Why Is My Cockapoo So Nervous?

Cockapoos are well known for being incredibly good-natured, happy and generally very sociable dogs. While they are not the bravest dogs in the canine world, they are not generally nervous and anxious by default. When you own a dog, you want what’s best for him or her and it can be quite distressing and worrying to see your beloved pet acting nervously all the time or in certain situations. To help you understand what might be the cause and what you can do if your cockapoo suffers from nervousness, we are going to look at this subject in the following post.

Canine Nervous Behaviour

The thing you first need to understand is that fearful or nervous reactions by your cockapoo to unfamiliar situations, places, people or even other animals, could be considered normal canine behaviour. That is if they quickly recover from those fearful feelings and learn from the experience. Dogs generally will get startled on occasion. Puppies often go through a period where they are nervous a lot during adolescence. A once confident dog starts withdrawing and becoming anxious when introduced to people, animals and especially dogs they are unfamiliar with. However, if it is handled correctly, most pups grow into confident adult cockapoos.

There are occasions, though, when cockapoos and other dogs can become overly reactive to new places, people, dogs and situations, where they can’t cope with the fear or recover from their nervousness. In these kinds of cases, the problem can very easily escalate to become something that could be classified as a phobia, where the response your cockapoo has is not just related to the original occurrence that caused the fear, but is more general.

Factors That Influence Cockapoo Nervousness

One of the best ways to manage and deal with the nervousness that your cockapoo may be experiencing and expressing is by understanding why they are feeling that way.

Inherited Personality Traits

There is strong evidence to support that if adult cockapoos are nervous, puppies will have a predisposition to nervousness. Although it is not always the causing factor, it is not something that can be disregarded when trying to identify the reason for a cockapoo being nervous. Particularly if there are no other recognisable triggers.

Learned Behaviour

Puppies are like children and will learn from their earliest experiences, especially when they were with their littermates. There is also the chance that if a cockapoo puppy was reared by an overprotective, nervous and overreactive mother, they may have learned that they should react nervously to certain situations and scenarios before they even get to their new home.

Traumatic Experience When They Were Young

One reason why some dogs and cockapoos display nervousness and anxiety is that they had a traumatic experience when they were younger. In our experience with our cockapoo Luna, she was extremely nervous at times, and we tried lots of different things, but she would still be a nervous nelly. This would get to the point that if we were out walking and throwing something into our wheelie bin, she would freeze. On the other hand, she will happily go into a busy pub full of people but won’t want to interact with them or any attention from them. She’s a strange dog at times.  

Lack of Early Socialisation

There is also strong evidence that shows that when cockapoos and other dogs are puppies and are exposed to a greater variety of stimuli, they learn to cope more easily with new situations, people and places later. The best way to familiarise your cockapoo with different things is in a busy house where children, cats, other dogs, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and other things are just part of everyday life. When puppies have been isolated in their kennel during the earlier weeks of their life, they will not have learned to cope as well with new experiences and are more likely to suffer from nervousness.

Ideally, puppies also need to be introduced to as many new sounds, places and sights as they possibly can be once they have moved into their forever home at the age of about 8 weeks. Whereas if cockapoos and other dogs are confined to the house for the majority of the pivotal 8 to 12-week period of socialisation, they may end up very nervous and anxious as a result. Many owners take this period and the importance of socialisation for granted and neglect this process. This is also often because of the advice related to vaccination regimes. While it’s vital that your dog is protected against diseases and infections, socialisation is also vital.

Even while you wait for the vaccination to take effect, you should try to take your cockapoo out in the car and carry him or her around to meet new people etc.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can be another reason why dogs are nervous. As this is another separate issue, I would recommend you look at another post that we published that covers the topic in greater detail. That post can be found here.

Signs to Look Out For That Your Cockapoo is Suffering From Nervousness

According to experts, there are three main stages of nervous behaviour developing in dogs. The first stage of nervousness is that they turn their head away a lot, yawn or lip smack, pin their ears back, pace and the whites of their eyes show. The second stage of nervousness is they start whining more, defecating inappropriately, tucking their tail high between their hind legs, free on the spot, salivating, panting, shaking and cowering down. While the third stage is lunging to bite or snapping, snarling and growling.

How Should You Deal With Nervousness?

Every dog will react differently, but there are some key things you need to bear in mind when dealing with a cockapoo who suffers from serious nervousness.

You should never punish your dog for showing signs of nervousness. Puppies, for instance, go through various stages that are often referred to as fear periods, and you can expect them to experience at least four on average while they are growing up. These fear periods or episodes happen around the 8 to 10-week mark and then 4 to 6 months followed by 9 months and then 14 to 18 months. These are crucial times that can help with the successful development of your cockapoo. If you handle it incorrectly you may have a fearful and nervous dog that could eventually become aggressive.

  • You mustn’t force your cockapoo to face up to the things, places or situations that make him or her afraid. This is only going to aggravate the problem as it will panic them.
  • When you have your cockapoo on a lead, make sure you keep them on a slack lead when they start showing signs of nervous behaviour, so they can escape if they need.
  • Take a passive approach. If a neighbour or another person is triggering the nervousness, interact with them. Ask them politely to avoid making eye contact with your dog and to ignore him or her. When the attention is not on your cockapoo, he will gain the courage to investigate things in his own time. If he starts sniffing and relaxes a little, give him a treat or some strokes and praise. This helps him to associate positive experiences with facing up to and recovering from his nervousness.

How to Deal With a Cockapoo That is Aggressive Because of Nervousness

If your dog shows any aggressive behaviour when they are nervous, you need to avoid tightening their lead if you approach anything that could trigger their nervous aggression as a tight lead will make your cockapoo react worse. This happens for two reasons

  • It makes your dog feel they are unable to get away, which is often the best way to defend themselves. If they can’t get away, they will attack.
  • It also makes your cockapoo feel you are going to back them up. This means that they won’t have their bluff called because they know you won’t let them approach the dog, person or thing they are acting aggressively to and that will encourage him or her to continue acting aggressively. On the other hand, by keeping the lead slack and loose you are showing your dog that he is not as restricted and can hide if he needs to and that you are also not going to stop him from getting into a fight.

Interestingly, when dogs are off lead, even if they are especially nervous cockapoos, they tend to be better behaved, because they know they can avoid and approach whatever is making them fearful when and if they want.

Could You Be the Problem

One reason for dogs being nervous that we didn’t tackle earlier was covered by PetMD recently. In an article entitled Nervous Dog? Your Behaviour Might Be the Cause, they made the argument that when there is a nervous dog, there is also a nervous and stressed-out owner. The article offers a lot of great advice and recommendations for how to handle your stress and emotions to ensure your dog doesn’t react negatively and pick up bad traits from you.

Summary

With all the above in mind, it is important to monitor your cockapoo’s behaviour closely. If they show signs of nervousness when younger, it may not be a serious issue. However, if it continues into adulthood or you know it is potentially triggered by something, you should carefully take the steps outlined to deal with it. If you need help, you should never be ashamed to ask a professional to help combat nervousness.