21 Tips to Teach your Puppy to Stay Alone – When You Are at Work or at Home

When you get a puppy you are planning to spend as much time together as possible. So teaching the puppy to stay home alone might not be the first thing on your mind. Sooner or later the puppy will have to be able to stay home alone. You have to go grocery shopping and sometimes have appointments where you will not be able to take the puppy with you. Even if you think that you will always manage to have someone stay with your puppy, you need to be prepared for emergencies.

Teaching the puppy to stay home alone also has other advantages and can help the puppy to develop self-confidence. It will be much more easy to slowly teach a puppy to also stay home alone instead of trying that with a grown dog that never had to stay alone before.

Leaving a puppy alone at home for the first time

Leaving the puppy alone for the first time is an exciting and maybe also a scary moment. Not only for you but for your puppy as well. He has never been alone before, so he slowly needs to learn it first. He is used to always be together with his siblings and his mother. So once he is taken out of that environment and moves in with you, you should make sure to take your time. The puppy has to get used to the new environment and all the new people around, leaving him alone right now would be too much. He would probably feel abandoned and could develop serious problems like destructive behavior or separation anxiety. Take it slow and let your puppy set the pace. In this phase of his life there is still a lot he has to learn and discover, so try not to overwhelm him by leaving him alone too early and for too long.

Why it is necessary to teach the puppy to stay home alone

You might just think that teaching your puppy to be able to stay home alone might not be necessary. You are home all the time and when you leave the house it is always together with your puppy. But that could backfire! Even if your current situation allows you to spend the whole day with your puppy, can you truly guarantee that it will stay like this forever? Situations change! So, who knows, in a few years from now it might be necessary for your dog to stay home alone sometimes. You need to teach a puppy the things an adult dog has to know. It is much easier to train puppies than it is to train adult dogs. If a dog did not have to spend any time by himself for the first few years of his life, he will have difficulties with it later in life. In addition, even if you do not want to think about it right now, what if your dog has to be rehomed one day? This is very difficult if a dog can’t even stay alone for a few minutes. Teaching your puppy to stay home alone will also prepare the two of you for emergencies. You do not have to worry if you need to leave the house in a hurry, because you know that the puppy will be fine staying home alone. Another benefit of teaching a puppy to comfortably stay home alone is that he will gain confidence. He learns to trust in himself, to stand on his own four paws and master new situations.

What is important when teaching the puppy to stay home alone?

In order not to overwhelm the puppy, there are certain things to take into account when you teach him to stay home alone. Start practicing with short periods. Only leave the puppy alone for a couple of minutes, maybe even seconds, at first. You don’t have to leave the house when you start practicing, try to simply leave the room and quickly return. Teaching your puppy to stay home alone works best with some distraction. Give your puppy a toy, a treat or a chewing snack so that he is busy. Then leave the room while the puppy is still busy. Return before the puppy has a chance to get upset or scared. This will ensure the first positive experiences with being alone. You should try to pick a certain spot where you want your puppy to stay during your absence. If you do crate training, it can be his crate, but the puppy’s bed is also a good spot for this. Tell your puppy to go to this spot and give him a treat or another distraction. Chewing toys that are filled with treats work especially good. The puppy will have to make an effort in order to reach the treats and will likely fall asleep after. In addition, the treats work as a reinforcement that being alone is not that bad. However, make sure that all chewing toys and treats are safe to leave your puppy alone with. Also, try to make the puppy’s bed or crate as comfortable as possible. Put down a soft blanket and a stuffed animal or two. A comfortable spot will help him to settle down quicker.

Crate or no crate?

Some people swear on crate training as it offers a safe place for the puppy and he settles down quickly. Other people oppose crate training because they perceive the crate as a ‘prison’ for the puppy. If you decide to do crate training then you can also use it to teach your puppy to stay home alone. It might come in handy to prevent the puppy from destroying and damaging things in your house and it can also protect him from himself.

Restricted access

However, there are also other ways to achieve this and crate training is not a necessity to teach your puppy to stay home alone. Make sure that the spot you want your puppy to stay at is restricted, though. You can use gates or barriers to block of a certain area. Puppy-proof that area and put all of the necessities in there. Puppies need access to fresh water at all times and it might be smart to also put their food in the restricted area. It is also smart to put a toy inside to keep the puppy busy while you are away. Puppies need some mental stimulation and it will help him to stay calm while you are away. You can also decide to leave the open crate in a restricted area. This will give your puppy the chance to go into the crate and get some rest, but he can still move around and will not be confined to the crate the whole time. This might even be the preferred version of using a crate for teaching your puppy to stay home alone. Crates should not be used for long periods of time and especially puppies should not spend too much time in a crate with the door closed.

Leaving the puppy in the yard

Of course, there is also the option to leave your puppy outside while you are gone. This is a special case because not every breed is equipped to spend a whole day outside. If you are in doubt about this, go and ask your veterinarian, he will know of your dog can stay in your yard. He can also let you know if your puppy’s vaccinations will protect him from the different puppy diseases there are. Before your puppy is fully protected, you should not leave him outside for too long and without supervision. Nevertheless, you can’t just put your dog in the yard and be done with it. The yard also needs to be prepared. Make sure it is puppy proof. Put away dangerous things like garden tools and remove all poisonous plants. The dog should not be able to get into any trouble while being in your yard. He needs shelter and necessities like water and food, also provide him with some toys so he has some stimulation. That is important to prevent the puppy from getting bored and keep him entertained while you are away. One factor to keep in mind when keeping the puppy outside is the noise he is going to produce. Your neighbors will not be happy if they have to listen to your puppy’s barking and whining the whole day. Make sure to slowly increase the stretches of time that you leave your puppy at home so that he has enough time to get used to it. Then is more likely to stay calm and not produce too much noise.

Leaving the puppy home alone and house training

It is important not to rush anything when you teach your puppy to stay home alone. One factor that plays into this is the puppy’s house training. When your puppy comes to live with you he is probably not housebroken, yet. You have to teach him that he is supposed to pee outside and that takes time. Not to mention a puppy’s bladder size. The bladder of a puppy is still quite small and it is physically impossible for him to hold his pee for more than an hour or two. So the house training pretty much sets the pace for teaching your puppy to stay home alone. You cannot leave the puppy alone for longer than he is able to hold his pee. At 12 weeks, most puppies will be able to hold it for about 1 to 2 hours. The bladder capacity will slowly grow and the puppy will learn to pee outside. If you then start to practice staying home alone, there is a chance that the puppy starts to pee and poop inside again and that the house training is set back. This is normal to a certain degree and once the puppy gets used to staying alone for a bit, it will stop again. If the puppy keeps peeing and pooping inside, that is a sign that you are leaving the puppy alone for too long. Take a step back and return faster the next time you practice. This increases the chance of success and the puppy learns that you always return in time. At 1 to 1 ½ years, the dog will be able to hold it for 6 to 8 hours. This does not mean that you can leave him alone for that long, though. Dogs still need company and exercise throughout the day. So make sure that he is taken out at least once during the day.

How to behave when you are leaving and returning

The right behavior when you leave and return can help the puppy to feel calm and relaxed. You are the puppy’s role model and he is likely to use your behavior as orientation for his own behavior.

Leaving the house

When you leave the house it is important to choose the right moment. Always take the puppy for a short walk before you leave. He can play and burn some energy and he can also go potty before you leave him alone. After returning, give your puppy a chewing snack or a toy. Put it in the spot where you would like your puppy to stay. Then you can calmly leave the house. Try not to make it more exciting than it is, do not say goodbye to your puppy or tell him how much you are going to miss him. This will only let your puppy know that something out of the ordinary is about to happen. Also, make sure to avoid the same routine every time that you leave. If you the same habit of putting on your shoes and jacket before grabbing the keys, your puppy is going to notice and will be able to anticipate when you are going to leave. When you leave while your puppy is still happily chewing or playing, there is a good chance that he will just fall asleep afterward and get some rest. It is important that the puppy has some stimulation while you are away and can distract himself with something else. Give him some safe toys or treats so that he is busy with something else and you can leave quietly.

Returning to your puppy

You need to pick the right moment for returning to your puppy. You should never return when he is barking or whining. This will only teach the puppy that you return if he just barks and whines enough. This can be difficult, though. How are you supposed to know when the puppy is calm and quite? One possibility is using a camera system. Lots of companies offer different camera systems to monitor your puppy while you are away. Some monitoring systems even allow you to talk to your puppy or give him treats! A simple camera can help you to pick the right moment for returning to your puppy. Another possibility to pick the right moment is to look through a window. When you return, take a peek inside and only enter the house if the puppy is calm and quiet. Most of the time it will be enough to stand in front of the door and listen to sounds. Even small puppies can make a lot of noise and you will probably hear him from the front door. Enter the house when the puppy is calm and quiet. Take note of your puppy’s mental state. Does he seem calm or stressed? This is a good indication if you have stayed away for too long. A stressed puppy probably means that he is not ready to stay home alone that long, take this into account the next time you practice. Do not immediately go to your puppy when you enter the house and do not give him a treat or a reward for staying home alone. This would make him think that it is an achievement and make the whole situation more exciting. The goal is to make staying home alone seem as normal as possible. After you have done something else for a couple of minutes, you can greet your puppy and take him outside. He probably has to pee and it will be nice for him to burn some energy.

Teaching your puppy to stay home alone and prevent separation anxiety

The prevention of separation anxiety in dogs is easier than treating separation anxiety once it has manifest itself. There are many books written on the topic of treating separation anxiety in dogs but the better approach is to try and prevent it all together. Taking your time to teach your puppy to stay home alone will help to prevent separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be caused by not properly teaching the puppy to stay home alone. Dogs that experience separation anxiety will become stressed when their owner leaves and exhibit destructive behavior. They will start to bark, whine and destroy things. It is also common for dogs with separation anxiety to pee and poop inside again, even when they are supposed to be housebroken. They will become visibly distressed and might even panic. You can actively prevent this by teaching your puppy that being alone is okay. You need to build the foundation for this when you are at home. Make sure not to spend every minute of every day focused on your puppy.

If you smother him with love and attention when you are there, he is going to miss you even more when you are gone. Limit your attention on him when you are at home so that he will not become dependent on your presence. It will also help to create a cozy space for the puppy. For small amounts of time, this can be the crate. If you do crate training, it will feel like a safe place and the puppy knows that when he is in the crate, he has to rest. The crate should not be used for long periods of time, though. Then it might be better to provide the puppy with an area where he can move freely. This should still be a restricted area, though. This comforts the puppy and he will feel more secure. You can use puppy gates or a designated puppy room in your house for this. Try to only practice with short amounts of time in the beginning. You do not even need to leave the house, just go into another room for a couple of seconds and return before your puppy has a chance to get upset. Your puppy needs to get used to being alone slowly. Then he will understand that being by himself is fine and that you will always return. This can help to prevent separation anxiety in puppies.

Leaving the puppy home alone when you are at work

Lots of people want to teach their dog to stay home alone while they are at work. There are certain factors that you should take into account. The puppy will not be able to stay hours by himself immediately. It can take up to a 1 ½ years until his bladder and bladder control is fully developed and only then your dog will be able to hold his pee for 6 to 8 hours. In the beginning, he will have to go potty more often. So you should take this into account and make sure to provide your puppy with enough opportunities to go outside and do his business. A growing puppy also needs more attention and time than a grown dog. Try to take as much time off work as possible, at least in the beginning, or arrange for someone to spend time with your puppy during the day. You should not leave him alone for long periods of time too early. When you are gone, you should provide the puppy with distraction. This can be toys or chewing snacks. Always make sure that these toys and treats are safe, though, because you will leave your puppy alone with them.

Make sure to go and walk your puppy before you leave the house, this will give him the chance to pee and burn some energy. Also, take him for a walk after you return. After being gone for some time the puppy will probably have to relieve himself. You should also try to arrange for someone to come by during the day to take the puppy outside and spend some time with him. Eventually, it will be enough for someone to come home during lunch to take the dog for a walk. But puppies need much more attention and you should try to find someone, a friend or a professional dog sitter, to spend more time with your puppy during the day. In the time that you are home, it is important to spend quality time with the dog. Go for a walk, play together and keep exercising. A well-balanced puppy needs enough physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Puppy pens and puppy-proofing

When you are preparing the house to leave your puppy home alone, you should puppy proof the area your puppy has access to. Handy tools to limit your puppy’s access to the house are puppy pens or gates.

Puppy-proofing the puppy area

When you puppy proof the area, you should remove all forbidden and dangerous objects. Forbidden objects are things you do not want the puppy to chew on. Like couch pillows, children’s toys or your slippers. Dangerous objects are things that might hurt your puppy. These can be poisonous plants, sharp objects or things with batteries in them. Puppies that are left alone for the first few times will probably want to go and discover the house. In order to keep the puppy safe, you should restrict his access to the whole house and puppy proof the area he stays in.

Puppy pens and puppy gates

A good way to restrict the puppy’s access to the house is using puppy pens or gates. These are easy to install in your home and without big renovations, you will be able to restrict your puppy to certain areas of the house. With puppy pens and barriers, you should always make sure that they are sturdy and made out of a suitable material. Puppies like to jump and chew, so they should not be able to knock over the barrier or chew out chunks of the material. You should also think about the fact that the puppy is going to grow. So pick a puppy pen or barrier that is high enough that the grown dog will not be able to jump over it. Choose a sturdy barrier or puppy pen so that the dog will not be able to break free.

Another pet as company

Some people decide to get a second dog or another pet to keep their dog company. While the thought behind it, trying to help their dog, is nice, it is not always beneficial. It depends on many factors. The type of pet, your dog’s character, the way you introduce them to each other and other unforeseeable factors. A second dog might be great for company, but there is also the chance that the two of them won’t get along and you end up with a big problem. The same is true for another type of pet. If you get a cat, for example, you can try to carefully introduce the two to each other, but there is still no guarantee that they will get along. You can increase the chance of your dog getting along with the second pet by asking for help pf professionals. They can advise you on what pet would be a good partner for your first dog and can even help you to introduce the two of them to each other. Make sure to do your research so that you won’t have to rehome the second pet. The type of pet, size, gender and character play a role and professionals are better able to access the situation. However, even when you are planning to get a second pet, the first dog still needs to learn to stay alone. This will be beneficial for his self-confidence and there is always the chance that the two pets will not spend their whole life together. So it is always good to teach a dog to stay home alone.

How old does a puppy have to be before leaving him alone?

The puppy’s age is an important factor when you want to teach him to stay home alone. Very young puppies should not be left alone for long amounts of time, but you should already start practicing to make it easier on the grown dog. You can start to practice after your puppy has settled into his new home. You do not even need to leave the house for the first few times. Simply give your puppy a treat or a toy and while he is busy playing or chewing and then leave the room for a couple of seconds. Make sure to return before the puppy has a chance to get upset. Try to practice this regularly so the puppy can get used to being alone and learns that it is okay to sometimes stay by himself.

House training and age

The pace of teaching your puppy to stay home alone will be set by house training. You can’t leave your puppy alone for longer than he is able to hold his pee, right? At 12 weeks, puppies can hold their pee for 1 or 2 hours, so you really can’t leave the house for long stretches of time. It can take up to 1 ½ years before you can leave the dog alone for up to 6 hours. So puppies need quite a lot of time before you can leave them alone for hours. If you are planning to leave the puppy alone for the whole day as soon as possible you should ask yourself if you have enough time for a puppy. They are highly social animals and need to live in groups. Being alone too much can cause behavioral problems and have an impact on a dog’s mental health. If you can’t properly take care of a dog, you should probably think twice about getting a puppy.

Guidelines on how long a puppy can be left alone

The amount of time you can leave your puppy alone depends on the puppy’s age and the progress of the house training. Young puppy’s should not be left alone for too long, but you can start to practice at this age. Puppies are simply not used to being alone, they are used to always being together with their siblings and their mother, so it is quite a harsh change for the puppy when he comes to live with you. Take this into account and give the puppy some time to get settled into his new home. Also take your puppy’s development into account. He still has a small bladder and not full control over his bladder muscles, yet. So you can’t leave a puppy alone for long, anyway. As a guideline, young puppies need to be taken every hour and once a puppy reaches 12 weeks, he will probably be able to hold his pee for up to 2 hours. Between 3 and 6 months of age you can count 1 hour for every month the puppy is alive, so a 4 month old puppy should be able to hold his pee for 4 hours. With 6 months, the dog might be able to hold it for 6 hours. So this is still not enough time to stay away for work the whole day. The dog will still need to be walked at least once during the day.

Is leaving a puppy alone bad?

Leaving a puppy alone at home is not bad if you approach it the right way. It can even benefit the puppy! Dogs are social animals, so if you get one you should make sure that the puppy is not alone for the whole day. Approaching staying home alone the wrong way can even lead to problems.

A puppy needs to properly learn to stay home alone

The most important thing with leaving your puppy home alone is to slowly teach it to your puppy. He is not used to staying home alone and will probably feel abandoned if you just get up and leave one day. Take it slow and start with only leaving the room for a couple of seconds. Then slowly increase the periods of time you stay away and after some time you can also start to leave the house. Learning to stay home alone will help the puppy to build self-confidence. He learns to fend for himself will be less dependent on your presence. And that is ultimately the goal of raising a puppy; enabling him to stand on his own four paws and helping him grow into a self-confident dog. Try not to practice too much in the beginning, though. The puppy is still young and needs to learn everything. Take it slow and let your puppy set the pace. It is better to practice with short amounts of time so that it will be successful, than trying for the longest amount of time possible.

However, dogs are highly social animals and instinctively want to spend as much time as possible with their owners. They need enough mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. So if you are getting a puppy with the goal of leaving him home alone the whole day, you should really reconsider if you have enough time for a dog. Leaving dogs alone too long and too often can lead to problems. Those dogs will exhibit destructive behavior and bark excessively as soon as you leave. It can even cause separation anxiety and other mental issues. Maybe you can work from home sometime or have a partner that can stay home on some days. You could also ask family and friends to take the puppy for a walk once a week or play with him sometimes. Most people will be more than happy to help out and it will be nice for your dog to have some company. You could also consider hiring a professional service. There are lots of pet sitters and dog walkers that specialize in taking care of dogs while their owners are gone.

Puppy crying when left alone

Your puppy might start to cry when you leave him alone. And that is completely normal. He is not used to being alone, yet, and will try everything to get you to come back. The most important thing is not to give in to his crying. Once he learns that his crying and barking will get you to come back, he won’t stop. Wait until the puppy stops crying and barking, and only then enter the room again. The puppy could also start crying after you have been away for some time. If this is a case, the period of time that you are away might be too long. Try to prevent the crying be returning sooner. This will probably also make your neighbors happy because even small puppies can bark and cry quite loud. Extend the periods of your absence only slowly. It takes time to teach a puppy to stay alone and trying to rush things will set you back. Another trick to prevent crying is providing your puppy with distractions. Try to give him a chewing toy filled with snacks or treats. This will keep him occupied and he will reward himself with the treats for staying by himself. He will have less time to cry and bark if he is busy with something else.

What type of dog can stay home alone?

In theory, every type of dog is able to learn to stay home alone. However, certain dogs are better suited to stay home alone than others. You need to take the dog’s breed, gender, size and character into account. The age also plays an important role. The type of dog that is best suited to stay home alone is intelligent, independent and able to entertain himself. He should not be dependent on you, or any company for that matter. There are lots of breeds that are known to stay home alone better than others:

  • Basset Hound
  • French Bulldog
  • Chihuahua
  • Shar Pei
  • Pugs
  • Bull terrier
  • Chow Chow
  • Akita Inu
  • Boston Terrier
  • Labrador
  • Golden Retriever
  • Beagle
  • Peekapoo
  • Shiba Inu
  • Bichon Frise
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Maltese
  • Toy Poodles
  • Miniature Poodles
  • Greyhound
  • Bullmastiff
  • Labradoodle
  • Whippet
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Chow Chow
  • Basenji
  • Kuvasz
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Plott
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Norwegian Buhund
  • Black and Tan Coonhound
  • English Foxhound
  • Norfolk Terrier

It might also be worth it to think about adopting an older dog from the shelter. This comes with several advantages. First of all, with older dogs it is much easier to discover their character. You will be able to judge his character and decide if he will be fine staying home alone. Older dogs are often more calm and collected than puppies, so you do not have to worry about that, as well. There are also lots of older dogs in shelters that are already housebroken. This is a big advantage and you do not have to teach this first. This is an important factor for leaving your dog home alone, because you will not be held back by your dog’s house training. It might be a good match to take an older dog from the shelter. He will have less problems with staying home alone and you can give him some nice years in your home.

21 tips for leaving a puppy home alone
  • staying home alone needs to be learned first
  • make sure that the puppy gets enough exercise before you leave
  • only slowly increase the time of your absence
  • start by only leaving the room
  • give the puppy a chance to do his business before you leave
  • immediately take the puppy outside when you come back
  • avoid to follow a certain routine when you leave the house
  • mind the puppy’s age
  • spend quality time with each other when you are home
  • provide the dog with enough mental challenges
  • restrict the area your puppy can move in
  • puppy-proof the puppy area
  • provide the puppy with essentials like food and water
  • offer distractions like toys or snacks
  • teach the puppy to stay in the crate or in the bench so that he can rest
  • turn on the radio or TV so that it is not completely quiet
  • try to go home in your lunch break to take the puppy for a walk
  • don’t hesitate to ask for help, dog trainers and therapists are experts for dog behavior
  • an older dog can serve as a role model
  • consider adopting an older dog from the shelter
  • with expert advice, a second dog could be great company

Written by Tinki in General


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