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Training dogs to be left alone

Training dogs to be left alone

All dogs love company and can get anxious when left alone. However, you can train your dog to be left alone. Here’s what you need to know.

How long can you leave a dog alone?

A common question that dog owners ask is how long can a dog be left alone? Puppies cannot cope with being left alone at all until they are much older. They need someone to be with them all the time until until they are about nine months old. As dogs are social animals they don’t like to be on their own for long and can easily become anxious. This is called separation anxiety.

With adult dogs, it is not recommended to leave them alone for more than four hours. However, it takes time and patience to train a dog to build up to the point where a dog can be left for this amount of time. If you work, you may want to consider using a dog walker, a dog sitter or taking your dog to doggy day care. This means that your dog will have company during the day and you’ll have peace of mind that your dog isn’t feeling anxious or bored at home. 

How to train a dog to be alone in the house

Leaving your dog alone at home for the first time will be hard for you and them. Remember, this shouldn’t be before a puppy is nine months old. Build up to this gradually so that your dog gets used to being apart from you.

The RSPCA recommends five easy steps to training your dog to be left alone. Repeat each step until you feel your dog is ready to progress. 

  • Encourage your puppy or 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 before returning, eventually progressing to closing the door when you leave, increasing the amount of time you stay outside and 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 for longer periods of time. 
  • Remember, practice and patience is key. Spending time to train a dog to be left alone is much easier than treating a dog with separation anxiety. 

Why do dogs tear things up when left alone?

Quite often dog owners don’t realise that their dog is feeling anxious when home alone. The most common signs that your dog is feeling unhappy when alone in the house, includes:

  • Barking and howling – if you are away from the house you may not be aware that your dog is barking or howling, but your neighbours will!
  • Chewing and destroying items in the house, including furniture
  • Weeing or pooing in the house 

There are things you can do if you think your dog is unhappy about being at home alone. Read these helpful tips from the RSPCA on what to do if your dog has separation anxiety.

If these tips don’t work, you should ask a professional dog behaviourist for help. 

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