Leaving your puppy alone
Puppies are like babies and need to feel that their owners are close by. They don’t cope at all well if left alone when they are young, even for short amounts of time. Here’s what you need to know about leaving puppies alone.
How long can you leave a puppy alone?
Dogs are social creatures, and therefore it’s normal behaviour for them to want to be close to you, even at night. They will want to follow you everywhere – even to the toilet!
Unfortunately, many new dog owners are unaware of this and try leaving puppies alone too soon. This can be very distressing for a puppy who is too young to cope with being separated from their carer.
Leaving a dog home alone while at work
If you work or need to be away from the home during the day these early months with a puppy can be very challenging. Even just popping out to the shops can be traumatic for a young puppy.
Plan ahead and if working from home isn’t an option, you may need to get some help. Recruit family or friends to ‘babysit’ or employ a professional dog sitter to come to your house. If your puppy will be going to someone else’s house during the day, make sure they have first had all their vaccinations.
Leaving a puppy alone at home for the first time
Before you leave the house for the first time, start by helping your puppy to get used to you not being in the same room in the house and slowly increase the time you are away from them before you eventually leave them alone in the house. Don’t rush this phase – the longer you spend helping your puppy to feel secure about being left alone, the easier it will be for both of you. A sign that they may be ready to be left alone is when they no longer follow you everywhere or are happy to take themselves off to another room to rest and relax.
Choose times when your puppy is more likely to be relaxed, and make sure they have had enough physical and mental exercise and have been to the toilet before being left. Give them an interactive feeding toy – a Kong or a puzzle feeder – to enjoy before settling down for a nice nap.
When it comes to leaving your puppy alone in the house, gradually increase the amount of time you leave them on their own. To begin with this should be for very short periods of time.
Should I leave a radio on for my puppy?
You may have heard that it’s a good idea to leave a radio on, use a ticking clock or give your puppy a scented item of your clothing as a comforter when you go out. The advice is that comforters will only work if your puppy is already feeling secure. They will not help to make your puppy any less anxious about being left alone. The same advice applies to using a distraction technique, such as a filled Kong. This will be a lovely treat for your dog if they are happy to be left alone. But it should not be used as a distraction from the fact that you are leaving the house. Your puppy will simply become more distressed and anxious.
Separation anxiety in dogs
If you leave a puppy alone while they are young, it is likely they will become anxious. They may cry, bark, wee, poo or chew things in the house. You may have heard that puppies will soon get used to being left alone. This isn’t true. They just learn to feel anxious about you leaving them.
The only way to avoid this is to not leave puppies alone when they are young and then teach them that being left alone isn’t something to fear. This period doesn’t last for long. Use it to bond with your puppy and help them to feel happy and secure.