Leaving your puppy alone
Dogs are group animals by nature and like to be accompanied by other dogs. In nature this is called their pack and in the home situation this is the owner and family. Family dogs have to learn to stay at home alone. They have to learn to trust that the owner will also come back. If a dog does not learn to stay on its own, then there is a chance of undesirable behaviour such as barking, tearing down and peeing in the house.
It helps to teach a dog as a pup to stay alone. It is important to realise that every dog reacts differently to being alone. This can be breed dependent, but also within dog breeds there are considerable differences. For this reason, when your dog is learning to stay home alone it is important that this training is tailored to your own dog.
Slowly build up
Slowly building up the time that your dog is alone, is important in order for your dog to get the confidence AND keep that confidence that you will also come back. If you leave your dog alone too quickly for too long, he can build up stress. This feeling is then linked to being alone, thus every time that he is left alone in situations after your dog will have a stress reaction. There arises a kind of negative circle that often is difficult to break through and sometimes can lead to real separation anxiety.
How independent is your dog?
Your dog can actually only learn to remain alone if he has a certain degree of independence and is not accustomed to walk behind you the entire day. This will therefore have to be practised first. When your dog sleeps quietly at night, it does not mean that he can also easily remain alone during the day. Going away during the day and staying away for a longer period is very different for your dog than sleeping alone.
Practising staying at home alone
Is your dog able to stay calm when you are in a different part of the house? Then you will be able to train your dog to stay home alone. For example, first only open and close the front door then actually go outside and slowly build up the time being away. Reward your dog if he remains calm and slowly build up the time being away. However, do not give too much attention to the dog at arrival. Going away and coming back should be seen as normal.
If necessary, link a fixed (short) sentence when leaving, such as 'see you later' or 'I'm back'. Your dog then learns that you are away for a while, but that you will also return. Do not exaggerate or give too much attention when saying goodbye or the period before you leave , because the contrast with being alone will be bigger when you are not there.
A kennel or dog crate can help when you're not at home. Before you start, it is important that your dog is completely used to the dog crate in a positive way. Read our article about kennel training for more information.
Can my dog really stay at home alone?
It can help to occasionally test whether your dog is actually quiet when you are away. You can film this with a camera or make sound recordings. You can also ask your neighbours to pay attention to whether they see or hear something when you are away. If you come home and your dog is quiet, this does not mean he has an easy time being alone. It is possible your dog stops barking once he hears your car engine or your foot steps toward the door.
Teach your older dog to stay at home alone
Older dogs can also learn to stay alone. However, sometimes there is a reason why older dogs cannot stay alone and there is real separation anxiety. It is often important to find out the cause of the behaviour with the help of a behavioural expert and to draw up a training schedule together with this expert.
Important for learning your pup how to stay home alone:
- Healthy doses of self-confidence in your dog before you start training
- Start as young as possible
- Build it up slowly
Some additional tips to make it easier for your pup to be alone:
- Turn on the radio when you leave.
- Give your dog something nice when you leave, such as a chewing treat. Check our website for the different dog treats or a stuffed KONG dog toy (for example the Kong Classic).
- Make your leave from the house a sort of ritual, so that your dog can prepare for your absence. This only works if your dog is already accustomed to being alone. A dog not well trained will become restless when he finds out you're leaving.