needed: It is good to aim for 2 walks per day and 1 outdoor session of one-on-one play, weather permitting. A walk should be at least 20 minutes at a pace that is brisk for the Poodle. If a Poodle’s moodiness cannot be attributed to other reasons and the dog is already taken out twice per day, there may be a need to increase the duration by 10 minutes or so, or to add a 3rd short walk. 

How to do this: If the problem is a lack of time, the responsibility of this may need to shift to other members of the household, an owner may need to fit this in at different times than before, or in some cases, a dog walker may need to be hired. In the case of weather-related issues, do please remember that if both owner and Poodle are properly dressed, time can be spent outside in all but the most severe weather conditions. 

Rub some quality paw wax onto a Poodle’s paws and slip a sweater or vest onto the dog, and he’s good to go unless it is well below freezing or if there is a storm. 

On days that you cannot take your Poodle out, having a timed session of indoor interaction can be somewhat beneficial. It is best to set aside a certain window of time and even setting a timer. Don’t answer the phone or stop to pick up things off the floor; this will be focused play such as indoor fetch or hide and seek. 

And remember, your enthusiasm goes a long way in how receptive a Poodle will be. Even a depressed dog may come out of his moodiness, if an owner is happy enough for the both of them, until the dog begins to pick up his owner’s vibe and starts to have fun. 
4) A need for mental stimulation – Dogs live rather simple lives, and while this may seem apt, we must remember that it has been proven that canines have the human intelligence level of at least a 2 year old toddler.

Can you imagine any 2 year old human that would be happy with inadequate stimulation or interaction? 

It’s far too easy to just allow a dog to ‘be there’ particularly if the Poodle shows no signs of minding this. However, this limited existence can start to add up… and over a period of time, a Poodle may begin to become sullen and moody. It must be noted that as a Poodle matures and has more congestive abilities, he needs more stimulation to match his new skills. 

There are several things you can do to help a Poodle better enjoy his life and snap out of moodiness due to boredom. 

1. Create a written schedule. While you most likely have your Poodle’s general schedule in your head, writing it down can make a dramatic difference: you will be able to see if there are too many ‘empty’ windows and it can also help you identify tasks and activities that may not be done as often as they should be.
Things that should be jotted down, to be done on a regular basis include: brushings (which is not only very healthy for skin and coat, but can be a great bonding time for owner and dog), baths, nail care, twice-per-day walks, one-on-one play (more ahead), meals, training (more ahead) and relaxation time with the family.  
If you identify windows of time, let’s say from 5 PM to 8 PM when humans are busy with their own activities and the Poodle is there as a bystander, you can then make some changes by offering new interactional toys, etc. (more ahead) or by including the Poodle, if possible. 

2. Training. For Poodles that tend to get moody from lack of stimulation, always having the Poodle in the process of learning something can be very beneficial for keeping moodiness at bay. This can be learning a command, an activity (such as pole weaving) or a game (canine puzzle games in which an owner helps teach the dog how to manipulate levers to release treats, etc.) 

Doing this at set times and duration can help perk up a sullen dog, allowing him to have something to look forward to that brings about a sense of accomplishment and increases self-esteem. 
Cream colored Poodle puppy
Coco Chanel, 6 years old
Photo courtesy of Crystal
3. Proper toys. Guaranteed that when an owner assumes that a dog toy is just a dog toy, their puppy or dog is going to have some sort of struggle. 

When the right toys are given, they serve many purposes: to quell teething discomfort, promote good dental hygiene, to keep a dog busy & focused with a task to accomplish or to help a dog feel less isolated. 

Having an excellent selection of engaging toys (those that call out in voices & sounds to encourage interaction), toys that offer a sense of companionship (emits a soothing heartbeat and/or warmth) and toys that keep a Poodle busy (treat-release) can go a long way in perking up the mood of a down-in-the-dumps dog.  * To see recommended toys, look to the 3 ‘Toys’ sections in the Poodle Specialty Shoppe

5) Winter blues – While bad weather during cold months often equates to less time outdoors and can lead to moodiness as we previously discussed, for some dogs, wintertime can bring out Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This not only can happen to humans; it occurs with canines as well. 

This is a type of depression that is triggered by fewer daylight hours. It often begins in late fall, with mood changes most severe during January and February, with gradual improvement by late April into May. 

An interesting study conducted in the UK showed that 40% of dogs appear moodier during the winter months and more than half of them slept more than warmer months. 

What to do: All of the recommendations listed above regarding exercise, one-on-one time, training and toys will help to some degree. 

Poodles with severe mood changes due to SAD may need an extra boost. 

Encouraging your dog to rest or play near a window may be helpful and for pets that have quite severe winter blues, there is some evidence that light therapy may help canines much in the way that it aids humans. These are lamps that send out light much stronger than an average light bulb. Direct sunlight offers 32000–100000 lux, and many of these light-therapy lamps produce 10,000 lux. You may want to speak to your Poodle’s vet about this, if your Poodle has a history of becoming moody each winter
Poodle from Croatia
Hugu, at 16 months
Photo courtesy of Anka, from Croatia

Agitated Moodiness

Being in pain or not feeling well is the most common reason for sudden, agitated moodiness. However, in cases of a Poodle having chronic moods in which the dog seems to be challenging his human, trying to escape and/or not listening at all, this can be attributed two things: hormones and a lack of understanding regarding proper hierarchy. 

For out-of-control Poodles, it is always recommended to have the dog neutered or spayed. While this may not stop all negative moods, it does often help to a great degree. It can also help with marking issues. 

In addition, strictly establishing proper hierarchy will help as well. One of the most effective methods is to have the Poodle obey the ‘Sit’ command before any meal or snack is given; as distribution of food sends the strongest signal to teach a dog that his human is leader. 

Heat Related Moodiness with Female Poodles

Un-spayed females will often have heat related moodiness. As hormones levels rise and drop, so may the dog’s mood. 
In addition, since abdominal cramping may be occurring, it is expected that some discomfort may be felt, in which case the dog may tend to retreat more, not want to engage in play and otherwise act a bit down. 

It can help to place a warm (not hot) heating pad on the Poodle’s bed (either non-electrical or with the cord in a cord-concealer), with a towel between it and the dog, to help with cramps.

Un-spayed females may also have restless moods, as hormones cause the dog to want to run and/or act unruly. 
Spaying a female can be very beneficial; it not only will put an end to heat cycles and prevent any possible future unplanned pregnancies, it improves behavior, eliminates hormone related mood changes, reduces the risk of pyometra (1 in 4 un-spayed dogs develop this type of infection of the uterus), mastitis (infection of the mammary glands), uterine and breast cancer.

When to Bring Your Poodle to the Vet for Moodiness

Our Poodles are just like us; they have times of showing happiness, times of feeling a bit down and plenty of neutral times. It is important to take note of any moodiness that is out-of-character.

Since a top concern is some sort of health issue and often the first sign of a problem (a possible fever may be low-grade and discomfort may not yet be high enough for the dog to show physical signs), please do not hesitate to bring this to the attention of the vet if your Poodle’s mood if off for more than 3 days. 

Also, if you have attributed moodiness to another reason listed here, but there is no improvement after 5 to 7 days, this is also something that you will want communicate to your Poodle’s veterinarian. 
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