Teaching Dogs To Love Time Alone
Updated: Jul 9
Some dogs love to be left at home, they thrive on the peace and quiet, and can spend the time snoozing away. However, some dogs feel the opposite and go into a state of panic from the moment you pick up the house keys! If you have a puppy or adult dog, you're likely to be reading this because you want to prevent issues or, you want to help your dog who is already struggling - don't fear, this article is packed full of tips to help with your dogs separation related anxieties.
Before You Start!
Has all of your dog's needs been met? Before training or preparing to leave your dog, make sure:
They have gone to the toilet.
They are not hungry or thirsty.
They have had a play or mental enrichment and are mentally satisfied.
Do not do activities your dog finds stressful e.g. walking a dog that is highly fearful of triggers outside.
They have all needs met.
They are not in pain or discomfort.
They have a comfortable or safe place to relax.
Where To Start?
One of the most common issues I come across when helping with time alone/separation anxiety is that dog owners think they are starting easy, but in reality, they are still asking too much. When we leave our dogs alone, we need to make sure we start at where they are comfortable - they are showing no signs of fear or distress. This may mean we start by leaving our dogs for no longer than 5 mins or no longer than 1 second - if your dog starts showing signs of stress after 3 seconds, then this is our threshold and we should be heading back before then!
Should I Let My Dog Cry It Out?
Simple answer, no. It's an outdated theory, and more and more research is finding that leaving your dog or puppy to "cry it out" causes stress and fear, which can eventually turn to full blown seperation anxiety! Even if they eventually go quiet, it's because they are 'shutting down' and giving up - this is not a sign that they are now comfortable or happy with being alone. "Crying it out" is often the cause of seperation anxiety and other anxiety related puppy behaviours.
Get yourself a dog camera! They are invaluable when doing time alone or seperation anxiety work. You are able to see how long your dog or puppy can tolerate being alone before stress signals start. You can start to time training so you are coming back just before stress starts.
Desensitise To Triggers
If your dog has a fear of being left, there's a good chance the fear is starting way before you leave! Our dogs can pick up on small signals to indicate when we are leaving; they are watching you pick up keys, put shoes on, or even having breakfast and anticipating that moment you leave. You can start to break these steps down and change their meaning e.g. put on shoes and walk around the house or pick up keys and place them back.
If you change the meaning, you change the expectation.
Coined by Emma Judson, the flitting game is a great way to help build independence in your dog! It's perfect for puppy training or dogs that already have seperation anxiety! The concept is to teach your dog that you are boring! It's much more rewarding to stay relaxed and comfy in their bed or on the sofa. Find out more here.
Dog Walker/Day Care
Investing in a decent dog walker or daycare will definitely help (or ask a neighbour/family/dog sitter)! This will give you opportunities to leave the house and do errands (or just have some time off!) without needing to worry about your dog's seperation fears. You can also start to ask them to message you before they drop your dog back home so that you can arrive a minute or two after - slowly helping to build time alone!
If you're still struggling, get help from a qualified, force free professional! Never use force or fear to work on seperation anxiety - it often makes things worse!
If you need help with seperation anxiety or any other training and behaviour issues, get in contact today!