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Separation Anxiety

Poodle Separation Anxiety

two Poodles at home on bed
Ginger 1 year old, Molly 5 years old
Photo courtesy of owner: Tristin

Overview

This is a serious issue which can cause stress to both owner and Poodle. Separation Anxiety with the Poodle is the behavior and emotional state of the dog when left home alone. This term is used when a dog has trouble coping with being alone...and it can happen if alone for 1 hour or 10 hours. 

This can happen to a Poodle of any age. Some puppies will suffer from this and then outgrow it. Sometimes older Poodles will show signs of this, even if they never had a problem in the past, as senior Poodles often seek out more companionship.

How to Know if Your Poodle Has Separation Anxiety

There are many ways in which a dog shows symptoms. A Poodle with separation anxiety will show 1, some or all of the following:
  • Incessant barking
  • Destructive behavior
  • Depression
  • Crying
  • Frenzied behavior when the owner is leaving the home
  • Over excitement when the owner arrives home
  • An increase in housebreaking accidents

How to Help Your Poodle

There are several elements that must all work together to help teach your Poodle to cope with being home alone. You may be wondering at what age a Poodle can be left home alone. Speaking purely on the basis of how long a Poodle can remain home without having to be let outside, the following are the guidelines:
  • 2 months old = 2 hours
  • 3 months old = 3 hours...and so on until at the age 1 year a Poodle can hold their needs for 8-9 hours, the average time that an owner who works outside of the home is away.
In today's world, most owners cannot stop working in order to stay home with their Poodle for the 1st year. One of the important elements that will work in conjunction with other methods is to offer the proper environment for your Poodle. We must stress that leaving a dog of any age inside a crate for the day borderlines on neglect.

While it is a common belief that a puppy or dog will not urine or eliminate inside of a crate, this is not true. If a Poodle is left in a crate longer than their body can hold their needs, they will end up going to the bathroom inside of the crate. Not only is this a reason to not implement a crate for an entire day, it is also a quick way to induce stress on an already stressed Poodle who needs help coping.

Therefore, if an owner must be gone for longer than the puppy or dog can hold its needs, let's take a look at one of the best methods of providing a safe and comforting environment. 
poodle puppy set up at home
Not seen in this example are other elements which may help. This includes:
  • Leaving on the TV for background music. Many Poodles find that the Animal Channel or other pet related channels are calming. However this should be tested to see if the sounds of other animals gets your Poodle over excited or if it they find it soothing.
  • Alternatively, leaving on a radio. This also should be tested...as talk radio may be playing when you leave, but loud disturbing music may be playing while you are gone. It is suggested to find a purely talk radio station.
  • Some Poodles do very well when their area is next to a window in which they can "see the world go by". Again, this must be tested... some will bark at every bird, person or animal that goes by and others enjoy the view and stay busy & happy just watching.
  • Leave at least one light on. A dark house is a lot lonelier than a lighter home. Whether the sun begins to set before you make it back or the weather turns stormy, leaving on a light will offer a safer, calmer environment.
Poodle outside on grass
Ginger, Photo courtesy of Isabelle Desrosiers

When You Leave & When You Come Home

One of the most common mistakes that Poodle owners make is done unintentionally, purely out of human instinct. 

When it is time to leave, an owner will hug, kiss, pat and make a big fuss about leaving. It is normal to want to say a big, loving goodbye to your puppy or dog. However, when this is done, a Poodle will interpret this as if the owner is saying, "I am leaving and I'm not sure if I'll be back...it is such a huge deal that I'm leaving... I must hug & kiss you as much as I can...This is a big event"

The Poodle will then begin to panic even before you leave the house. 

In order to help your puppy or dog cope with being home alone, you must use your willpower to behave as if nothing what-so-ever is wrong. Yes, this is easy said than done, however to help your Poodle gain the self confidence to stay home alone, you must not give in to this "leaving ritual". 
Well before you leave (at least 45 minutes before you leave) you can play, pat, hug and kiss your Poodle. Be sure to fill up the water dish (and the food dish if you will be gone during meal time) and have all needed dog toys, blankets, newspaper and everything else set up, this includes turning on the radio or TV. Then roughly 20 minutes before you leave be sure to take your dog outside to the bathroom. The last 20 minutes that you are home:
  • Gently put your Poodle in the enclosed area
  • Continue getting ready as if nothing "big" is about to happen
  • If your Poodle can see your exit, distract them by tossing a favorite toy into the enclosure
  • Leave quietly without saying one word. If you always say 'goodbye' right before you leave your Poodle alone, he can learn that this is a trigger word and panic can set in.
Note: If you are in the process of house training your Poodle, it is always best to stick with one method. Having to leave your puppy or dog with newspapers can delay housebreaking success. Therefore, if at all possible ask a friend, family member or neighbor to bring your Poodle outside at appropriate times. 

If that is not possible, it is highly suggested to hire a dog walker....this is not as expensive as one may think. 

 Your friend's teenage daughter, your trusted paperboy, a teenage volunteer at the local animal shelter...there are many young adults who would be very happy to earn a few dollars to take your Poodle outside and for a walk while you are gone. The average rate for doing so is $10.00 USD per hour. 

While your Poodle will only need a few minutes to relieve him/herself outside, the rest of the hour can be spent going for a healthy walk or even command training. 

Gone for Long Periods/Overnight

It is always recommended to have friends, family or a pet sitter watch your Poodle if you will be gone longer than the average work day (8-9 hours). 

While a Poodle can survive alone overnight, if given enough water and food, this can be very stressful for the dog.  In addition, the longer you are away, the more can go wrong (escaping from the area, water/food spills or runs out, etc.) 

If a friend or family member cannot watch your Poodle you may wish to consider having your dog stay at a pet hotel. We do not encourage stays at a boarding kennel unless all other options have been exhausted. 
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