Imagine this: You’ve just brought home a brand-new puppy, and you’re over the moon with excitement.
Naturally, you can’t wait to spend every waking moment with your new furry friend, but unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out that way.
Eventually, you’ll have to go back to work or run errands and leave your puppy alone at home. And while you might be worried about your little one being lonely or anxious while you’re away, don’t despair! With the right training, your puppy can learn to be happy and confident when you’re not around.
But how do you do it? That’s what this article is all about.
Here’s the gist of it:
Training your puppy to be comfortable being alone at a young age is essential for their mental health and prevents issues such as separation anxiety. Crate training and providing stimulation and entertainment can help your puppy thrive when left alone. Gradually increase the time they are alone with rewards and positive reinforcement to prevent distress.
In this article, I’ll go over the steps you can take to teach your puppy to be comfortable when left alone without developing separation anxiety or becoming destructive. Whether you’re just starting out with your new puppy or you’ve had your furry friend for a while, and you’re struggling with this issue, this article has something for everyone.
So, are you ready to learn the secret to a happy, confident puppy when you’re away? Let’s dive in!
Despite many jobs switching over to work-from-home positions since the pandemic, teaching your puppy to be home alone is still extremely important. Throughout your dog’s lifespan, you certainly won’t be able to spend every waking moment with them!
Alongside this, teaching your puppy to be independent from you and be comfortable alone helps sway off psychological issues such as separation anxiety and a lack of confidence. It’s great for your dog’s mental health overall.
Starting this process at a young age helps improve your dog’s quality of life, as teaching your four-legged companion to be comfortable alone at an older age can prove significantly more difficult. Adult dogs develop habits, and permanent thoughts about certain facets of life; breaking these can be complex and requires a rather tedious process.
The sooner you begin conditioning your dog to be alone, the easier your life will be.
Your goal is to teach your puppy that being alone is nothing to be scared, worried, or alarmed about.
Because dogs are very family and pack-oriented, it’s going to take some time and patience for your puppy to thrive on their own - taking your time is key!
You can’t just leave your puppy for eight hours and expect them to be okay! You must start the training process while still home with them. It’s best to lay the foundation by offering a designated place to be and then teaching your puppy that their area is awesome.
Using a kennel, crate, or playpen is the way to go with both teaching your puppy to be home alone and puppy rearing as a whole. Crate training helps develop a healthy daily routine, keeps your puppy safe when you cannot watch them, and offers your dog a place to go that is all their own!
Start by teaching your puppy that their confinement area is something positive. Offer treats and meals there, and make the overall playpen or crate experience pleasant. You can begin training them for an alone time after they are content to enter the confinement area on their own.
Next, your best course of action is to give your puppy something to do when they are meant to be alone. Think about it, it’s no fun to be left with no company and no activities (we certainly wouldn’t like that)!
Look into puzzle toys and those that encourage the puppy’s brain to work - offering mental stimulation that can tire them out.
Some of the best toys to put in a puppy’s crate include a classic Kong toy you can stuff full of peanut butter, a Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug filled with treats, an Idepet Dog Toy Ball, and more.
Only offer these toys when your puppy is in their kennel, crate, or playpen, and it is time for them to focus on the toy rather than on you.
Now you get on to the big stuff - actually leaving your puppy alone.
Put one of the toys mentioned above in the confinement area to start, then discreetly leave the room. Return immediately, and praise them with a very yummy treat and lots of vocal positive reinforcement!
Keep repeating this, increasing the duration you are away each time.
Even one or two minutes may seem too long to your puppy at first, but after three or four days, you should be able to gradually increase this to pretty lengthy intervals. Remember to do this in doses; you really don’t want your pup to panic or cause your puppy any distress.
Every going-away-and-coming-back interaction should be as exciting as a party, validating to your puppy that you’ll come back and being away isn’t bad!
Eventually, your puppy will be able to spend time alone with little to no fuss. But remember that there is a limit to how long your dog can spend time alone - you have to be reasonable there.
It’s normal for your puppy to not be too thrilled about this training game you have going on.
After all, all your puppy knows is constant companionship which develops an unhealthy reliance on company. Breaking them out of this young habit will take a bit of effort.
During the process, your puppy may bark, cry, whimper, or howl their displeasure at your absence. The key is to not give in and let them out, as letting them out when crying will teach your puppy that causing a ruckus will result in you returning. Also, considering most people live with neighbors, a noise like this isn’t permissible.
Wait until your puppy calms down, stays quiet, and only then let them out. This will teach them that remaining calm will eventually get them what they want!
For some dogs, being alone is more challenging than for others.
Separation anxiety is a psychological disorder in which your dog feels distressed when you leave. This can result in destructive behavior, panic, defecating, crying and screaming, and more.
You can distinguish simple puppy angst from separation anxiety based on the severity of the reaction. If your dog is truly unable to calm down, the destruction is extreme, and your dog’s health is suffering - you may be dealing with separation anxiety.
Treating this anxiety often requires the help of a professional dog trainer well-versed in separation anxiety. The trainer will work with you to remove the underlying cause of the anxiety and help teach your dog to be alone happily.