How to Train Your Dog to Stay Home Alone

Medium
2-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

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.

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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

Effective
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Step
1
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.
Step
2
Return
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.
Step
3
15 minutes
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
Cold shoulder
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.
Recommend training method?

The Environment Method

Effective
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Step
1
New bed
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.
Step
2
Food puzzles
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.
Step
3
New toys
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.
Step
4
Exercise
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.
Step
5
Play time
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.
Recommend training method?

The Attention Method

Effective
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Step
1
Toilet time
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Logan
Siberian Husky
4 Months
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Question
0 found helpful
Logan
Siberian Husky
4 Months

My husband and I work for 10 straight hours so we have to leave him alone, previously my husband was working from home so he was with him all day, but now that we both leave he's starting to become destructive, he was trained to pee and poo in his floor diaper but now even though he does in it he ends up destructing it and eating his poop, also, he is not eating! my husband is blaming my constant love and care and says I need to be more disciplined and tough with him but I don't think that's the root cause, I believe he has separation anxiety. How can I train him no to destruct things?
Thank you

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karla, First, puppies go through a couple different destructive chewing phases. As they approach 5-6 months of age their jaws develop and adult dog teeth are in, so they can rip things apart and destroy things. He likely has what many trainers call "separation boredom". Separation anxiety is a lot less common than separation boredom. With separation boredom, your pup is mentally and physically bored so he is destroying things because he is in a natural chewing phase right now, he is bored, and no one is there to teach him not to - so it's automatically being rewarded because it's fun for him. The poop eating is likely related to boredom too, and many puppies simply think it's fun and it turns into a bad habit after a while that can be harder to break. Poop eating, called coprophagia in medical terms, can be caused by a medical issue like nutritional deficiency, parasites, allergy, ect... but it is also a common puppy issue, that happens just for the fun of it, that may pups will outgrown if there isn't an underlying cause AND you prevent it from happening regularly. The not eating could be anxiety related, but it is more likely happening because he feels nauseous due to poop eating. Fix the poop eating and the food eating may resolve on its own. With all that said, I would first try crating him with a dog-food stuffed chew toy - like a hollow Kong. I suggest hiring a dog walker to come once 4-5 hours into the day (for the first couple weeks you may need twice until his bladder capacity increases to 5-6 hours at 5 months (puppies can generally hold is for no longer than the number of months they are in age plus one - any longer and you will have an accident and too many accidents means you can't use the crate to potty train anymore because they will learn to go potty in it, instead of naturally trying to keep a confined space clean - an instinct almost all dogs start with). I suggest training him to potty outside on a leash during the day and getting rid of the floor diaper - the floor diaper can lead to issues later on if you use it for too long with a dog that will eventually outgrow it size-wise, and it's not a good option anyway because of the poop eating. You also simply won't need it if a walker if letting him outside to go potty mid-day. When you get home you need to spend time wearing him out mentally, and giving moderate exercise. This is where training comes in - that structure your husband wants to teach, spend time teaching commands that build focus, calmness, self-control, and obedience to help with behavior but also as a way to stimulate him mentally after he has been cooped up. It's okay to give love and affection too, just keep interactions a little calmer and stimulate his mind by having him work and learn new things also. Have a thirty minute training session every day after you get home, plus incorporating what he is learning into every day life (like having him wait at doors, sit before feeding him, Down-Stay while you are watching Tv together at night, ect...), and give moderate walks. The mental exercise will take the edge off his energy more than anything actually, but moderate exercise is still needed. Many people feel bad about crating puppies during work, and in an ideal world pup could go with you to work and have more freedom, BUT he isn't safe being given free reign of the house at this age - he could easily ingest something life-threatening, and will chew because no one is there is supervise and teach him and he is naturally in the height of the chewing age. By chewing unsupervised he also is learning bad habits that could mean less freedom for the rest of his life later on - and hopefully he will never have to leave you guys, but if he ever had to be re-homed his chances of finding another home with entrenched chewing/destructive adult habits are almost zero - which is how dogs get euthanized. I say all that not to scare you but to help you feel less guilty about crating him - think about what's best for him in the long run. Once he is past the chewing phase, has learned some obedience and is calmer with age, then you can gradually transition him to staying out of the crate while you are gone. This typically happens between 1-2 years old, and starts with giving 10 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 1 hour, then 3 hours, ect...Of freedom at a time, testing how he does each time before increasing the amount of time, and postponing freedom if he doesn't do well yet. Confinement for the 1st year of life generally equals more freedom and trustworthiness for 10+ years later once good habits are established. Furthermore, the way you stop poop eating is to immediately pick up the poop and not let the dog spend time near poop to practice it. You can do things to correct that behavior - like using a small canister of pressurized air, called a pet convincer, and spray a small puff of unscented air at a puppy's side when they go to eat the poop while you are home, but you can't correct the behavior if you aren't there. So correcting while present and keeping pup away from poop while you aren't there to train is important. There are sprays and food additives you can give to make poop taste bad to pup, but usually these still have to be used with supervision to be truly effective. The same is true of destructive chewing - work on Leave It, using deterrent sprays, and encouraging chewing food stuffed chew toys instead while you are home, and confine pup somewhere safe when you are not at home to train - it's for puppy's safety. The way to deal with separation anxiety is actually more structure, calmness, boundaries, and using the crate for a specific separation anxiety protocol too...But I would treat this like separation boredom before moving onto the more extreme training of separation anxiety - separation boredom is much easier to address and way more common at this age for a puppy. Does puppy eat when you are at home? If pup isn't eating when you are home either, then I would take puppy to your vet to check for parasites or other medical GI issues. If there are no medical issues, then feed puppy in the morning. Put food down for 15 minutes, then take food up again. If puppy didn't finish breakfast, then have your dog walker feed puppy the rest of their breakfast and maybe a little extra when they come, then pick up the food after 15 minutes again - don't leave the food in the crate. Feed pup dinner when you come home. Set up the schedule so that puppy gets to go back outside to go potty to poop 15 minutes after being fed even if he just peed before the meal - like while the dog walker is there, because most puppies need to poop 15-30 minutes after eating - and you want to limit him pooping when he is unsupervised and can eat it. Here are some good commands to teach more structure and to help stimulate him mentally so he feels happier and calmer overall - if there is anxiety going on, increasing calmness and structure in general can help with that too: Sit: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Down https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Come - Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Introducing a crate - The Surprise method - expect crying for the first 2 weeks, doing the surprise method should help decrease the length of crying though, and giving a food stuffed chew toy should also help, but unless you know puppy is injured or needs to go potty, don't let him out when he cries, wait until he is quiet like the second video below - the Crate Manner's exercise shows. Puppy needs time to learn how to self-sooth and self-entertain, and you are setting him up through training to be able to learn that, but he also needs the time to practice it and work through things to adjust - All puppies cry at first, and many go onto learn to like the crate as a place to rest: Surprise method for introducing the crate: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Chewing article - lots of tips for dealing with the chewing phase: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Abbie
Maltese x
9 Years
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Question
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Abbie
Maltese x
9 Years

My dog will stay at my sisters house alone but will not stay at my apartment alone. I have tried making her stay at my apartment while I went down to my friends apartment who lives under my apt. and she constantly barks and will not stop until I come back.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Donna, If she is simply barking but is not destructive, then I suggest purchasing a bark collar created for small dogs, such as Pesafe little dog elite. In addition to using a bark collar, you can provide something positive for her to do while she is quiet, that will automatically reward her correct behavior after she quiets down - you can either stuff a hollow chew toy, such as a medium sized kong, with food and treats, or use an automatic treat dispenser that will detect when she is being quiet and give a treat after a certain amount of time. Check out Pet Tutor or AutoTrainer as treat dispensers. Read reviews to find the one with the features you like best. There are multiple, interesting ways to stuff a Kong, look up videos on YouTube for ideas to make the Kong interesting for her. The combination of corrections and rewards can help her learn. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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