If you’ve recently bought a new puppy into your home, it’s crucial that you help them understand that being alone is alright. This early age training will set them up well for the future. Here are some techniques and training that will help them be less anxious when alone.
This training is always best done when your puppy is a little sleepy – such as after a walk or vigorous play session – so they are calm and relaxed.
Start slow and build up the time they are alone in a room over several weeks, start with 30 seconds and gradually build up to 20-30 minutes, then an hour etc.
It’s important to try and not enter the room when they are making a fuss / barking etc as they may think that barking makes you return, you want them to be calm when you return. .
When you walk back into the room, don’t make a fuss, in fact don’t even acknowledge them for a few minutes, just act like nothing happened.
Once your puppy is comfortable being in a room by themselves, build up the amount of time you spend away from them – in a different room or out of the house.
Its then time to get them ready for the new daily routine that they will be experiencing when you go back to work.
Start your new daily routine before it happens
Dogs can love a routine as they’re able to anticipate what will happen before it does. Practising your routine early lets your dog adjust to the new normal at their own pace instead of it suddenly being sprung on them on the first day you have to leave them alone.
If your puppy is showing signs of anxiety when they are alone then they will learn that it all starts when you begin to put your shoes on and pick up your keys, this warns them of what’s about to come. They may show signs of stress before you’ve even walked out the door so its important to go slowly and allow them to adjust to each step. It can be a good idea to desensitise them to these actions for example by putting your shoes on and then returning to the sofa, wear your coat around the house, pick up your keys and then have a coffee etc, break the routine!
Be prepared to go back a few steps if they don’t settle.
Here are some small changes you can make in the weeks leading up to the first day back:
- Wake up early just as you would on work days
- Start taking your dog for walks around the same time as you would have to once you are back at work.
- Start leaving the house for longer periods at a time
- Feed your dog at the same time every day with the new routine in mind.
- Put aside some time to spend with your pooch in the morning and evening.
Remind everyone to stay calm
When the first day does come, it can be challenging for everyone involved. Take some time to remind everyone how important it is to remain calm on the big day. While it’s normal for kids to feel anxious or upset, your dog will be able to read these feelings and is likely to start feeling the same.
Calm and quick goodbyes will help avoid your dog from anticipating your departure which could lead to whining or barking. The same goes for when you come home. It’s important to go about your normal routine of taking shoes off, putting bags away, starting dinner or getting changed etc and not making a big fuss on them as soon as you walk through the door.
Extra affection and fuss might just further establish how long you have all been gone, and that it is a big deal.
You don't make a fuss with them when you walk out the room to put some washing on so don't do it when you leave the house, that way they learn its just the norm.
Provide some entertainment
Make sure they are comfortable in their bed or crate, and busy with a chew or a food puzzle toy.
Doggy puzzles or a simple peanut-butter-filled chew toys can help distract your dog from the fact that they’re home alone or that their best friend is back at school. This also keeps their brain stimulated, which can tire them out and help them sleep for longer.
Leaving the radio or TV on can fill an empty house with the noise that they’re somewhat used to following weeks of having everyone at home.
Dog sitters or walkers
Dog sitters or walkers are a great way to help ease your pooch to the new daily routine by providing them with some company during their day. Daycare can be a great for playtime with other dogs aswell.
If this is not an option, see if any of your friends, family or neighbours can pop in to check on them and stay for a little while.
A 30 minute visit in the middle of the day can make a big difference.
Provide a safe area
If your dog likes to have their own space or is crate trained, providing them with their own little haven can make things a little easier for them while you’re gone. Crates are a great way of training puppies and will provide them with that bit of extra comfort when alone.
If your dog is new to a crate, you will need to train and introduce them to the idea slowly.
Make time for your dog
From having everyone around for weeks on end to suddenly having different members of the family being out of the house at different times, it’s quite an adjustment for your dog. Making time to groom your dog, play their favourite game or just sitting on the floor with them can go a long way in making the transition a little easier for them.
Back to work is hard for everyone but imagine how difficult it can be for our dogs who have to say goodbye to their best friends without understanding where they go.
Eventually, your puppy will be comfortable being left alone for longer periods of time. Always make sure you never leave them for too long – they need to be let out to go to the toilet and stretch their legs so if you don’t have access to a back garden, a daily visitor is recommended.
We hope these tips help you in preventing the blues!