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Dogs & Cats

Can You Leave Your Puppy Home Alone?

Our expert trainer guides us through a big moment in dog parenthood: leaving your puppy alone.

Aren’t puppies just delightful? You can barely keep your hands off of them; they’re so cute and cuddly. But we can’t just spend our every hour with them. At some point the demands of the rest of your life interfere, and you need to leave your puppy home alone. You can prepare your puppy for this right from the start.

A truly excellent breeder will have started this process before your puppy ever leaves her home, having each pup experience a short but increasing amount of time alone in a crate or pen. If your pup has never been fully alone -- or worse still, was only alone for a crate ride in an airplane -- you have a little more work to do.

Get Set Up
First, make sure that you have a puppy-safe area for your pup to stay home alone. Remember that puppies pee, poop, chew and climb, so your pup should be in a pen or mostly empty small room (bathroom or laundry room) with a secure door or gate. Leave plenty of proper chew toys and, of course, water. If you’re going to be gone longer than you can expect your pup to “hold it,” have newspapers or a puppy pee-pad available (perhaps covering the whole floor).

Spend time with your puppy in this area so it’s a familiar place with positive associations. And as soon as you can, practice leaving your puppy in there for short periods of time -- a few seconds at first, then longer and longer (as long as your pup is doing well). It’s best to leave when your pup is mellow; you can try to get her engaged in a chew toy (like a stuffed Kong) just before you step out.

Don’t Reward Whining
Puppies will whine if they find themselves alone. This is an instinctive call they make to help their mom find them. However, don’t let your pup learn that you are at her beck and call. If you respond to the whining, even to say “Shh!” or “It’s OK,” your pup will learn this is a valid behavior. Instead, wait for that moment, however brief, when your pup stops whining, and step back in then. As your puppy gradually gets used to being alone, she’ll whine less and experience less anxiety during the longer periods you need to be away.

It might be difficult to distinguish between instinctive whining, which succeeds in getting a parent to find a pup, and a true anxiety attack. Listen for a distinct change in tone -- from whimpering to howling, for example.

Use Your Judgment
There’s not a standard time when you can first leave your puppy home alone. But ideally, you won’t leave him alone for hours at a time in the first few days. However, few of us can take time off from work to help a new puppy or dog adjust to our schedule.

As much as possible, base your decision on your puppy’s response to being alone. If your puppy can occupy herself by chewing or playing with toys or sleeping for half an hour at a time, you can try leaving her longer.

Be Calm
When you leave your puppy home alone, do so quietly and calmly (I tell my dog, “Love ya, leavin’ ya, bye!”) -- don’t get your pup worked up. And when you do come back, don’t make a big deal of it, even if you’ve been gone a long time. Let your pup calm down a little before you engage in the big love fest.

 

 


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