If you come home to a destroyed couch, puddles on the floor or angry neighbors because your toy poodle barked all day, your pup may have anxiety. Toy poodles require a lot of human interaction, so they often get separation anxiety when their owners leave them home alone.
Separation anxiety is the nervous or fearful feeling your toy poodle feels while you're away. Treated like tiny members of the family and often carried around like babies, toy poodles can become very dependent on their owners. When you leave your pet on her own, she becomes distressed because she hates being away from her pack -- you and your family. She barks and destroys things in the house when she loses control of her anxiety.
Separation anxiety is most common in rescue dogs and doesn't occur as often with dogs who have been with the same family, in the same house since puppy-hood. Toy poodles often develop separation anxiety when they've been abandoned or given away by a previous owner. This same reaction can occur if the dynamic of your family -- their pack -- changes, such as the passing of a family member or another pet. Expect separation anxiety if you move to a new home as well. It will take your toy poodle a while to get used to her new surroundings.
Treatments by Training
Because toy poodles are one of the most trainable breeds, nearly every case of anxiety can be treated with some effort on their owner's part. Toy poodles are also extremely high-energy dogs, so take your pup out for exercise before you leave. This will help her sleep or relax for some of the time you're gone. Start by leaving for just five minutes, then leave for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes and so on until you can leave for an eight-hour workday without any problems. Toy poodles adjust to patterns very quickly, so the gradual increase in time away will help her realize that you always come back. Leave her with a bone or a toy with a treat inside. This helps her associate you leaving with something she enjoys, and also gives her something to keep her mind off of you for a while. A snug-fitting shirt such as the Thundershirt can also help to calm a toy poodle's anxieties. If you have the time and resources for another pet, many toy poodles have diminished anxiety with companion animals.
If the conditioning treatments alone aren't yielding any improvement, you may need to add other methods to help your overly anxious toy poodle. If you leave the house for only a couple of hours at a time, Ultra-Calm and Rescue Remedy are two all-natural, herbal formulas that reduce your pet's anxiety for one to two hours. For longer days away from your pet, Comfort-Zone and Sentry manufacture pheromone plug-ins that fit into your wall outlet and release pheromones to imitate your pup's mother's pheromones. These plug-ins are meant to relieve your dog's anxiety and curb stress-related behaviors. If your toy poodle has severe separation anxiety, you may need to combine medications from your vet with the conditioning methods above. Anti-anxiety medicine from your vet, such as clomipramine, will help your pup relax while you're away. Your vet will have you slowly wean her off the drug as her anxiety improves.
What Not to Do
Never punish your pup for destruction she causes due to separation anxiety. Toy poodles are a hyper-sensitive breed, so punishment will only worsen your pet's fear of you leaving and escalate the cycle of anxiety. She's not destroying things, urinating or barking to spite you for leaving her; she's just struggling to control her anxiety. Your toy poodle was bred to be a lap dog and a companion, so remember that she was anxious and destructive because she wanted to be with you.
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.