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It has been a whirlwind few weeks since you introduced your gorgeous puppy into your new home. You’ve loved staying home with him and playing mother. Even the toilet training you didn’t mind too much. It has been a much-needed break from work too. However, the end of this period is on the horizon and you need to go back to work soon. The only problem is, that as it currently stands, he whimpers and moans whenever you leave him for a few minutes, so leaving him alone in the house all day may prove challenging.
It may be difficult, but it is also essential, for his health as well as yours. If he doesn’t get used to being in the house alone, he may develop separation anxiety. If he’s to be a happy dog, he simply has to learn to spend time on his own.
How challenging it is to train a dog to stay home alone will depend a lot on the dog’s personality. Some dogs will naturally be needier, while others will be more solitary animals. Whatever his temperament though, you simply need to find the right incentives to make staying at home relatively enjoyable. You will also need to establish a consistent routine, where he gets all the attention he needs when you are around, so he’s not left wanting when you’re gone.
If he’s a puppy then training may take a while. He will need you more and be less used to being left alone. You may need several weeks. Likewise, if he’s older and always had you around then he may need up to six weeks to adjust. Get this training right and you will be able to relax when you head off to work, instead of worrying.
Before you begin training you will need to gather a few things. Get your hands on some food puzzles and toys that will keep him occupied when you leave him alone. You will also need to dedicate around 10 minutes each day to training.
Having some tasty treats around may help. It is also worth ensuring he has a comfy bed, in an enclosed location. A new bed with blankets may make spending several hours in there more appealing.
Once you have all the above, you just need willpower and optimism, then you’re ready to get to work!
The Routine Method
Leave him for 5
You can’t just leave him alone for hours on end. You need to get him gradually used to spending time on his own. To do that, you will need to start by leaving him in the house alone for just 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes at the neighbor's or at the shop, head back home and greet him. Make sure you give him attention and praise him. It’s important he knows you will be back soon and happy to see him.
The next day, head out for 15 minutes instead. Again, make sure you go back and give him attention as soon as you come back. It may be challenging those first few times when he’s sulking and whining, but he will soon get used to it.
Gradually increase the time
Over the next couple of weeks, gradually increase the length of time you leave him alone for. Always make sure you give him the odd treat and praise when you come back in the room.
It’s important you don’t give in to his whining. As soon as you do, you are telling him that moaning behavior is the right way to get what he wants. This will only make the problem worse. So, be resilient and give him the cold shoulder as you leave.
The Environment Method
Make sure he has a comfy bed to lie in when you leave him alone. You could also think about moving it to a spot where he has walls around him. This will make the space feel more like his, ensuring he feels more relaxed when he’s left.
Leaving him a food puzzle each time you leave the house to start with, is a fantastic way to distract him and keep him occupied. Some food puzzles can keep dogs distracted for hours.
A new toy or two could also do the job of keeping him occupied when you first start leaving him. Toys will help put him at ease and leave him feeling content when you leave him alone.
Try giving him a decent walk before you leave him alone. A tired dog is a happy dog. If he’s spending his time napping when you are out the house, he will find the whole ordeal far easier to deal with.
Spend a few minutes playing tug of war or fetch before you leave him. Not only will you be giving him some attention so that box is ticked when you leave, but it will also tire him out. He won’t be sad you’re gone when he’s fast asleep.
The Attention Method
Take him out for the toilet before you leave him alone. He will find being left alone far less enjoyable if he’s desperate to go to for a pee. The quick run around and fresh air may also help him nap when you leave.
Praise & reward
When you come back in after leaving him, go straight to him and give him a treat. Then give him some verbal praise and spend some time stroking him. Soon he will start associating your leaving with receiving a load of attention as soon as you return.
Build up the time
Make sure you don’t go straight in with leaving him all day alone. Start by leaving him for just a few minutes, then the next day a little longer, and so on until he’s used to being left alone for a while.
Separate at night
If he sleeps with you every night, he will find it much harder to leave you in the day time. So, making sure he sleeps in a separate room will make it easier to leave him in the long run. It may be tough, but you will be reducing his separation anxiety.
Never punish him
If you come back into the house after leaving him and he’s been to the toilet on the floor, do not punish him. The same goes for if he has broken something. If you punish him and scare him, he may only act up more in an attempt to win your approval.
By James Barra
Published: 01/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021