Because cockapoos are bred to be companion dogs, they crave human company and can suffer from separation anxiety. I know that when we purchased our cockapoo, Ziggy, we were worried about cockapoo separation anxiety, and sure enough he suffered from it for about six months.
I didn’t want him to go through it, and I was worried about damage to our home. I was determined to stop it. After a few months of trial and error, the different methods we used worked. As a result, our cockapoo wasn’t howling, barking or chewing when left alone! Of course, he still barked at the doorbell, but we used specific techniques to address this issue.
How to tell if your cockapoo has separation anxiety
First things first, does your cockapoo have separation anxiety? To tell if your dog suffers from this, typical signs to look for include:
- Excessive barking and whining when you leave the house
- Chewing furniture and other household items when you’re away
- Random toileting accidents (that don’t happen when you’re in)
- Scratch marks at doors and windows
- Excessive licking and self grooming leading to bald patches
- Barking and over excitement upon hearing us return home
Some people will say that there is a difference between separation anxiety (really serious) and separation distress (less serious) – but I know that any of these types of behaviours are horrible to witness.
For us a key signal that Ziggy suffered from separation anxiety was the constant barking when left alone. We would leave the house and sometimes sit in the car for twenty minutes or so and the barking and crying didn’t stop.
No great if you’ve got neighbours!
It was a really distressing for us to see this behaviour, so we were determined to make sure that we did everything we could to stop it.
Cockapoo separation anxiety really isn’t a pleasant thing to go through, so if you are experiencing it I’ve listed the four most effective things we did to prevent it.
1. Make your company a reward for calm behaviour
This for us was a key method we deployed to make sure that our cockapoo stayed calm when we left the house.
Essentially, all you need to do for this one is to make sure that your cockapoo is not able to immediately greet you at the door when you return home.
Getting a crate (like these inexpensive crates on Amazon) helps with this, as does keeping your dog restricted to certain parts of the house when you’re away. If you’re not sure about crate training, I’ve written an easy guide to crate training cockapoos that you might find useful.
Once you come into the house, it is likely that your cockapoo will bark, whine or scratch at the door! The key here is to wait.
This can be extremely hard, especially when your natural instinct is to soothe and cuddle, but you really shouldn’t. This is because if you do you are teaching your cockapoo that their anxiety gets rewarded with company. You’re creating a vicious loop where you teach your cockapoo that if they bark you will come.
If your cockapoo suffers from separation anxiety, you need to wait it out. Make yourself a cup of coffee, and wait until they stop.
Then, immediately go and give them some fuss! This will teach them that when they are calm, you will come.
And now for the boring bit: If they start to bark again when you go to give them some fuss – stop! Turn around and wait again.
Eventually, they’ll get the message!
How long will this take to see an improvement?
It’s hard to say exactly how long this method will take to stop cockapoo separation anxiety. But it is important to say that, over time, if you use this method, you will see some improvement!
That said, I would say that we saw the first signs of improvement after a few days using this method. We saw a real change after about two weeks.
2. Distract them with puzzle toys
We used this method to great effect to prevent our cockapoo’s separation anxiety. This is because one of the main “triggers” for anxiety is when you do something that signals that you are about to leave.
For Ziggy (our cockapoo) the signal was when I got my house keys and he wasn’t on a lead!
As a way of distracting him, and breaking the link between our keys and his feelings of anxiety, I would (and still do) set up and leave out a puzzle toy – I recommend the one pictured!
Puzzle toys (like this Tornado Toy on Amazon) are great because they engage your pooch during what could be a distressing time – when you leave.
Now, I was a little worried when we first started doing this that our cockapoo would start to associate puzzle toys with us leaving. Thankfully this hasn’t been the case!
Instead, I think the fact that he gets a “reward” helps to make him have a more positive connection to us leaving him. When he hears us getting ready to leave, he knows a treat AND a game is on its way!
Why puzzle toys?
Now, you might be asking why puzzle toys rather than “regular” toys? This is because puzzle toys keep dogs engaged for longer.
When using them to stop separation anxiety, the point of puzzle toys is not to keep them engaged for hours. Instead, it is to keep them engaged for the first ten distressing minutes when they hear you leave the house and drive away.
If you haven’t already tried this method I seriously recommend it.
3. Switch up your routines
This is a hugely important factor in stopping cockapoo separation anxiety! This is because dogs get used to little signals and routines remarkably quickly.
As a result, they start to look for indicators that you are returning home. The sound of your car in the drive, the jingle of keys or the rustle of shopping bags.
If you keep to the same routines, they start to stay in a state of alertness. They constantly listen out for the things that tell them you are near. This means that they can find it hard to relax, and they can get wound up when they hear a car but no one comes, or they hear footsteps outside but it isn’t you!
The key to stopping this is to switch up your routines. Not all the time, but when you can.
For example, when dealing with our cockapoos separation anxiety, I would leave the house, walk around the block and then return through the back door. Other times, I would leave in my car but then return on foot.
I would also sometimes hum as I came up the drive. Other times I would stamp my feet (yes… I must have looked odd to the neighbours!)
The point is that I tried to always vary my routines and “cues” that I was returning home. As a result, Ziggy wasn’t able to figure out which sounds to stay alert to.
Now, can I say that this is a foolproof method? Not 100%, but I do know that it helped to dramatically stop his barking and whining before I even got to the front door!
Be warned though: the main challenge I faced with this method was getting everyone in the house to also do it! So, as much as you have to train your dog, you also have to train the family!
4. Monitor them after you leave the house
I can’t stress this one enough! When we were in the midst of cockapoo separation anxiety, we had to be certain the the method we were using worked. I mean think about it: we had Ziggy calm when we left, calm when we returned, but how could we know he was calm in between?
Well, for us, the answer was to get a dog camera like the one pictured below from amazon.
I know that for some people these might seem like an expensive luxury (even though you can get cheaper versions on Amazon). For me, though, it was worth its weight in gold!
This is because I managed to spot another “quirk” of Ziggy’s behaviour. This was when, after about an hour of being by himself, he would then start to stand by the door to his room and whine and paw (the camera auto alerted me to this).
Now, thankfully, this only lasted for about 15 minutes or so before he settled down, but I was able to use the dog camera to do a version of the first method mentioned above.
I rewarded him for being calm!
Using the camera, all I did was open the app and dispense a few treats after about 45 minutes of him being alone (when he was calm). Then, I would do it again every half an hour or so (but only if he was calm!).
We still have the camera now, and to be honest, I don’t use it much (only to check in if we’re stuck in a traffic jam). But I can safely say that when our dog is left alone, he is as calm as a cucumber!
Getting a doggy camera may not be for everyone. That said, for me, being able to check up on our cockapoo when we were away was the final piece in the jigsaw to solving his cockapoo separation anxiety.
So, how long should you leave your cockapoo alone?
After all of this, you might be wondering how long a cockapoo should be left alone for in the first place! Well, as a general rule of thumb I would say no more than four hours.
The least amount of time possible is best!
I’m not one of those dog owners who say that you can’t work if you have a dog, or that you can never leave them alone. But, I do think that by having a dog, you have made a commitment to care for and protect it.
As a result, if you have to be away for long stretches, I do think it’s “on you” to make sure that its days aren’t spent being bored. This could be by hiring a dog walker, getting a neighbour to check in or by nipping back home on your lunch breaks to say hello.
Importantly, though, if you do have to leave your cockapoo for longer periods of time, please don’t feel like somehow you’re not a good owner!
I hear lots of people preach about how dog owners who work are “bad owners,” and to be honest those people don’t seem to walk their dogs any more, or love their dogs any extra, so if you work and own a dog please don’t be made to feel guilty! Just make sure to love your cockapoo and give it the care and company it loves 🙂
Alternatively, if your cockapoo puppy is nipping your hands – I’ve listed the steps that worked for us to get our puppy to stop biting and chewing us!