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Anxiety In a Labradoodle, and How to Help

Having lived with a new puppy for around 6 months, there have been a few situations were our labradoodle Monty wasn’t feeling all too excited. And anxiety in a labradoodle isn’t fun for anybody in the family.

What we found out, was that most situations were something we could fix with a bit of training, and it has made our dog much more sturdy for the future.

Scared of Thunder

Anxiety in a labradoodle
Thunder can be scary for anybody

It’s certainly not uncommon for dogs to be scared of thunder. The combination of flashy bright lights and loud noises is a quite terrifying experience.

And since it can be quite hard to predict exactly when a thunderstorm is about to strike, you can’t always be sure that you are at home to help calm the dog.

How a dog reacts to thunder can vary quite a bit. Some dogs might only be slightly scared and try to just move closer to their humans. And others become outright terrified.

Anxiety is contagious

Meaning dogs who might be scared of thunder have a tendency to also be scared of fireworks, gunshots and so on.

It also means that the anxiety of one dog can spread to another. So for example, if you have an older dog who’s terrified of thunder, and you get a younger dog, there is a high risk that the younger dog will also develop the same anxiety.

In that case, it’s a good idea to separate the two dogs during thunderstorms, if you are home and able to do so.

Divert the attention of the younger dog by playing or exercising until the thunder has passed.

Better to prevent than cure

If you get a puppy or youngster, who has yet to experience thunder, you could start doing some thunder-preparing exercises.

That also works if you have any dog who hasn’t yet had an episode with thunder or loud noises in general.

You can find several videos on youtube, where there are thunderstorms or recordings of loud noises. If you use these you can gradually train the dog to not really pay attention when an actual thunderstorm strikes.

The point of that is that your labradoodle can experience these things at home in its own safe and comfortable surroundings. This way the dog has the chance to try this in a controlled and positive way.

Start by playing the video at low volume, and then gradually turn it up when the dog gets comfortable with each level. Do it when the dog is calm and doing something it enjoys.

This is also a good time to play with the dog, or perhaps train it’s seeker skills by hiding objects around the house.

This form of training is called desensitizing

The dog is also less likely to pay any attention to the sounds when you divert its attention as mentioned above. And at the same time, your dog will get some positive experiences and mentally link it with the sounds of thunder.

These experiences are stored in the dog’s brain, and it will be able to recall it later in life whenever a thunderstorm happens to pass by.

Of course sounds of thunder on a Youtube video isn’t the same as the real deal with flashy lights and the whole shebang, but seeing as it’s not possible to order real thunder from Amazon or Al Roker yet, this is the best possibility we have.

It’s never too late

Your dog might already have had bad experiences with thunder or other loud noises. This doesn’t mean it is impossible to do some desensitizing training, but getting positive results may take quite a bit longer.

If you labradoodle is absolutely terrified, you could call your veterinarian, and they will most likely tell you to do what you would do it is was a dog without the bad experiences, but take it very slowly when going forward with the volume of the sounds.

Some vets are more experienced with behavioral therapy in dogs. So try to look around in your community that has expertise in this area. If it is really severe, medical treatment could also be advised.

Desensitizing is not easy and requires a prolonged effort from both you and your dog, and you could easily expect it to take 2-3 months.

Final advice

When the dog is by itself: Listen to the weather forecasts. If thunder is expected, let the dog stay inside, and not out in an enclosure. When inside, the noises feel less threatening, and the dog feels safer here. Perhaps even pull the blinds and turn on some music.

When you are home: A rule of thumb is to not pity a scared dog, but try and divert its attention, as mentioned above. This will usually work if the dog is only slightly nervous. If it is really scared and panicky, perhaps even allow it to do what it feels is comforting. Sitting on the couch with you, or just generally be close with you.

Scared of car rides

Labradoodle Scared of car rides
Sometimes getting around in a car is the only way

Another type of anxiety in a Labradoodle can be that of riding in a car. But thankfully this is quite easy to fix without too much hassle.

A puppy might be a bit scared the first few times in a car, but as soon as it’s able to connect it with something great, like a trip to the woods, a park, or the beach, it will quickly learn to love the car.

Some dogs do suffer from actual motion sickness, and that requires medicine, which should of course only be taken after consultation with your veterinarian.

As long as it is a young dog, helping it get comfortable when riding in a car should be fairly simple. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but training it daily for 3-4 weeks will usually be enough.

And considering you will hopefully have your dog for 12-14 years, a few weeks of intense training isn’t a lot.

Exactly why a dog is scared of car rides can be hard to say. It might be a combination of the movements of the car, the noise of the engine and the wind, lack of proper ventilation.

And the dog is usually placed in the back of the car, where the general overview of the car is less great than for us sitting in the front.

We asked an expert for advice

Our dog wasn’t to keen on riding in the car with us for the first few weeks, so we talked with a relative who works as a dog expert and he made a pretty simple list of how we could help it.

You shouldn’t skip a step, or go to the next step on the list before your Labradoodle is calm and showing no signs of anxiety in your Labradoodle.

It’s better to take one step back instead of rushing through it. You can do this a couple of times per day, but it shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes each time.

Remember to praise and encourage even the smallest of steps forward, and as usual when training a dog, never yell or get mad. It’s important that you finish the routine on a positive note.

So here is the program we were told to follow:

  1. Lure the dog to the car using a happy cheerful voice, and use treats or perhaps its favorite toy.
  2. Leave all the doors in the car open. This will make the car seem less like an enclosed box. Then lure the dog into the car while praising it. Take it out again after 20-30 seconds. Repeat this a few times until the dog on its own urge jumps into the car.
  3. Place the dog in the safest place in the car. Usually, the driver and passenger seat is where there’s the least amount of bumps and twists. Just sit together with the Labradoodle for a few minutes. Praise and reward the dog. Try to shut the doors, and repeat until the dog can sit there unaffected. You might even start reading a newspaper or something.
  4. Start the engine briefly without going anywhere. Repeat until the engine can be idle and the dog still doesn’t show any signs of discomfort. Praise the dog for being calm.
  5. Now go for a short trip, no more than a few hundred feet. Stop the car, and get out and do something exciting with the dog. Go hunt for treats or play with another dog.
  6. Try and gradually go longer and longer, and every time have something positive waiting for the dog.

We were also told a couple of things to remember before the training.

  • Not to feed the dog before the training.
  • Not to pity the dog if it shows signs of discomfort, but try and divert its attention.
  • Not to skip a step in the program until the dog is comfortable in the current step.
  • Not brake too sudden or wobble the car, as well as to avoid driving when it’s too hot.

Hopefully, this is enough to make your dog love a car ride.

Scared of getting groomed

In my post on grooming a labradoodle, I briefly wrote about how a dog isn’t always too happy about hearing the sound from a clipper.

A reason why your dog might be scared of the hair clipper could be if it has ever had a bad experience with one.

It could be anything from the dog just having a bad day when getting groomed, and then somehow it links that experience with the actual grooming.

Perhaps it was just a loud noise or a wobbly table, it doesn’t mean it was the actual person doing the grooming that did something wrong.

If it happened at a professional groomer, perhaps you should just do it yourself in the future. It’s not that hard with just a bit of patience and practice.

But here is how you could make it easier in the future.

  1. Make sure your brush your labradoodle frequently, preferably each day. If it’s just once in a while the dog will probably have a lot of knots and mats in the hair, which makes it somewhat painful getting groomed.
  2. Try and make it so that the dog enjoys getting on the grooming table. Try practicing putting it on the table several times a day without doing any real grooming at all.
  3. Use treats, praising and so on even if you’re just getting the dog on the table for a few seconds at a time. Let her eat her food on the table.
  4. When your labradoodle feels right at home on the table, start brushing it using the same reward system as in point 3.
  5. Continue in the same manner with the actual hair clipper. Small steps and lots of rewards for the dog.
  6. If you’re not totally sure how to groom your dog, you should be able to find a grooming school near your home and you could join some classes.

That’s basically it. Now good luck 🙂

Scared of other dogs

Other dogs can be scary

If your labradoodle is scared of other dogs, it’s usually because of a lack of exposure to other dogs when it was a puppy.

Some breed of dogs has a genetic reason for showing restraint towards other dogs, but for most breeds, the reason really is lack of socialization early on.

Puppies who aren’t around other dogs when they are 8-16 weeks, will usually never really learn the different types of dominant or submissive behavior which is very important among dogs.

So it is a good idea to make sure that you early on in your puppy’s life have it around other dogs. There is usually a dog park or other areas where people take their dogs somewhere near your home.

Anxiety can also be because of the owner

It might not be something you think about when meeting other dogs when walking your own, but the way you behave during these meetings can also influence how your dog reacts.

Usually, you should just stay in the background and let the dogs figure it out themselves, and only intervene if there could be real trouble on the horizon.

If you have an older dog in the house there’s also a high risk that its behavior will influence that of the new puppy’s.

Curing a dog who has already developed anxiety towards other dogs is quite hard to do. Usually, the only way is to just have the dog meet other dogs.

Make sure that these dogs are some you trust and know are easy-going dogs, and then you just have to take it slow and steady.

If it’s a really severe case of anxiety, it’s probably not something the dog will ever get over.

Here’s how you could fix it

Meet and greet with a calm dog – Keep your labradoodle on a leash, and let it pass by another dog at about 20 feet distance, and gradually getting closer.

Dont talk to the dog, usually trying to calm the dog will just make it worse. Just let your labradoodle figure out by itself that the other dog isn’t scary.

If the dogs engage in contact, just be passive, and don’t say anything.

Food hunt – At a discreet place, again with the assistance of a calm and helpful dog. Throw a handful of treats in an area and let the dog find them. It is a good help if the dog is a bit hungry.

This exercise will introduce the dog to other dogs in connection with food which is a positive experience.

Make sure that there won’t be a competition for getting the most food, so the other dog should be full.

This could be trained a couple of times a day. It’s ok if the dog gets 25% of its daily food this way.

Don’t be overprotective of the dog – Let the dog initiate contact on its own, don’t pick it up, and don’t suddenly pull on the leash when another dog approaches.

Don’t expose the labradoodle to fierce dogs – Especially if you have a mini-doodle. Small dogs shouldn’t be exposed to very large dogs

Final words

As you can see, there are several different types and solutions for dealing with anxiety in a labradoodle. Of course, there are several other things your Labradoodle can be scared of, and I will look at some in another post in the future.

But let me know if you have any issues that you would like some assistance with.

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