While your puppy is still young, it might be difficult to leave it alone at home, even when you have to work. As much as possible, there should be someone left to supervise your pup, or, at the very least, you should try to get home as soon as you can from work or from anywhere you went to. But, at some point in the dog’s life, it has to be left alone, especially if you have to go to a place where you cannot take your dog with you. So, in that case, how do you train the dog to be left alone?
The best way is by teaching it some alone time as you gradually increase the time you leave your dog all by itself. Use a confinement area but make sure to keep your dog company with a chew toy or even with another pet if you want it to get used to life without you around it.
Dogs are certainly social animals that love being around the family. However, we still cannot avoid leaving our dogs alone for an extended period of time, especially if we have to work overtime or an important trip we have to go. That is why teaching your dog how to get used to life without you around is an essential part of its life.
How do you train the dog to be left alone?
In case you haven’t noticed, because you are a beginner in dog parenting life, dogs are social animals used to living life with their family or friends around them. Most dogs have been bred to get used to life living with humans or with other pets. And that is why dog parents should very well know that you have to keep your dog company as much as possible because it craves for someone to be there around it even if you probably aren’t giving it too much attention.
When dogs are left alone for an extended period of time, especially when they are not used to living life without anyone around, they might develop separation anxiety, which is a type of behavior wherein they would engage themselves in destructive behavior because of the anxiety they feel. Most dogs that have separation anxiety will try to chew on everything around the house, especially if they sense their owner’s scent on those things. That’s why a lot of owners who leave their anxious dogs alone in the house for extended periods of time will eventually notice a ton of mess courtesy of their furry pals.
So, if you don’t want your dog to develop separation anxiety, you have two options. The first is always to keep it company or have someone watch over your dog whenever you are not around. And the second one is a better option for you. This is when you have to train the dog to be left alone and know how to behave whenever you are not around to keep it company.
Puppies need attention but should be trained to have some alone time
When you had just brought a new puppy home, and you are trying to adjust to its new environment, you might notice how clingy the puppy is because it is still trying to learn more about the world around it. That’s why, at first, it might be difficult for you to leave the puppy alone. It will require a ton of attention from you, and you probably always have to be around it for it to feel safe and comfortable.
However, if you don’t want your puppy to be too clingy to you, especially when it becomes an adult dog, you may need to train it to have some alone time but not in the sense that you have to leave it alone for an extended period of time. In short, you may need to train it to get used to life without you around once it has adjusted to its environment.
The moment you bring your puppy home, the best way for it to get adjusted to a life living in confinement is to limit its access to all of the areas in your home. That means that you may want to have it begin its new life in a crate. So, in a sense, crate training your puppy early can help it adjust to life with its very own room as its safe space. In this case, that safe space is its crate.
If your puppy gets to associate a certain area as its safe space when it is left alone, it will be easier for you to train it to be left alone later on, even if you have a puppy that is particularly clingy in terms of human attention.
Positive reinforcement is the key
Even if you have a puppy that has been crate-trained and can be left alone in a create for quite some time, you still have to somehow transition it to a life where it is actually left alone in a larger room or even in the entire house. However, in this case, start with confined space or a room that isn’t too big.
The key here is to associate that confined place with positive thoughts or with something that the dog loves so that it would actually enjoy being in that place or room all on its own. Try leaving it in the room with a few yummy treats or with its favorite toy one to two minutes at a time so that it will actually tie that room with something positive such as the treats you gave it. Leave the room but stay at home. Do this repeatedly while gradually increasing the time you leave the dog on its own.
As soon as you can leave your dog in a space all on its own, try extending the area to the whole house and try leaving your home for as long as you can. Maybe try going out of the house or your apartment door for a few minutes to see how your dog will react to being alone in the home. Similar to what you did when you left your dog all on its own in a confined space, try doing the same procedure with the entire house.
However, make sure that you actually have a purpose for going out of the house, such as taking the garbage out or checking the mailbox. Even a quick run to the nearby store as long as you are not out for too long can be a good idea.
Make sure you are discreet
When you are leaving your home as you are training your dog to be left alone, try to make your departures and arrivals as quiet as possible so that your dog won’t be able to notice your absence quickly. If you are slamming the door behind you or making a lot of noise before you leave the house, the dog will begin to associate such noises and behaviors with you leaving it alone. In such a case, training to be left alone will be much more difficult.
Meanwhile, if you leave the house as discreetly as possible, the dog won’t be able to associate any noise or behavior with the thought of being left alone. This allows your dog to adjust to the feeling of being alone smoothly.
As much as it might be a great feeling to get home announcing your presence to your dog in a big way, try not to be too excited about it. Be as discreet with your arrivals as you are with your departures. This will make the dog feel anxious all day while waiting for you to come home. It would help if you were discreet with your arrivals because you don’t want to make your dog realize that waiting for you all day and seeing you arrive is something to celebrate about.
Leave your dog with something to do
When you leave home for work, make sure that you do not leave Fido without anything to do while you are away. In that sense, please make it a habit of leaving something to do for your dog so that it will stay mentally and physically stimulated the entire time while it is waiting for you to come home.
The simplest way of doing so is by leaving behind a chew toy with your scent so that your dog will actually enjoy chewing on it without feeling too anxious because of how it can still smell your scent on its toy. In some cases, you can be a bit adventurous by allowing your dog to go on a sniffing escapade by leaving treats scattered in strategic locations all around the house so that it would have something to do while you are away.
As long as you are leaving something for your dog to do so that it will stay mentally and physically stimulated while you are away, you may be able to make it adjust to a life without you by your side at home for extended periods of time. However, make sure that you don’t stay away for too long, or else no one will be home to take care of your furry pal.
Things will be easier if you have another pet
Those who own more than one pet will be able to notice how much easier it is to leave a new dog all on its own inside the house as long as the other pet has been trained to be left alone. The reason is that the new dog will have someone to accompany it at home. And if the other pet is used to live being left alone, your dog will feel less anxious knowing that the other pet doesn’t panic whenever you are not at home.
When is the dog old enough to be left alone?
No matter what its age is, a dog can be left alone in the house without you nearby. However, it would help if you considered here that dogs of different ages have their limits regarding how long you can leave them alone.
In the case of puppies already old enough to be brought home from a breeder, the limit should be only two hours. The reason is that they are not used to life being alone and that they prefer to have a sense of security by having someone familiar close by. Leaving them alone can lead to separation anxiety and can form bad habits early on.
Meanwhile, young adult dogs that are nearly two years old can be left alone in the house for up to six hours depending on the breed and depending on how you trained it. They can be left alone for that long because they have already developed the habit of resting or sleeping whenever they are not home. But make sure that you don’t stay out too long because they can still get anxious, especially when they get too bored after they had just woken up from their nap.
On the other hand, older adult dogs can be left for maybe half a day because they have already gotten used to life without you during certain parts of the day. As long as you left something for them to do at home and have a constant supply of food and water, these adult dogs will be fine being left for eight to 12 hours a day but make sure that you come home as soon as possible to keep them company.
How do you start training a dog to be left alone?
Teaching alone time or training a dog to be left alone can start as early as when you brought your puppy home from a breeder. For puppies, the best way to start is by crate-training them as early as possible to develop the habit of having a safe space, which is the crate in this case. However, crate training is not the actual training of leaving the dog alone. Still, it is a good start because it will be easier for you to allow the dog to associate certain spaces with their personal security.
When the dog is old enough, you can begin the training properly by leaving the dog in a confined area while associating that feeling with something positive such as a treat or a favorite toy. At first, and when you had just begun, try to limit the time you leave the dog to a few minutes before gradually increasing the time as the dog gets used to the training.
You have to start slow when you are training a dog to be left alone because shocking it by suddenly leaving it in your house for extended periods of time without even training can lead to separation anxiety. While adult dogs are not as prone to this, puppies are quite prone to separation anxiety. Later on, they may exhibit destructive habits, such as excessive peeing when left alone or destructive chewing on anything they can find in the house.
So, in your case, it is always best to start as slow as possible while steadily working your way up to the point where you can already leave the dog in the house when you are off to go to work.
How long can you leave a grown-up dog after it has been trained to be left alone at home?
Adult dogs are already used to living life without you nearby during certain stretches of the day. That’s why most adult dogs can be left alone at home without them developing separation anxiety. In that sense, you can leave grown-up dogs alone for about six to ten hours, depending on how they were trained to be left alone at home.
Most adult dogs try to sleep the entire time when you are alone, especially if you didn’t leave something for them to do or if they have already gotten used to that kind of a lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean that you can leave Fido alone in the house from early morning until evening without someone keeping him company. You have to be home as soon as you get off from work so that you can actually watch over your dog and provide for its needs.
But, as the dog gets older and older, it might be a bit risky to leave it alone for extended periods of hours. Older dogs can develop health problems later on. So, it might be too risky for you to leave them alone at home, especially if they have already become too sickly to be able to properly take care of themselves for more than four hours a day.