Cavapoos are an incredibly friendly breed. Typically, they love humans and other dogs and love to play with doggy friends they meet in the park. However, just like any other breed, cavapoos that have had a bad experience with another dog can become fearful and must be socialised cautiously.
Here we explore: do cavapoos get on with other dogs – covering the topic of socialising your cavapoo from a few different angles.
I must come clean at once – I own four dogs. They are all the same breed and three of them are related, although not closely. I have ventured into new territory during Lockdown and must admit that Number Four, currently seven months old, has created some difficulties that I have not faced before. Does this make me a humbug for presuming to write about owning more than one dog at the same time? Well, let’s say, an experienced humbug. A sadder and wiser humbug. But also one that is prepared to share the advantages and the drawbacks that ownership of more than one dog can bring.
The received wisdom is that no responsible breeder would countenance selling litter siblings to the same buyer, except in special circumstances. The breeder would need to know that the future owner is experienced and has successfully dealt with behavioural problems that can develop, or that there is plenty of separate accommodation for the dogs. If you have ever watched a litter of pups at play, you will have observed that they are engrossed in mock battles and experimental greetings. One will launch an attack and the other will perhaps yelp to indicate that the play is becoming too rough for comfort. Pups roll in a ball together, bat one another with paws, explore the world beyond the whelping pen. However, they return to the litter after their escapades are over.
The lone pup that you take home will, of course, miss his litter siblings, and it is tempting to think that the presence of one of his brothers or sisters would comfort him. Unfortunately, it may do more than that. In the wild, siblings within the same pack learn their behaviours from the litter but then separate to become confident in their own abilities as hunters. In a home, they may not be given that chance, and there is a risk that they will be more attached to the litter sibling than to the owner. Unless you are willing to take your dogs to puppy parties and classes on different days, to feed them separately and even to keep their sleeping quarters apart until they are much older, they may fail to develop as individuals. They can become over-reliant on the other dog, nervous alone and so protective of the sibling that they act aggressively towards other dogs on a walk, perceiving them as a threat to their special bond. And, of course, if you are not the most important figure on their horizon, it can be much more difficult to train them.
If you have the time and room to rear litter siblings separately, they can spend more time together when they have established themselves as independent dogs who have bonded with you, the owner, and then you can reap the rewards. You will have two delightful cavapoos instead of one. You will have deserved this, as it will take twice as much work to rear happy, companionable dogs.
There are always exceptions. One of my greatest friends was a neighbour in her forties who had bought two litter siblings, both bitches. She allowed the one with the sweeter temperament to mate and kept both pups, a dog and a bitch. In other words, she had two sets of litter siblings, all closely related, all living in the same quarters. It should have been a recipe for chaos. They were not the most obedient dogs that ever devoured roast rabbit and baked crust (it was a rural neighbourhood, and at the squawk of a pheasant during their walk, they vanished), but they were deeply attached to their owner and perfectly happy to live together.
Three dogs – without tears
My first dog was about eight when I acquired another pup. Since then, I have usually had two dogs, and my main motivation for acquiring a pup (apart from a love for dogs) has been to console the dog who has just lost a companion. My eldest dog, now well over eleven, was almost eight when my lurcher succumbed to bone cancer. Tamsin was clearly not herself. Although she had been present at Elizabeth’s peaceful, dignified death, she had not understood that she would be alone, and searched in vain for her every morning. A few weeks earlier than I had planned, I acquired Ishbel. Tamsin was initially hostile. The new arrival didn’t smell like Elizabeth, or act like her. An attempt to introduce Ishbel into the living room was a step too far. Two mornings later, after they had played together in the snowy orchard, Tamsin hurtled downstairs, tail bashing the banisters in her eagerness to join her new friend. The following summer, when Tamsin was nine, Ishbel initiated her into the joys of swimming; Tamsin had always been timid, but when she saw how much pleasure could be had from splashing into the stream and retrieving the ball, she changed her mind.
Tamsin swims to this day (indeed, she was in the water this very day), and as long as your older dog is happy in the youngster’s company, a pup may tempt him or her to indulge in a little puppy play. I found one of my elderly dogs play-bowing to a new puppy, even though she was arthritic. However, as there are eight years between Tamsin and Ishbel, I decided to take on a male pup from the farm where Ishbel was born when Ishbel was two. It was not the first time I had had three dogs living and walking together (my parents’ dog accompanied them when they stayed with me for a couple of years). Ruari is Ishbel’s nephew, and from the first, they appeared to know that they were related. The two girls were pleased to demonstrate their training to Ruari, and the three of them would line up in the kitchen, Ruari watching and learning that a good sit, lie or touch would earn him treats and praise.
Why did it work? The short answer is: because of the age gap. When each pup arrived, the dog or dogs already in the house were trained. Dogs often bond over training. Cavapoos are intelligent and eager to please and need plenty of interaction with the owner, just as border collies do. What better way to reassure your older dog than to stage an induction ceremony at which Fido assumes the responsibility of showing his new companion How Things Should be Done?
Some trainers and breeders advocate owning a breed of dog different from the one you already have at home. It certainly makes sense if your existing dog has characteristics that demand time, energy and commitment from you. You might like to couple the intelligence and playfulness of the cavapoo with the domesticity of the greyhound. I know that, whereas even a long walk may not tire my present dogs (alas!), my lurcher, who was three-quarters greyhound, enjoyed intense bursts of activity followed by hours of peaceful sleep on the rug at home. Apply the litmus test. Do you want a double dose of the same behaviours, or are you buying double trouble?
If friends thought that a third dog signalled the demise of my sanity, they were almost ready to telephone the local asylum when Ailish arrived. And – yes – with hindsight, I admit to having walked straight into a door with a bag of flour on top. Ruari and Ailish are too close together in age. The farmer who has bred three of my dogs is a responsible breeder who does his best to ensure that his puppies go to good homes where they will be offered activities like agility training. He knew that Ailish would have a good home, but expressed reservations about the difficulties of having yet another whilst Ruari was still a relatively raw recruit. There are undoubtedly drawbacks. Ruari is not like the two girls, who enjoy training a pup. He is deeply attached to me and possessive, and although this does not lead to aggression, it proved unfortunate during Lockdown, when Ailish’s puppy classes were held on Zoom and he barked incessantly at being left out. The ideal would have been face-to-face training at a distant venue, but at the time, this was impossible. She has now begun further training in a class, away from him, and he has started agility classes.
Gates and Crates
Yes, even with one pup, but certainly with more, gates and crates will become your best friends. They ensure that your pup can be confined to a safe place whilst you are out. He cannot chew electrical flexes. He cannot slip out of the front door onto a busy road when you open to callers. And they are especially important whilst your pup is being treated as a newcomer by your established dog. Ishbel was a reserved, rather shy little dog who appreciated having a crate as it was her den. It gave her security and became one of her favourite places as it was associated with meals, treats and toys. It also gave me peace of mind as my older dog was hovering about looking discontented on the pup’s first day with us. At present, crates prevent Ailish, the smallest of her litter, from snatching food and earning a reprimand from Ruari. They allow you to make the most of your space; until they can join us in the main house, the two younger dogs are both confined to the conservatory, thanks to a gate, and can eat in that limited space because of crates.
So why keep two cavapoos?
It is a personal decision. No-one should intimidate you into having another, and no-one should berate you for having more than one dog, as long as you are able to meet their needs. Bear in mind that, whilst feeding may not be unduly expensive, you will be paying twice over or more for vaccinations and treatment, training sessions, harnesses and leads. Dog waste and urine burns on the lawn will be doubled. In muddy weather, you will have eight or more paws to wash, and two or more bodies to dry vigorously. If you want the same devotion and closeness to each of your dogs as you would have with one, then you must spend time with each. It is tiring, time-consuming and can be frustrating. There are days on which I acknowledge that I am a mere kennel maid.
And the rewards? As long as you have provided the training and encouraged each dog to bond with you, you have two or more real companions and friends. No two dogs, even of the same breed, are identical in temperament. You have the pleasure and, often, the amusement of seeing at close quarters how very complicated dog psychology can be as your dogs develop. When my four are out, they are undoubtedly at their best. I look at Ruari, the wind running through his fur, a grin on his face as he explores the paddock where his agility takes place. I watch Ishbel describing huge circles for the sheer joy of running, and marvel at her streamlined design, then melt as she pads gently up to me in the house and pushes her silky face against my hand. Ailish stalks through the grass – a Van Gogh cat hunting a mouse – or races after the others in a bid to belong to the pack. And Tamsin retrieves the ball almost every time but stands before me with a wagging tail, teasing me, refusing to give it up.
And now that the chillier nights of Autumn are here, two dogs on the bed must be warmer than one.