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How to prepare your dog for life post-lockdown

February 26, 2021

A ‘pawmap’ out of lockdown for dog owners

A change in routine as the UK moves out of lockdown is likely to be unsettling for dogs, particularly if they will be spending time on their own at home. Here’s why it’s important to teach your dog to spend time alone, and how to do it in five easy steps.

How long can you leave a dog alone at home?

The advice from dog experts is that dogs shouldn’t be left alone at home for more than four hours. Many dog owners who work full time use a dog walker or doggy day care to break up their dog’s day.

If you need to leave your dog alone for any length of time, they will first need to be trained to spend time on their own.

Even if your dog has previously been used to being home alone, it is still a good idea to go through the process of training them again. During lockdown they will have enjoyed – and got used to – having company all the time. A sudden change to their routine and having to spend time alone, could leave your dog feeling anxious.

What could happen if I don’t train my dog to spend time alone?

Dogs like company, and can get anxious if left alone. If a dog is feeling anxious about being left alone at home, they may start to:

  • Bark and howl when you are away
  • Chew and destroy items in the house, including furniture
  • Wee or poo in the house.

These are known as separation related behaviours – or separation anxiety – and are often signs that a dog is feeling distressed. Once a dog develops separation related behaviours, such as excessive barking, destructive behaviour or going to the toilet in the house – it often requires the help of a professional dog behaviourist. By teaching your dog to be left alone you can help them to not feel anxious.

Leaving a puppy alone for the first time

Before you start training your puppy to be home alone, bear in mind that they won’t be ready to be left alone until they are about nine months old. Puppies are just like babies, and need constant care when they are little. Have you noticed that your puppy likes to follow you everywhere? This is because they need to know that their carer is close by.

Your puppy’s dependence on you will lessen as they get a little older. A sign that they are becoming more independent is when they are happy to spend time on their own in another room away from you.

It’s never too soon to start training your puppy to spend time alone – just make sure that you take things at their pace, nice and slowly. See below for five easy steps to teach your dog to be home alone.

How to train your dog to be alone 

We’ve produced a roadmap out of lockdown for dog owners – a ‘pawmap’ – with five easy steps to teach your dog to be left alone. Repeat each step until your dog is happy, before proceeding to the next step:

  • Encourage your dog to go to their bed, with you close by, and stay there for a short while. Reward them for remaining quiet.
  • Ask your dog to stay while you move away. Reward them when you return.
  • Start to leave the room – with the door open – before returning, eventually closing the door when you leave.
  • Increase the amount of time you stay outside, varying the time before you return.
  • Once your dog has reached the point of being happy to be left alone for an hour, they should be happy being left alone for longer periods of time.
5 steps to teach your dog to be left alone

What to do if your dog develops separation anxiety

Some of the most common signs that your dog is feeling anxious when left alone, include:

  • Barking and howling
  • Chewing and destroying items in the house
  • Weeing or pooing in the house
  • Becoming hyper-attached when you are present

Other less obvious signs include whining, trembling or pacing around the house.

Unfortunately, once a dog develops separation related behaviours it can often require the help of a professional dog behaviourist. Here’s how to find a properly qualified dog behaviourist to help you and your dog.

How to prepare your dog for a change of routine

The return to work and school will probably come as a bit of a shock to the system. Early mornings, busy bathrooms, everyone trying to get out of the house at the same time.

If you have welcomed a puppy into your family during lockdown, plan head for how a return to work and the school run will impact on their routine. Think about how you will keep on top of your puppy’s toilet training, and make time for bonding and play.

Puppy training and socialisation

It has been harder than usual over the last 12 months to socialise and train puppies. However, several dog trainers have come up with some great ways to help you socialise your puppy and introduce them to different sounds, smells and objects at home and in the garden. 

  • Introduce your puppy to different sounds that they are likely to experience, both in and outside of the home, with the help of this sound therapy programme for dogs

Training is an important part of your puppy’s early years development, so you shouldn’t delay signing your puppy up for puppy school. As the UK moves out of lockdown, in-person puppy training classes are likely to resume; but in the meantime many dog trainers are running virtual puppy training classes, which you can join from home.

How to find a good dog trainer

Unfortunately, there are lots of people who claim to be dog trainers but don’t have any qualifications. This is because the dog training industry is unregulated. Watch this BBC mini film about why more regulation is needed in the pet industry.

To find a properly qualified dog trainer look for one who is recognised by the Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC). The following dog training networks are ABTC-accredited, They only use and promote positive and force-free training techniques: