Training your puppy to be left home alone
One thing we’ve touched on a lot on the blog over the last couple of years are the problems caused by pets being bought in lockdown who are not used to being alone. We’ve raised a whole generation of ‘lockdown pups’ with separation anxiety and socialisation issues and as we leave our homes to go back into the workplace these issues are becoming more apparent. If you have been sensible and waited til after the lockdown to get yourself a pup then it is critically important that you get your pup used to being alone – even briefly – from as young as possible, to avoid causing issues further down the line.
If your pup is really small then obviously you can’t leave them alone for long as they may get into mischief but you do need to get them used to the idea that you may not be there with them all of the time and that it’s OK for them to be left alone.
Speaking to Metro, the director of the UK Dog Behaviour and training Charter, Lorna Winter said:
“Dogs are social creatures and puppies don’t come pre-programmed to be comfortable with being on their own – this requires training.”
She then goes on to give a number of useful tips for training your pooch to be left alone:
White pup photo by Tanya Gorelova on Pexels
Take it slowly
Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t expect to leave your pup alone for more than a few minutes in the early stages of their training. You need to start slowly and build up gradually:
“Build in alone time slowly so that your puppy can learn to cope with being by themselves. Start with very short durations to get your puppy used to the idea of you going in and out of the front door – minutes not hours.”
Getting your pup used to the idea of being alone or that you don’t always have to be there is useful not just for popping out to the shops but it also means they aren’t as needy when you are together. Some lockdown pups insist on being in the same room as their owners at all times, even following them to the toilet. This can be especially frustrating if you are getting ready to go out and walking from room to room with your dog in hot pursuit!
Pup photo by Daniel Wiadro on Unsplash
Try different techniques
What works great for one dog might not work with yours, so it is important to experiment with different methods for calming your pup and seeing which works best for them:
“Use different methods to help accustom your pup to being alone. This should be done from an early age…through the use of food toys to keep them occupied while you are not in the room, or try moving from one room to another leaving them in familiar rooms of your home – where they are comfortable.
“Classical music or specific dog lullabies can be used to help settle your puppy. You may also want to leave the TV on.”
Fuzzy dog photo by Alison Pang on Unsplash
Ensure they have everything they need
Before you head out the door, make sure that your pup has everything that they need to be comfortable whilst you are gone. Make sure that their water bowl is full, if they like to have background noise, that the TV or radio is on if they have a distraction toy such as a Kong or a Lickimat that you have put some treats in it.
One problem we have at home is that the cats like to sleep in the dog bed even though they have a bed of their own and they won’t let him in it! If you have a similar situation make sure that your pup has an alternative place to snuggle up so they aren’t left out in the cold as this could be really unsettling for them.
Let them outside to go to the loo before you go, make sure they are not hungry and where possible that they’ve had some exercise too so that they are more relaxed and settled before you depart.
Frenchie photo by freestocks on Unsplash
Don’t leave them to cry
Lorna suggests that you should never leave a puppy to cry:
“This almost never works and will cause problems in other areas of the pup’s emotional health and can lead to long-term behavioural issues.”
It can also cause problems with your neighbours too!
If you’re going out for longer periods when your puppy is young, then you’ll need to get someone to puppy sit for you as they are simply too young to be able to cope on their own. Just as they probably aren’t yet developed enough to sleep through the night or hold in a pee!
Lorna says: “The best way is to slowly build this into their lives. However, in the meantime, if you’re going to be leaving your puppy to go to work, you’ll need a puppy sitter, dog walker or friend/family member to come and spend some time with them.”
If you’re still struggling then you can also get professional help before your problem becomes a more serious issue, such as separation anxiety. There is usually always a way to solve any difficulty you may be having with your pup as long as you are able to put in the time and effort to help.
Main photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash