Training your puppy to be left alone
Hello new world
Puppies need to feel safe and secure in their new worlds. Just as we teach them how to cope with the world around them, we need to help them cope when we are not around. It is really important to help your puppy get used to your absence for short periods of time, even if you don’t intend to leave them alone for long.
At some point, you may need to leave your puppy at home and if they aren’t used to it, they can become very distressed. We need to teach our puppies that being alone isn’t scary at all; it’s actually a time to get comfy and relax.
First things first
Start the process by choosing the place where you are happy for your puppy to be left alone, and try to not pick somewhere they will go only when you are leaving them alone as you want them to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If they only get put in this area when they are left alone, they may learn to only associate it with the distress of being left.
A crate idea
Stair gates are fantastic tools to use when helping puppies get used to being left alone. They are not as scary as a closed door as they still allow your puppy to see, smell and hear you.
Your starting point is to be able to help your puppy get used to a little bit of distance from you while you are still in the home.
You may decide to use your crate for this exercise – just be sure that you have properly “crate trained” your pup and they love being in there.
Place your stair gate on the door to the room you have decided you will leave your puppy alone in, and follow these tips below:
1. Put a comfortable bed and water in this room, and some suitable chews and toys too should your puppy need them (chewing is a calming activity).
2. Many pups will benefit from being left with a radio on low level (talking stations are better than loud music but you could also use an audio book, music specially designed for calming pups or “brown noise”) as this provides a little background noise and ‘company’. It may also muffle any startling sounds from the outside, which might otherwise make your puppy jump.
3. Adaptil and Pet Remedy products can also be of benefit as they release comforting pheromones, which can help your puppy settle.
Randomly during the day, pop your puppy behind the stair gate with a tasty chew, such as a Kong toy stuffed with treats or a meal. Close the stair gate behind you and go about your business as normal but try to stay in eye and earshot of your puppy.
After a few minutes, open the stair gate; ideally you want your puppy to be relaxed and still engrossed in the treat. Do not leave your puppy to cry and whine for more than a few minutes – try to return when they are quiet so they don’t learn they can request your presence!
"Some puppies will progress easily, but others may need more time to adjust, so take the steps very slowly."
Repeat and repeat
If you find that your puppy struggles with this at all, you can make it easier for them by staying with them but not interacting with them: just sit there quietly with a book or newspaper. Once they are used to the idea of being in the room with you (but not interacting with you) you can start shutting the stair gate for a few minutes with you on the other side.
Over a period of days, gradually increase the time your puppy is left behind the stair gate until you get to a point that they feel relaxed enough for you to wander out of sight completely. Work on building your puppy up to being left in this area for up to half an hour while you are busy elsewhere in the home. Do not rush theses stages; only move on when your puppy is comfortable being left for longer.
Once your puppy is comfortable with this, you can begin to get them used to short periods of time alone in the home. Remember to make sure your pup is well exercised and has had the opportunity to go the toilet, as this will also help them to settle.
Your daily routine
Prepare the area as you normally would and follow the same routine as before. Once your puppy is comfortable and tucking into something tasty, get yourself ready and leave the house.
Return after a few minutes (before your puppy starts to become anxious). If your puppy is comfortable with this length of time, fantastic! Repeat a few times over the course of day.
Gradually increase the time you leave your puppy alone in the house to about half an hour over a period of several days, and then mix up the times (so they are shorter or longer than the last).
If your puppy shows any sign of worry, take a few steps back and start from where they were last comfortable.
Some puppies will progress easily, but others may need more time to adjust, so take the steps very slowly. If you find your puppy beginning to look worried when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, our veterinary team would encourage you seek advice from our qualified behaviourist.
Keep greetings friendly, low-key and predictable on your return, even if you come home to find your puppy has chewed something or been to the toilet in the wrong place. If this happens frequently, our veterinary team recommend speaking to our qualified behaviourist.
If you urgently need to leave your puppy for several hours, make sure you have built them up to this with the above training. Otherwise, it's best to arrange for someone else to be home with them to look after them. It is much harder to remedy “home alone” distress issues than to prevent them in the first place.
Handy tip: leave a camera running so that you can see exactly how well your puppy does cope and help out sooner if you need to!
Need more help? Download the Joii Pet Care app today for dedicated puppy clinics and training support.