Cavapoo and separation anxiety

Like any dog cavapoo can and often do develop separation anxiety to a certain extent. I am saying to a certain extent because there are really various degrees of separation anxiety and it’s important to understand how strong your cavapoo’s separation anxiety is so you know what you are dealing with.

Oftentimes people say that their dogs have separation anxiety when all their pups display is a slight discomfort when the owner leaves. If your cavapoo whines a little after you leave home and generally prefers following you around the house like a velcro dog – that doesn’t mean they have separation anxiety.

True separation anxiety expresses itself in far more significant symptoms such as extreme emotions in your dog when you leave. If your cavapoo howls and barks for hours after you leave, marks the territory and literally destroys large pieces of furniture in your absence, this may be the true anxiety. You will see it in your dog – it’s real, desperate panic. All cavapoo will generally prefer their owner nearby at all times, but not all have a real separation anxiety.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work with your puppy’s symptoms of anxiety, even if it’s not a strong anxiety. True anxiety may develop if the small symptoms of discomfort are not addressed. In this article I will provide you with a guide on how to address those symptoms and work with your dog to make them much more comfortable with you leaving the house to go to work or anywhere else and leaving them behind.

No matter how attached you are to your cavapoo and how polite and well-behaved they are outside the house, there will be lots of times when you will have to leave them alone in the house, and it’s best to train them young. If your cavapoo is still young, it should be fairly easy to curb their separation anxiety and teach them to thrive on their own. If your cavapoo is older, this may take some time or require more patience, but don’t give up! 

Here I will list a few symptoms of separation anxiety in your cavapoo. They include: obsessive barking, growling or howling after you leave for prolonged periods of time. Digging, pacing, obsessive chewing on things (more than what your pup chews in your presence, because of course all dogs like to chew). Urinating and defecating in non-toilet places. Aggressive or frightened behaviour when you are absent. All of those are signs that your cavapoo isn’t taking your absence very well.

Now how do you deal with it?

There are a few approaches to this.

Give them a safe space.

We all need a safe, protected space to decompress, de-stress and to feel protected from the dangers of the outside world. For you, this place is likely your house. For your dog, this will be their crate. Yes, crate!

If you don’t crate your cavapoo, you should start doing it right now. A crate is not a cage for your pup, although that’s likely how you feel about it. A crate, especially if it’s covered with a blanket on top, is a safe little cave for your pup where he or she will feel protected from the outside world.

Of course, first, you will have to teach your pup to see it that way.

Get your puppy a crate large enough so he’ll be able to stand in it when he becomes an adult dog. The larger the crate – the better. Place it in the quiet area of your house and cover it with a large blanket, so only the entrance to it is not covered. There – you’ve created a cave for your pup. Dogs love holes and little protected nooks. You will, however, have to teach your cavapoo to see their crate as safe space.

They may not like it at first at all, especially if you just put your pup there and lock the crate. That’s not how you do it!

Start with crating your cavapoo for very short periods of time, in your presence. Let them get in the crate, give them their favourite chew toy, and close the crate for just a minute or two. Watch how your puppy behaves.

They may express interest in their crate, sniff it and maybe will even lie down in it (make sure you put a soft bed in the crate.) If your puppy doesn’t seem to like their crate very much at first – treats and food always work magic. Try giving your cavapoo a treat when they are in their crate, or even feed them in the crate. That way they will grow to associate their crate with really nice things like food. Always leave a toy or two, or a kong filled with treats, in your puppy’s crate. Make it a nice fun place for them to be where they will want to return.

Once your puppy gets used to and starts enjoying their crate – congratulations, you created a safe space for them.

Now, going back to your cavapoo separation anxiety, you have just given them a great tool to overcome their panic. When you leave, you can place them in the crate (not for the whole day of course), and see how they behave (you might need some cameras in your house so you can monitor what they do, whether they bark or howl etc, when you are away.)

Instead of being alone in the house, your pup is now in their safe zone where they can feel protected even if you are not there.

Crate works as a starting step in training your puppy to handle alone time. But of course, you don’t want to always have to crate them when you are away (although some dog owners do exactly that and it works just fine, as long as you don’t crate your dog for too long.) You want your cavapoo to understand that they can safely stay alone in your home when you are away. How do you do this?

You will need to teach your cavapoo that your absence is a normal event and that there is nothing to be afraid of when you leave. Dogs are pack animals and as such tend to develop strong bonds with their owners and other pack members. It is only natural that your cavapoo is stressed when they are left alone. It is your task to show them they can cope on their own.

The first step is to start really small and slow. How long does it usually take your cavapoo to start getting worried after you left? Can they spend a couple minutes without you? Ten minutes? Or maybe they start whining or howling the second you leave the room? Your anti-anxiety training strategy will depend  on how much alone time your cavapoo can take.

If they can only stand a few seconds without you – then this is where you will need to start. Leave the room without making any fuss about it, then come back in. When you are back, try to make it look as normal and uneventful as you can.

One mistake dog owners make is greet their dogs enthusiastically when they come home. The dog is already excited (often nervously so) and then you add to that unnatural excitement by greeting your cavapoo or petting them etc. This only reinforces in your dog’s mind that things are so much better when you are around, and can make your cavapoo separation anxiety even worse.

Same goes for when you leave. If you make a big deal out of it such as pet your dog or talk to it, it will just get the dog even more riled up and worried about your looming disappearance. Your cavapoo likely already knows you are leaving anyway – dogs are extremely perceptive and notice every detail in the patterns of our behaviour so they can predict what you are about to do.

They know that if you are putting on your shoes or coat or picking up your keys that means you are about to leave the house. If your cavapoo has separation anxiety, they are probably already worried and stressed. Don’t emphasise the moment by interacting with your cavapoo. Your task is to make your appearances and disappearances as mundane and boring as possible.

Step out of the room/house/apartment for a short period of time, then step back in, without paying attention to your cavapoo. Do this several times in a row. Your cavapoo will gradually learn that when you disappear, you always come back, and will feel gradually less frightened. Start with really short periods of time. Don’t let your dog to start really stress out as that can throw your training off.

As your cavapoo gets more and more comfortable with you coming and leaving, try to increase the time of absence in small increments, then larger and larger as your cavapoo adjusts.

One other thing you can add to this training practice is food and treats, especially in conjunction with the crate. Before leaving, encourage your cavapoo to go in their crate and give them a special kong with their favourite food, or another beloved treat. Then leave.

This way your cavapoo may learn to associate your absence with something really good happening to them. They may even start looking forward to you leaving 🙂

You don’t have to worry about them loving you any less. But its really nice to have a cavapoo that can handle alone time with ease without destroying your furniture, marking all over your house, chewing everything in sight or howling until the neighbours complain. It also greatly benefits your cavapoo mental health.

Separation anxiety is a hard thing for your cavapoo to bear, it’s really much harder on them than it is on you, as your puppy can’t rationalise and understand everything that happens. Working on lessening or eliminating your cavapoo’s separation anxiety is one of the things you have to do to ensure their mental health and well-being and their long and comfortable life in your home.