Welcoming a puppy into your life is like gaining another family member. You want to bond with him and teach him the rules of the house.
But as much as you want to be with your puppy all the time, this is unrealistic as there will almost certainly be times when you need to leave him at home alone.
This reality creates a lot of anxiety in many pet owners. Think about it. Particularly if your puppy is not fully housebroken, it can lead to lots of anxious thoughts while you are working late or enjoying a night out with friends.
The good news is that leaving a puppy home is not only possible, but it is also easier than you think. The first thing you need to understand is that most accidents happen out of boredom or loneliness on your puppy’s part.
You see —
Canines as a group are very social animals that tend to form pack tendencies. Even with this fact in mind, most dogs are able to stay by themselves for at least some amount of time without displaying anxious or destructive behavior, such as using the bathroom outside of a designated area.
Most healthy dogs are able to hold their urine temporarily when there is no ideal opportunity for relief. With a puppy, you need to make him feel safe and ensure that he will not get bored while your away.
As much as you love your puppy, independence is healthy. You should not create a situation where he is overly dependent upon you. Instead, try to get him used to spend some time alone so he does not panic and see it as a bad thing.
In this post, I will share some simple yet effective tips to help you with your mission of leaving a puppy alone at home for the first time.
How Long Can You Leave A Puppy Alone At Home?
Realistically, the answer depends on the age of your puppy.
In general, a puppy needs a bathroom break once every hour for each month of age. This means that a one-month-old puppy needs to relieve himself every hour, while a five-month-old puppy can wait longer for relief.
Training your dog to use pee pads is a wonderful way to acclimate him to a schedule so that he knows there is a safe, designated spot to relieve himself inside.
Bear in mind, no matter what amount of puppy pads you use or how well your dog is trained, it is poor form indeed to leave him alone for more than six to eight hours at a time. With any longer of a span for real outdoor potty breaks, even the best pads may experience absorbency issues.
Our Tips For Leaving A Puppy Alone At Home For The First Time
1. Spend Time With Him
Bonding with a new pet takes time, especially if they are very young. When you first bring a puppy home, keep in mind that he is probably anxious at best and outright terrified at worst.
Do not just pick up your puppy, drop it off at your place and leave a few hours later to go to work. Be sure to time it so you have at least a few days free to bond with your new canine companion.
Show the pup around the house, and make him as comfortable as possible before leaving him alone for the first time. If you bring him home on Friday, stay close by his side until Saturday so he gets to know you and trusts his new environment.
Next, do a test run. On Sunday, check how your puppy reacts when you go out and lock the door behind you. You can even wait outside for a couple of minutes to get an indication of how simple (or hard) it will be to leave him on his own.
2. Cover His Basic Needs
You cannot expect your new puppy to react well to training and bonding if his basic needs are not met. This means ensuring that ample food, water, warmth, and affection are available.
Related: What Do You Need for a New Puppy?
Before you even think of bringing a new puppy home, be sure that you have the time, patience and resources to raise him right. Much like human babies, puppies need constant attention and feeding.
Estimate your puppy’s feeding requirements by looking at his food label or consulting with your vet. Then, spread out the meals evenly throughout the day (generally, up to four times).
You can also free-feed your puppy, but doing so has some major disadvantages. For one, your puppy will have a hard time getting on a proper feeding schedule later on in life. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to obesity and other health problems.
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, puppies cannot hold their urine in for too long. If you know you will be away from home a lot, do not set your puppy up for failure and make sure to potty him to use pee pads as soon as possible.
3. Find A Comfortable Bed
Selecting your dog’s bed is one of the first things you should do before bringing him home, as this is one of the spots he will be most likely to immediately imprint upon.
Find for a bed that is appropriate to your puppy’s size, as well as one that will make him feel as safe, secure and comfortable as possible. You also want to look for a material that is machine washable since even the best pet owners can expect to experience accidents from time to time, particularly in the puppy’s first six months.
4. Consider A Dog Crate
Crating is an excellent option for a puppy who experiences separation anxiety. Aside from providing your puppy with an area that is associated with comfort and safety, crates can even serve a double purpose as a dog bed.
Most puppies love the sense of security a durable crate provides, and they consider it their den. If your puppy is typically anxious, then there is no question that a kennel is right for him.
5. Give Him Chew Toys
As much as you may love your puppy, his tendency to chew is probably one of the most annoying problems. A young puppy will happily chew everything from your books to your shoes to furniture if there is nothing else available.
Amongst the plethora of dog toys on the market, it is important to keep in mind that a puppy has different needs than an adult dog. Just as human infants become cranky during teething, a puppy is no different.
Therefore, you want to seek out toys that are specially rated for a puppy. These toys have different textures and materials that help to provide stimulation to the gums while minimizing discomfort.
6. Make Frozen Treats
Cold helps numb sore gums. Therefore, if you have a puppy, you should always have a stuffed chew toy in your freezer.
Pick a good chew toy that you can freeze (I recommend this Kong for puppies) and fill it with canned dog food, plain non-fat yogurt or peanut butter before you throw it in the freezer.
Once needed, take out the toy, give it to your puppy and walk away. Not only does this help to soothe swollen gums, but there’s also a good chance that your puppy will take a long nap afterward.
7. Set Up A Playpen
You should not let your puppy roam freely before he is fully housetrained and knows his limits. This is not only about convenience, but it is also about safety.
Just as you want to be sure your puppy does not have an accident on your floor, you want to also be sure he is not messing with electrical wires, household chemicals or anything else that could be dangerous.
Additionally, as well behaved as your puppy may be with you and your family, remember that a protective nature is instinctual. So don’t let strangers suddenly approach your puppy, and take measures to put him in a separate room when unfamiliar people visit your home.
A dog playpen is an excellent confinement solution, I used to have one of these foldable metal pens back in the day. You should use it every time you are out of the house and even while you are home.
A common mistake I see in puppy owners is that they fold the pen right after they get back from work. This only makes it difficult for your puppy to get used to his new space.
For better results, consider leaving the playpen open. Not only will your pup begin to recognize it as a regular part of his day to day surrounding, but he will also begin to imprint upon it as a safe space.
8. Try A Pet Gate
Another way to isolate your puppy from the rest of the house is by using a pet gate.
I talked about the importance of confinement in the previous tip, but if your puppy becomes claustrophobic inside his pen or you simply don’t have enough room for one, you can try the next best thing. But make sure you get the height right, especially if your puppy is a jumper.
9. Puppy-Proof Your Home
I already mentioned this previously, but I will say it again. Although confining your puppy while you are away is a good place to start, you need to be sure your home is as safe as possible.
For Starter, I Would –
- Cover power outlets
- Use cord protectors, such as this one from Amazon
- Hide harmful household supplies
- Pick up medications
- Get rid of poisonous houseplants
- Empty high shelves
- Clean the floor more often
- Get a dog-proof trash can
This will help your puppy stay out of trouble and minimizes the potential for disaster if he does happen to escape his crate while you are gone.
10. Notice The Temperature
Do you live in an area of extremes, where it can get very hot or very cold?
Just as you want to be cool in the summer, your puppy needs to have relief from the heat as well. Tower fans do a great job and are generally safe. Not only that, it is cheaper than turning on the air conditioner during the hot summer. A dog cooling mat can also be used on humid days.
When it is too cold, just leave your puppy extra blankets. Some people prefer heater fans, though you must be present to supervise due to potential fire damage.
11. Keep The Light On
Fear of the dark is not limited to children only, many pets dislike total darkness as well. Be sure to take this fact into consideration, and avoid leaving your puppy uneasy and alone in the dark.
If you leave your house in the morning, it is easy to forget to turn on the lights. But depending on when you return, you may find your puppy scared in a poorly lit room. A small desk lamp near the playpen or the pet gate should be more than enough.
12. Mask Outdoor Noises
Leave background noise to mask the sounds of honking cars, yelling neighbors, and scary thunders.
Whatever noise is frequent when you are home with your puppy is most likely very soothing. A fan, music and even the TV should feel more natural to him than a quiet apartment. After all, this is what he hears when you are around.
Give the National Geographic channel a whirl. The colorful nature images along with the narrator calming voice might help your puppy relax and fall asleep. Alternatively, search for dog relaxation music on YouTube, or check out this popular channel.
13. Use Your Clothes
Puppies find calm in the smell of their owners, that is because your scent is like a security blanket for them and it makes them feel as though you are nearby even when you are not.
So whenever you can, put yesterday’s t-shirt to good use and make it easier on your pup to stay alone.
14. Do Not Over Spoil
I know how much you want to pamper your puppy, but you should not overdo it. Believe me when I say that the more attention you give your puppy, the more he will depend on your presence and the less confident he will be while you are away.
Over spoiling can lead to an anxious puppy that will most likely chew furniture, pee around the house, and bark all day.
15. Leave Him Alone
Ignore your puppy several times during the day, whether you are watching TV or reading a book. The worst thing you can do is make him believe he needs your attention to be happy or to feel safe.
Your puppy can lay quietly anywhere he wants in the house, or if you prefer, in his bed or crate. The purpose of this exercise is to teach him to relax without getting any attention from you.
However, do not stretch it. Your pup still needs you, and ignoring him for long periods can lead to behavior problems.
16. Provide More Exercise
Everyone knows that a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure to tire your puppy before you leave him alone for the day.
Take him for a nice walk or throw him a ball, it does not matter. Do something that will exhaust him or he will find other ways to use his excessive energy.
I personally love playing fetch with my dog before I need to head out for a while. Find out what motivates your puppy to move or walk him outside until he starts panting.
Also, try adding mental exercises and dog puzzle toys to your puppy’s routine as these require him to use not only his body but his brain as well, which can be pretty tiring.
17. Come and Go Quietly
You need to make sure that entering and leaving the house is done calmly, that means no petting until your puppy is relaxed.
Leave the house without interacting with your puppy, and wait until he settles down when you return, even if it means to ignore him while he is jumping and barking at you.
If you give in, you may create separation anxiety issues down the road.
18. Watch Everything Remotely
I used to monitor my dog all the time when he was a puppy. I installed a camera in the direction of his playpen so I could see and hear him while I was at work.
If you are a bit obsessive like me, look for an easy to set up indoor camera that can be accessed from any device and make sure it has a remote pan and tilt, as well as night vision in case the lighting is poor.
19. Get Some Help
Commit to having at least one local dog sitter and a dog walker on your phone contacts, and use it as a backup plan in case you’re running a bit late. Alternatively, if you have someone in your family or a friend you can count on, ask them if they can help you out.
This will give your puppy a chance to stretch out his legs and release some energy, which can also have a very positive effect on his behavior.
Leaving your puppy alone can be a very stressful experience. By following the tips above, you are sure to train your dog in a positive manner without experience the extremes of separation anxiety.