A big part of creating a successful dog is teaching them how to be alone as a puppy.
It’s just not possible to have our adult dogs with us 24-7-365, so, as puppies, one of the responsible things we do as wonderful pet parents is to teach our puppies to be alone.
I’m sharing this info with you to help you and pup get the best out of your lives together, to avoid future separation anxiety, and make sure that you can both have a life that is healthy and happy. Because being totally dependant on one another isn’t great and will limit both of your abilities to face this world.
Please don’t get me wrong! Spending time with your dog is magic – and I recommend it to everyone! Because that bond is special and the love is magnificent! But there will be places your dog isn’t welcome, there will be places you aren’t welcome (like the back of a vets!) so, we try and set up for success, right? So let’s make these processes as low stress as possible.
In this piece I want to discuss how to train your puppy to be safe and happy whilst at home alone, and follow up with some very common questions about puppy being alone such as how long, when, and
We discussed in the socialization piece that you can be your dogs ‘security blanket’ (as such), that their familiarity with you is something we can lean on for socialization. In this instance, we’re essentially trying to remove that safety blanket and keep them confident. The big bonus we have is that we’re keeping the environment the same. And that environment is your home! Which is a big check in the “makes it easier” column!
So, let’s get into how to train a positive response to being alone (or, at least a content one!).
How To Train Your Puppy To Be Safe And Happy Alone At Home
Before we start this, puppy should have a safe space in your home, whether this is a crate, a crate and a playpen, a playpen, or a room! There is always something that works for you and for your puppy, but if you need advice on this? You can try reading these!
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From there, normally, you try doing this within your home and going out of sight first, then you can start integrating your departure. But! I would imagine you’ve already done that, huh?
Great! Then let’s proceed!
Tip! Leverage your pup’s normal routine and their pseudo-natural sleep cycle. Aka. Practice around nap time to start!
Step 1 – Set Up A Routine
Remember when you were a child and your mum or dad would grab your school bag, pop your lunch in, that they would put your shoes on, then your coat, and pop your bag on?
The same goes with your puppy.
What’s your normal leaving routine? Grab your keys, your purse or wallet, coat, check the fridge, remember you forgot your phone, find that, then leave?
Well, try and repeat this routine. I would always say goodbye to Indie (though I feel that was more for me) and then door open, door close, key noise.
Don’t include the leaving yet, practice the steps, first, go out of sight, and then come back to pup and do that routine too.
That was the routine my puppy knew, so, have a think about what this might be for you and try and stick to it.
When you see positive, comfortable puppy when you come back in the room, then we can move onto the next stage!
Tip: You can make this similar to your night-night routine! You can leverage the same emotions from your puppy of sleep, alone time and relaxation by keeping doubling down on this one routine.
Step 2 – Add In Leaving
Keep your process the same, but this time we’re going to add in leaving. Open the door, walk out, close and lock. Keep it short to start. Even only 10 seconds will be a start. You’ll probably be more apprehensive about this than puppy will – because to puppy? Puppy currently has faith that you’ll be back. You’re just adding in a door.
Tip: Will puppy not relax?
Consider adding in a chew, a licky-thing or a sniffy-thing into your leaving routine!
Step 3 – Watch Results
You want to see calmness when you return – or even better? A wonderfully sleepy puppy.
The aim here is to come back in and greet your dog (with relative calmness!) before puppy decides to bark, or show signs of stress.
Success will look like your normal puppy, maybe a little wigglier, but overall? Very similar. The closer to nonchalance? The better you’re doing.
It’s really important to not make a big, excitable fuss of puppy when you get back, it’s important to be relaxed, calm praise and reward. This way we can promote the calmness, and stop a reward loop that means ‘good things only happen when my parents are back’, which feeds into an anxiety cycle, afterall excitement is a fine line from anxiety.
Step 4 – Built Up Time With The 3D’s
This is where we start amping it up, distance, duration and distraction right?
The important one here is the duration, right? We can’t only be apart from 10 seconds, right?
So, increase the time intervals.
I can give you an idea, but remember you need to adapt this depending on your pups success, or problem.
First, 10s, then 15, then 45, then 2 mins, 5 mins, 10 mins, 30 mins, 1hr, 1hr 15, 2hr, 3hr etc etc.
But, sometimes, that will happen in a natural way and you may leverage a shopping trip, or a drink with friends.
Set Up For Success
Throughout the whole process, we want our pup to succeed, so, I want you to make sure this happens. Don’t advance too quickly, take it all one step at a time. It’s better to take it a little slow than go too quickly.
If you do go too fast? Then you’d need to take it back a few steps and go again. This goes for all training when you hit a roadblock!
Consider Adding In Music!
Leaving on the radio, TV or going to dog specific channels is great. Dogs apparently love reggae to chill out to, and then there’s a few other products like relaxopet and relaxmydog that can work wonders too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, let’s cover some of the more frequently asked questions about teaching puppy to be alone, and if yours isn’t on here? Make sure to email me! I’ll try and include it!
What Age Can I Start Leaving Puppy Alone?
This depends when puppy came home, and how they’re progressing. It’s a case of not running before you can walk. When puppy is happy in their crate or safe space, and you’ve tried leaving the room and you can do that successfully, then it’s time to begin this training.
Usually you can start this around week 12 or so. This should give time for puppy to have adjusted to his or her new home, and you to have taught the above!
I’m not Confident Leaving Puppy Home, What Can I Do?
Totally understandable, it’s hard to trust that it’s all going to go fine, when you have no idea what’s going on within your own home.
So here’s some quick suggestions.
These are great – I have to say. Even for those moments that you’re like “What on earth are they doing?” But you don’t want to go in there yet? Like in the early morning. If you grab one of these, pair it with your phone, and it becomes your visual? Without disturbing puppy, or what their up to? You can learn so much.
But, they’re even more effective when you’re not in the house. By using one of these, you can actually get totally ahead of the game. Which is pretty huge. You can see when they’re starting to get stressed and circumvent it. You know if they start barking (because some have that sensor on them) and then if all is well? That’s fantastic peace of mind.
You can of course set this up with a video call between your laptop and your phone if you don’t think it’s a good investment for now, but would really appreciate that visual. It’s just a lot less convenient.
Then there are pros! We’ve talked about creating your support network, but if you’re going to be out of the house for a while, why not get a pro to come visit? They will likely message you and let you know that all is well too. This may not be perfect for training? But it definitely will help if you’re planning on heading to work for long days.
How Long Can I Leave My Puppy Alone?
Initially, let their bladder guide you? If you’re seeing great successes in leaving puppy home, it’s advisable not to compromise your toilet training for the sake of alone training. As and when these catch up, let toilet training take the reigns.
This develops as time goes on, but we shouldn’t be leaving our woofs for anything longer than 4hrs even when adults.
Confidence Alone Training Doesn’t Seem To Be Working, Does My Puppy Have Separation Anxiety?
It’s very, very rare for conditions like this to happen at a young age, at this stage, it’s likely that something you’re doing isn’t going as you think it is. If the process is flawed, or slightly misconstrued, or you’re taking it too fast, start again at ground zero and build up that confidence.
As always, if there’s any confusion or problems, I’m here and happy to help.
Can Puppies Sleep Alone?
Yep! The first night is going to be tough, and I would always suggest managing distance to help introductions, (i.e. sleep close the first night, and increase distance over a few nights by either moving puppy’s crate or bed, or your distance to their space). But they can definitely sleep alone, and I’d always recommend they have a space available to do this, even if you really want them to sleep in your bed.
Can My Puppy Be Alone Whilst I’m Working?
Absolutely! With proper training, managed time schedules and possibly some professional assistance, your puppy definitely can be alone or home alone, so long as we consider the guidelines given above in “How Long Can I Leave My Puppy Alone?” This way we’re ensuring we set pup up for success.
Working from home
This one makes life easy in some respects, but very difficult in others. Because you’re there, you know when things are less than ideal, and intervene, but at the same time, you are on hand for all toilet training and necessary breaks. It can be a conflict with your work schedule? So try and work your routine to work for you both.
This one’s really tough on puppy’s schedule, especially if your shift pattern is erratic. You’re probably going to want to look at a pro, and you’re probably going to want to set up some consistent points during the day that they can anchor to. Again, remember that they’re going to struggle with long hours and toilet breaks if they’re not set up for success.
This is the big one. If you’re considering working long hours and having a puppy or dog, you may wish to invest in a great daycare provider (once vaccinations are done) because anything longer than 6-7 hours (with a break in the middle) is going to be tough on an adult dog, and the option of getting a dog walker or pet sitter to visit several times a day is something that you’re going to not enjoy the price tag of.
So, look into daycare.
Can Puppies Be Left Alone During The Day?
In a safe area, yes! Of course they can. I would try and limit this to naps, because puppy needs and in fact craves interaction. That interaction is what they live for, and let’s face it, you didn’t buy a puppy to leave it in a crate 24-7! (please don’t do that, it’s just cruel), but a good schedule that facilitates puppy’s needs and structures their day definitely includes alone time.
Can Puppies Be Left Alone Overnight?
This depends on what’s meant by being alone… So let me specify.
Sleeping By Themselves With A Responsible Adult In The House?
This is relatively normal and is something that people will often come to a natural method of doing because either puppy can’t always sleep in the bedroom, or they just prefer to hang out in the living room because it’s cooler. This is absolutely fine.
What About Sleeping By Themselves In An Empty Home?
This should not happen, because ‘overnight’ implies being away for a considerable amount of time, and other than the fact that your puppy has needs, this is an unsafe thing given theft and fire risks.
If they are going to have to be alone overnight, consider a pet sitter to sleep over, a boarding facility or kennels, because your dog or puppy needs to be monitored.
Why Does My Puppy Pee Or Poop When Left Alone?
This could be one of two things
- Asking too much of Toilet training
- Separation Anxiety
We discussed Separation Anxiety & puppies above, but I wanted to include it for completeness.
This means it’s almost always that you’re asking too much of puppy with their limited ability to hold their bladder.
Reassess your schedule and see if you can figure out a plan that works better.
What Happens If We Don’t Do This Training?
Well, that’s where separation anxiety will start, and likely escalate because you’ve not taught pup how to be confident alone. It’s a core skill and isn’t something you should neglect whilst training your puppy. Your neighbours will thank you, so will the future you, So will your puppy.
Sounds Doable, Right?!
Well, I’m glad because if we can help you over this hump, then we’re ticking yet another box in the list of things it takes to create a wonderful life with your future dog! And that’s the ultimate goal here.
The Short Version
The short version of the above is, go at your puppy’s pace, remember toilet breaks are needed, teach around nap time, and slowly increase the increments that they’re left alone if they’re successful with the last one.
I know you guys can do this, this isn’t rocket science, and whilst it is still a science? It’s one you’ve got a guide for.
As always, if you need me, get in touch, let’s book a puppy power hour, or sign up to the pupdates! Either way, you’ll get the best of me to make the best of your pup with you.
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start.
She has won two awards for her dog training and has been featured in a number of magazines, online news providers and podcasts!