Leaving your puppy alone for the first time can be worrying. You might be concerned about how your puppy will react or whether they’ll get themselves into mischief!
Read on for top tips from a certified separation anxiety professional to help you prepare your puppy for being alone for the first time.
8 steps to leaving your puppy alone for the first time
All of these steps are best taken when your puppy is at their calmest and has had a potty break. Ensure your puppy has had their needs for attention, play and toilet before you start any training.
1. Create a safe space for your puppy
Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and they’re not remotely aware of risks! The first step to prepare your puppy for being home alone is to create a puppy-proofed safe area for them to stay in.
If your puppy is happy in a crate then you can use this. Otherwise you may use a puppy pen or a baby gate to keep your puppy in a secure and safe space. All of these options allow your puppy to still see you during the early stages of training, which offers reassurance.
2. Make your puppy’s safe space a happy place
You want your puppy to feel at ease and relaxed in their safe space, so build up positive associations with it from the get go.
To start with, you may not close the door to the crate or pen – see how relaxed your puppy is and play it by ear. Stay close by and give your puppy a nice chew or treat to tuck into whilst in their pen/crate or designated safe space.
Ensure you let your puppy out of their safe space before any crying or whining, and increase their time spent in there gradually.
3. Keep separations short and uneventful
Spending time alone is a new skill for your puppy, so we want to build it up gradually. To start with, you can pop to the kitchen and put the kettle on or put the trash out and return. Make these short departures uneventful and swift, and your puppy will begin to learn that you leaving is no big deal.
4. Begin building up separation from you when you’re home
Before you leave your puppy home alone, you need to gradually build up time in a different area of the house from you when you’re home. Once your puppy is comfortable with your mini-departures, you can try slipping into another room for slightly longer periods.
5. Get a puppy cam!
When you first leave your puppy home alone, you’ll need to be able to keep a watchful eye over them to see how they’re doing. Set up a baby or puppy camera and connect it to your phone so you can keep watch when you leave.
6. Don’t make a big deal
We want your puppy to learn that you coming and going is no big deal. We started this with mini departures when you went to put the trash out or put the kettle on. When you leave the house, you want to do so with the same lack of fuss and attention.
Make sure you know where everything you need to take with you is before you start making motions to leave. That’s your keys, your phone and your jacket!
7. Don’t have anywhere to go!
The biggest mistake people often make when leaving their puppy for the first time, is putting it off until they absolutely have to go somewhere. This makes it stressful for you and potentially stressful for your puppy if you can’t return to them quickly.
The key with preventing separation anxiety and teaching your puppy to be happy home alone, is to return BEFORE they show any signs of stress.
For your first few departures, that might mean you’re only gone minutes. You might not even make it off the front yard!
8. Schedule regular short departures and build up time
Make your separation anxiety prevention training part of your regular routine and build up your little trips out gradually. Keep a close eye on your puppy camera and return to your puppy before they begin getting in a tailspin.
As your puppy’s confidence grows, you’ll soon see they find being alone is no big deal.
Early experiences shape your puppy’s emotional blueprint, so it’s important to set them up for success from the beginning.
Get your free guide to puppy socialization done right here.
If you suspect your puppy might be struggling with time alone, take a look at the symptoms of separation anxiety here.
Or reach out for help here.