Leaving a Puppy Alone at Home for the First Time

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leaving a puppy alone at home for the first time

Leaving a puppy alone at home, especially for the first time, can be a stressful experience.

But as much as we want to be with our pets all the time, for most people, this is unrealistic. This reality creates a lot of anxiety in many pet owners.

Think about it, particularly if your pup isn’t fully housebroken, it can lead to lots of anxious thoughts while you’re working late or enjoying a night out with friends.

The good news is that leaving a puppy at home is not only possible, but it’s easier than you might think!

In this post, you will learn how to make your juvenile dog feel safe and ensure that he won’t get bored while you’re away.

How Long Can You Leave a Puppy at Home?

Realistically, the answer depends on the age of your puppy.

In general, puppies need a bathroom break once every hour for each month of age. This means that a 1-month-old puppy needs to relieve himself every hour, while a 5-month-old puppy can wait longer for relief.

If you know you’ll be away from home a lot, don’t set your pup up for failure and make sure to potty him to use pee pads as soon as possible. That way he knows there’s a safe, designated spot to relieve himself inside.

But bear in mind, no matter what amount of potty pads you use or how well your dog is trained, it is poor form indeed to leave him alone for more than 6-8 hours at a time.

With any longer of a span for real outdoor potty breaks, even the best pads may experience absorbency issues.

Our Best Tips on Leaving Your Puppy Home Alone (for the First Time)

1. Spend Time with Him

Bonding with a new pet takes time, especially at a very young age. When you first bring your puppy home, keep in mind that he’s probably anxious at best, and outright terrified at worst.

Be sure to time it so you have at least a few days free to connect with your new canine companion. Show him around the house and make him as comfortable as possible before leaving him alone for the first time.

But don’t start by being away for 8-10 hours straight.

In his first days home, gradually separate from your puppy (this will help him adjust more easily). Go to another room, take out the trash, and as your pup stays calm, slowly increase your time outside of the house.

2. Take Care of His Basic Needs

You can’t expect your 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.

Before you even think of bringing a new pet home, be sure that you have the time, patience and resources to raise him right.

Much like human babies, puppies tend to eat several times a day and they need constant attention. Estimate your puppy’s feeding requirements by consulting the puppy food label or ask your vet.

Then, spread feeding time out evenly throughout the day (usually, up to four meals), or schedule them using an automatic pet feeder.

Of course, you can always free-feed your puppy, but doing so has some disadvantages.

For one, he may have a hard time getting on a proper feeding schedule later on in life, develop picky eating habits, or in the worst-case scenario, experience obesity and other health problems.

Fresh water, on the other hand, should always be available.

3. Get Him His Own Bed

Selecting your puppy’s bed is one of the first things you should do before bringing him home, as this is one of the spots where he will be most likely to immediately imprint upon.

Look for something that’s appropriate to his size and that will make your puppy feel as safe, secure and comfortable as possible.

You also want to select a material that’s waterproof, or at least machine washable. Even the best pet owners can expect to experience accidents from time to time, particularly in the first few months.

4. Consider a Dog Crate

Most puppies love the sense of security a durable crate provides, and they often consider it their den. Therefore, crating is an excellent option for a puppy who experiences separation anxiety.

Aside from providing him with an area that’s associated with comfort and safety, crates can even serve a double purpose as a dog bed.

If you know your pup is anxious, then there’s no question that a kennel is right for him.

RELATED: Best Dog Crate for Separation Anxiety

5. Give Him Something to Do

As much as you may love your puppy, his tendency to chew is probably one of the most annoying problems. Puppies will happily chew everything from your books to your shoes to your furniture if there’s nothing else available.

Amongst the plethora of toys on the market, it’s important to keep in mind be aware that a puppy has different needs than an adult dog. Just as human infants become cranky during teething, so is a young dog.

Therefore, you want to seek out a toy that’s specially rated for his age. Chew toys have different textures and materials that help to provide stimulation to the gums, while minimizing discomfort.

A frozen dog treat is another good idea!

As you may already know, cold helps numb sore gums. If you have a puppy, you should always have this one hand.

Find a durable chew toy that you can freeze (like this Kong for puppies), stuff it with canned food, canned pumpkin, plain yogurt, or peanut butter and keep it in the freezer.

Before you leave, take out the Kong, give it to your pup and walk away. Not only will it help to soothe his swollen gums, but it will also keep him physically and mentally active while you’re away.

6. Set Up a Confinement Area

You shouldn’t let your puppy roam freely before he’s fully house trained and knows his limits. This isn’t only about convenience, but about safety as well.

Just as you want to watch him to be sure he doesn’t have an accident on your floor, you want to also be sure he’s not messing with electrical wires, household chemicals or anything else that could be dangerous (more on this later).

Also, as well behaved as your puppy may be with you and your family, remember that a protective nature is instinctual. For this reason, you want to take measures to put him in confinement or a separate room when unfamiliar people visit your home.

A dog playpen is an excellent solution, but you should consider leaving it set up for the majority of the time. Not only will your puppy begin to recognize it as a regular part of his day to day surroundings, but he will also begin to perceive it as a safe space.

However, if you don’t have enough room for a playpen, you can try the next best thing – a pet gate! Just make sure you get the height right, especially if your good boy is a jumper.

7. Puppy-Proof Your House

Your puppy can’t tell what’s dangerous and what’s not. Although confining him while you’re away is a good place to start, you need to be sure your home is as safe as possible.

This means he will stay out of trouble and minimizes the potential for disaster if he does happen to escape his crate.

Here are some quick ideas for you:

  • Always cover power outlets and use cord protectors
  • Hide harmful household supplies and medications
  • Watch out for poisonous houseplants
  • Pick up small items and little parts from the floors
  • Remove books and other objects from high shelves
  • Invest in a good dog-proof trash can
  • Avoid toxic holiday decorations such as tinsel and mistletoe

8. Set the Right 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 and ceiling fans do a great job and are generally safe. Not only that, it’s cheaper than turning on the air conditioner during the hot summer.

A dog cooling mat or vest can also be used on humid days.

When it’s 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.

9. Keep Some Light On

Fear of the dark is not only limited to children, many pets dislike total darkness too. Be sure to take this fact into consideration and avoid leaving your puppy uneasy and alone without any light.

When you leave your house in the morning, it’s easy to forget about these things. However, if for some reason you come back late, you may find your pup shaking and scared.

A small desk lamp or nightstand lamp near your dog’s bed should be more than enough.

10. Mask Any Outside Noises

Close the windows and leave background noise to drown out the sounds of honking cars, yelling neighbors, barking dogs and scary thunders.

Whatever noise is frequent when you’re home with your puppy is most likely very soothing. For example, the hum of a fan, a white noise machine, music and even the TV should feel more natural to your pup than a quiet apartment.

Try the DOGTV or National Geographic channel. The wildlife and nature images along with the narrator’s calming voice might help your pooch relax and fall asleep.

Alternatively, search for dog relaxation music on YouTube or Spotify, or check out these soundtracks, created specifically for scared and anxious dogs.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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11. Reuse Your Old Clothes

Puppies find calm in the smell of their owners. Our animals gravitate towards the things that smell like us because our scent is like a security blanket for them, which makes them feel as though we’re nearby even when we’re not.

So whenever you can, take a sweaty T-shirt or a smelly sock and leave it where your puppy can see it. If you’re feeling creative, here are some fun ways to repurpose old T-shirts you no longer need.

12. Don’t Spoil Him Too Much

We all love to pamper our dogs, but it’s not always the right thing to do. Trust me on this, the more attention you give to your puppy, the more he will depend on your presence, and the less confident he will be when lest alone.

No matter his age, over spoiling can lead to an anxious dog which will most likely chew furniture, pee on the floor and bark all day.

13. Teach Him It’s OK to Be Alone

Though it can be difficult, you should ignore your puppy sometimes. The worst thing you can do is make him believe he needs your attention to be happy or to feel safe.

You need to understand that most accidents happen out of boredom or loneliness on your puppy’s part.

As much as you love your pup, independence is healthy. As I mentioned, you don’t want to create a situation where he’s overly dependent upon you. Instead, try to get him used to spending time alone so he doesn’t panic and see it as a bad thing.

Whether you’re watching a movie, reading a book or eating dinner, simply give your furry friend the cold shoulder.

The purpose of this is to build confidence and teach your puppy to stay calm and relax, even when he’s not getting any attention from you.

Just don’t make it a habit. Our dogs still need us, and ignoring them for long periods can lead to more behavior problems.

14. Make Sure He’s Tired

Everyone knows that a tired dog is a good dog, so make the effort to wear your puppy out before you leave him alone. Take him for a brisk walk and even play with him or he will find other ways to release his pent-up energy.

Also, incorporate some mental exercises, brain games and other puzzle toys in your puppy’s routine as these require him to use not only his body, but his brain as well, which can be very tiring.

15. Don’t Make It a Big Deal

You need to make sure that entering and leaving the house is done calmly, which means no petting, cuddling, hugging or kissing.

Leave without interacting with your puppy and wait until he settles down when you come back in. At first, he may try to get your attention by jumping and barking at you. Don’t fall for it! Simply ignore him.

Giving in to his demands will only reinforce bad behavior and may eventually lead to separation anxiety.

16. Invest in a Pet Camera

All right, I admit. I used to watch my dog all day when he was a pup. I installed a webcam on his playpen and could see and hear everything while I was at work. But getting it to work was tricky.

If it were today, I’d probably get a security camera with an easy setup, and make sure it has a wide-angle view, as well as night vision, just in case.

Some cameras even have additional features, such as motion tracking, noise detection, two-way audio, activity and barking alerts, and even treat tossing if that’s something you’re interested in.

17. Hire Professional Help

Perhaps most importantly, you need to consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter that you can trust and rely on in case you ever need help caring for your puppy.

Finding the right person can be difficult though.

Luckily, there are some websites that can connect you to local caregivers, so you can check out any references or reviews they might have. One of these services is Care.com, which you can join for free.

However, in order to unlock some of the advanced features (such as background checks), you’ll have to upgrade your account: Here you can save 20% on Care.com Premium Membership.

If it’s every once in a while, you can try asking someone in your family or a friend if they can visit your pup and take him out for a quick walk and a bathroom break.

Bottom Line

Canines as a group are very social animals that tend to form pack tendencies. Even with this fact in mind, most puppies are able to stay by themselves for at least some amount of time without displaying anxious or destructive behavior.

By following the tips above, you are sure to train your puppy in a positive manner without experience the extremes of separation anxiety.

Now you, what’s your biggest problem in leaving your puppy alone at home for the first time? Tell us in the comment below!

33 thoughts on “Leaving a Puppy Alone at Home for the First Time”

  1. Hi there my name isMichael I’m getting a Belgian malinois puppy he’s 9 week old
    I work 5 days a week 8hr a day I go to work 5am to 2:30pm I have no idea how or where
    I leave my puppy and should feed him one and when I come back feed him again or
    I feed him in morning and when I go to work leave him food in he’s plaet
    It’s that ok if I leave him in the dog crate for 8 hr

    Reply
    • Congrats on getting a new puppy!

      You should not crate a 9-week old puppy for more than 3-4 hours. Small puppies have very poor bladder control so they need to go outside every few hours.

      If you do not have the option to walk your pup often, you can hire a dog walker or use pee pads while you are at work.

      Either way, remember to confine your dog using a playpen or pet gate to avoid potty accidents and keep him safe while you are away.

      As for meals, puppies should eat three to four times a day, so try feeding your puppy before you head out to work, then again at noon, and once more in the evening.

      You can also free-feed your puppy but it is better to keep a consistent schedule, especially during housetraining.

      Reply
  2. My puppy is 4 months he was fine when we left him alone at first, now he goes mad in the crate biting the bars crying and getting in a bit if a state we have to take him everywhere which is very unpractible sometimes any advice please

    Reply
    • Sounds like separation anxiety. In that case, I love to use a Kong to ease the dog’s boredom.

      Simply fill the toy with treats or peanut butter (you can also freeze it) and give it to your puppy right before you leave.

      A crate is a great tool for controlling separation anxiety, however, if it increases your dog’s anxiety, I suggest trying either a playpen or pet gate which are less confined.

      Reply
  3. Hi we have a 9wk old black labrador girl. She sleeps well in her crate overnight for 7-8 hours with the door open, and she toilets on a puppy mat at back door, which i pick up during the day and we take her out regularly for her toilet breaks…which is going pretty well.
    We have had her for 5 days and i timed it so we would be off with her in the school holidays and she will be 12 wks by the time i go back to work. I will be gone 8-12 home for lunch and then 1-4. How should i start preparing her for this as at the moment she will only go in her crate to sleep at night. I have put treats in and she is happy to go in and out in the day but naps behind the sofa. Also she gets distressed if we all leave the room.
    Thank you for your advice.

    Reply
    • Nice job!

      While treats are a good way to get your puppy into his crate, they won’t keep him there very long.

      That’s why I recommend using a stuffed Kong toy, which should last much longer (especially if frozen), to help distract puppies when you leave them.

      Quick tip: Make sure the bottom of the crate is padded and comfortable.

      Reply
      • We are in a very similar situation – the advice is give the puppy a kong but that will only last for 10-20 minutes.
        Is there anything else you can do to stop the puppy whining when we leave the room?
        She is in her crate, with a frozen kong, water and toys, but whines when she wants our attention.
        Thanks,

        Reply
        • Hi Alan,

          Really, the best thing you can do is ignore the whining until it stops.

          In the meantime, I’d suggest getting a bigger Kong! By the way, what’s your go-to filling?

          Reply
  4. Very helpful advice in the video, thank you! We have a new Havanese puppy and need to start going out without him so will be using these ideas.

    Our last dog, a Tibetan Terrier, LOVED his Kong Biscuit Ball. I would let him see me preparing it about 15 minutes before we planned to leave. From that point forward, he’d follow me around and stare as if to say, “OK, you can leave. Just leave. Don’t worry about me. Just gimme the Biscuit Ball. Go on now. Go ahead. I’ll be fine. Go. Go.” Even though Tibetan Terriers often have some separation anxiety, he was 100% cool with being alone and I’m sure it was due to the Biscuit Ball!

    Reply
  5. I have had a 9week old puppy for about two weeks. He sleeps in his crate without crying or having to pee throughout the night. I have had to leave him about three times now for ~two hours. I walk him at 7:45am and leave at 9am. He cries as soon as I leave and I can hear him as I walk towards my home.

    Reply
  6. I have a 12 week old Pittie puppy. I have been working half days since we got her a week and a half ago and can continue that through the Thanksgiving Holiday. She currently stays in her crate for about 4 hours when I leave in the morning. Starting the beginning of December I will need to just come home at lunch for about an hour. I was wondering if leaving her in the crate in the morning (approx. 4 to 5 hours) and then putting here in a playpen after lunch (again 4 to 5 hours) is a good idea and how may it affect housebreaking. She is currently good, but I am vigilant about taking her out now.

    Reply
    • Hi Robin,

      At this age, it can be challenging for a pup to “hold it” for more than three hours (especially in a roomy playpen). In your case, I’d think about using pee pads, at least until your dog has better control over her bladder.

      Reply
  7. I have a 11 week old french bulldog and has her for 4 weeks. She sleeps in a crate at night, she normally cries for 2-3 minutes then falls asleep and sleeps through the night without any accidents.
    We haven’t left her alone yet but would like to get this started. I am very worried about leaving her. It’s only going to be for an hour or so probably not even very day.
    I started putting her in her crate during the day for 10 minutes leaving her but not leaving the house and all she did was cry for 5 mins plus, is that because she’s doesn’t want to be there? Or she’s just being a drama queen.
    I haven’t tried a kong yet. I have tried a chew toy.
    I have seen that leaving a radio playing will calm her.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Arabella,

      If you’ve already taken your puppy out for a potty break and she keeps whining in her crate, she’s probably doing it to get your attention.

      In this case, the best thing to do is to leave the room and ignore her until she’s calm and quiet. Giving her a kong to play with can certainly help, as well as leaving the radio on or playing some relaxing music.

      Reply
  8. I have an 11 week old Malti Poo. I’ve had her for over a week now. I believe she suffers from separation anxiety. I was looking up ways to help, i got her a crate, i put it in her play pen and i got her a Kong toy and filled it up. She goes in and out of her play pen because i have her food in there and I’ve put the kong toy in it. I’ve walked away, and it only takes her about a minute or two to notice I’m not around and the gate is closed. The other night we had to step out for about 2 hours, i had the playpen set up, with her bed, food and wee wee pad. I put my tv on a timer and then i had a sound machine on and left a lamp on. We have furbo so we knew it took her almost 30 mins to calm down from us leaving. She whines and cries very loud. What can we try to do to help with this? Her cry is piercing when she’s in enclosed in her play pen.

    Reply
    • Hi Kristina,

      It may take your pup some time to get used to being alone. If she seems to calm down after 30 minutes, it’s actually a good sign!

      Try working through her whining and this will eventually stop.

      Reply
  9. I have a 9 week old pittie that we’ve had for a week now, my family and I don’t plan on leaving her fully alone for at least another week or so. She cries like crazy when left alone for even a couple seconds. From what I’ve read this seems to be normal behaviour especially in such young puppies, however it still breaks my heart. Once we start leaving her alone I understand a kong toy helps which we have and which she LOVES, we fill it with lots of treats and it keeps her occupied for about 10 minutes assuming she doesn’t get distracted on anything else. Do you have any more advice on how to transition her slowly into being alone for a few hours?

    Reply
    • Hi Jordan,

      This is completely normal, you just have to ignore her whining for a while.

      In the meantime, make sure to stuff a Kong with some peanut butter or canned pumpkin and freeze it so it can keep her busy for a while. If not, you might have to get a bigger toy.

      Reply
  10. I just got a puppy. He will be 8 weeks on Sunday. I wanna let him know it’s ok to be alone. I try not to be with him all day wether going to work or running an errand. Someone is usbally home but not in the same room as him. If he is left alone he cries and howls so loud. I don’t wanna give into his demands but I don’t wanna hear him cry. Is he to young to be left alone? Or how do I handle this? This is my first pup and I wanna set him up for success

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine,

      At 8 weeks old you should be able to leave your puppy alone for about 2 hours. However, start by leaving him in the room for short periods, then gradually increase the time apart.

      And most importantly — ignore him until he’s completely calm.

      Reply
      • Ok great thanks so much. Been trying to even tho he still cries! I don’t wanna rush to him because I don’t wanna spoil him. At the same time I can’t stand the noise lol not his fault. But thank you will try.
        Have a couple more questions, is there an email I can write to? I don’t wanna post them.

        Reply
  11. Hi all,
    I have an 11 month old puppy Labrador and I have yet to leave her in by herself. She goes to puppy daycare usually if my husband can’t watch her. However, she was. Spayed today and has to be off daycare for 10 days at least and my husband and kids are going to be at college all day this Tuesday. I don’t know what to do as it is me who is nervous about it leaving her.
    I have no way of telling how she will be
    Any advice?
    Jane

    Reply
    • Hi Jane,

      The good news is you have until Tuesday to practice leaving your puppy alone. Remember to leave the room for short periods (gradually adding time) and be sure to follow tip #15.

      Reply
  12. Hi I have a Maltese cross Shitzu 10 week old puppy, very hard not to cuddle and love he wants to sit on my lap whenever I sit down and sleep beside me. There will be times when he is going to left on his own. Is it OK to leave him in a secure room for a couple of hours with all his toys, water etc and pee mat which he is at this stage is not wanting to use.

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy,

      Not only is it okay, but it’s also very important for preventing separation anxiety later in life.

      Just be sure to do it gradually in order to build up his confidence.

      Reply
  13. My pup loves his kong. We have started crate training and we will be starting to leave him home alone soon, building it up and varying lengths of time. First time I turned my back on him in the crate he was going round in circles and was crying. He eventually lay down and was calm and I let him out and have given him a treat for that so he knows not to cry to get out. I haven’t fully left him home alone yet as we’ve been building up to him just being comfortable in the crate. He loves his Kong. Am I ok to leave the Kong in the crate when we go out for the first time?

    I don’t have experience of owning a dog myself before, my partner has always had dogs but always let them have free run of the kitchen when they were out but we have an open plan house now so can’t really do that as he will chew sofas and wires etc.

    We’re both currently working from home so have ignored him in the day while we’ve been working so he doesn’t get too dependent. Yesterday he got in his crate and slept for about 2 hours, which was a great sign and he got in there to sleep last night too. First full nights sleep we’ve had since getting him. I’m super nervous about leaving him though! I’m worried he’ll hurt himself in the crate crying and chewing and we’ll just end up going backwards, am I worrying too much??

    Reply
    • Hi Libby,

      KONGS are generally safe and we use them every time we leave the house. Have you considered using a pet gate/puppy pen?

      Reply
  14. Hi ! I have a 10 week old Shih Tzu who is ADORABLE ! Due to quarantine my mother has been watching her since she has been working from home but eventually she will be going back to work. Therefore, I do not want my dog to get used to constantly being around someone. I’ve been putting her in her crate for 10 minutes a day and leaving the room so she’ll get accustomed on being alone. But how exactly do I leave her alone? Should I open her cage when she’s crying? Ideally she’ll be alone from 12-5 but I do not know whether to leave her in the crate while everyone is gone or leave her in the bedroom loose with all her necessities ? She does pee and pop on the wee wee pad (but again sometimes she has her days of being a brat and not peeing in the wee wee pad)…..

    Reply
    • Hey Yaileen,

      Definitely don’t leave your puppy in a crate, especially for more than 2-3 hours.

      Instead, I’d set up a pet gate or playpen with some pee pads to make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble while you’re away.

      Reply

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