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 your puppy alone at home can be a stressful experience, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner. But as much as we would like to be with our pets all the time, for most people, this is simply unrealistic.

This reality creates a lot of stress in many pet parents. Particularly if your pup isn’t trained or fully housebroken, it can lead to lots of anxious thoughts while you’re at work, or enjoying a night out with friends.

It’s important to realize that canines as a group are very social animals that tend to form pack tendencies.

But even with this fact in mind, most dogs are more than able to stay by themselves for at least some amount of time without displaying anxious or unwanted behavior, such as chewing or peeing where they shouldn’t.

In this post, you’ll learn how to train your juvenile dog to be alone without experiencing the extremes of separation anxiety.

How Long Can You Leave a Puppy at Home?

This 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.

Training your pup to use pee pads is a wonderful way to acclimate him to a schedule so that he knows there’s a safe, designated spot to relieve himself inside.

If you know you’ll be away from home a lot, don’t set your puppy up for failure, and make sure to potty him to use pee pads as soon as possible.

But bear in mind that no matter what amount of pee pads you use, or how well your dog is trained, it’s 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, and your pup may become insecure and possibly even destructive.

Leaving a Puppy Home Alone: A Novice’s Guide

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.

So don’t just pick him up, drop him 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 connect with your new best friend.

Show him around the house, and make him as comfortable as possible before leaving him alone. That way, he will have a chance to get to know you better, and also trust his new environment.

Next, do a test run — after a few days home, check how your pup 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. Take Care of His Needs

You can’t expect your puppy to react well to training and bonding if his basic needs aren’t 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.

Estimate your pup’s feeding requirements by looking at his food label, calculating, or consulting with a vet or pet nutritionist. Then, spread out his meals evenly throughout the day (preferably up to four times).

You can also free-feed him, but doing so has some disadvantages. For one, your dog may develop picky eating habits later on in life. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Water, on the other hand, should always be available.

3. Get Him His Own Bed

Getting a dog bed is one of the first things you should do before leaving your puppy alone at home, as this is one of the spots where he will spend most of his time.

Find one that’s appropriate to his size, so it can make him feel as safe, secure, and comfortable as possible.

You also want to look for a product that’s waterproof, or at least machine washable, since even the best pet owners can expect to experience accidents from time to time, particularly in the puppy’s first 6 months.

RELATED: Best Waterproof Dog Beds

4. Consider a Dog Crate

Crating is an excellent option for a puppy who experiences separation anxiety.

But 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 (as long as they’re padded and cozy).

Oftentimes, puppies will see the crate as their den, and a place to escape to when they’re anxious or need some time alone.

If that describes your fella, then there’s no question that a kennel is right for him.

RELATED: Best Dog Crate for Separation Anxiety

5. Offer Him a Chew Toy

No matter how cute your new friend is, his tendency to chew is probably one of the most annoying problems. Dogs will happily chew everything from your books to your shoes, and even furniture if there’s nothing else available.

Amongst the plethora of toys on the market, it’s important to be aware that a young dog has different needs than an adult canine. Similar to how human infants become cranky during teething, a puppy is no different.

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.

Get one that you can safely freeze and fill it with canned food, canned pumpkin, plain yogurt, or peanut butter, and throw it in the freezer.

Once needed, take out the toy, give it to your pup, and walk away. Not only will it last longer, but it will also tire out your good boy, both physically and mentally.

6. Install a Playpen/Pet Gate

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.

Just as you want 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, remember that as well behaved as your pup may be with you and your family, a protective nature is instinctual.

For this reason, don’t let strangers suddenly approach him, and take measures to put him in confinement or a separate room when unfamiliar people visit your home.

MidWest Foldable Metal Exercise Pen / Pet Playpen, 24"W x 24"H

A dog playpen is an excellent solution for both of these issues.

For best results, be sure to leave the playpen open. Not only will your pooch 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.

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 pup becomes claustrophobic inside his pen, or you simply don’t have enough room for one, you can try the next best thing.

Just make sure you get the height right, especially if your little one is a jumper.

7. Puppy-Proof Your House

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

This will help him stay out of trouble, and minimizes the potential for disaster if he does happen to escape his crate while you’re away.

Need a few ideas about where to start?

  • 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
  • Get a dog-proof trash can

8. Set a Nice 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 normally do a great job, and they’re generally safe and cheaper than turning on the air conditioner.

Other cooling products, such as a mat or vest can also be used to help cool down.

When it’s too cold outside, make sure to leave extra blankets. While some people prefer heater fans, you must be present to supervise due to potential fire damage.

9. Keep Some Light On

Fear of the dark isn’t 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 source.

If you leave your house in the morning, it’s easy to forget to turn on the lights. But if you’re planning on returning home late, you may find your pup shaking and scared.

That said, a small desk lamp near the playpen or the pet gate should be more than enough.

10. Mask Any Outdoor Noises

Make sure to close the windows, and leave some sort of background noise to mask 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, some type of white noise, and even certain types of music would surely be better than a completely quiet apartment.

You can also try the National Geographic channel — the wildlife and nature images along with the narrator’s calming voice might help your pup relax and fall asleep.

Alternatively, search for dog relaxation music on YouTube, or check out this album bundle designed specifically for scared and anxious dogs.

11. Use Your Old Clothes

Puppies find calm in the smell of their owners, this is because your scent is like a security blanket for them, and it makes them feel as though you’re nearby, even when you’re not there.

So whenever you can, take a smelly t-shirt or sock and leave it where your puppy can see it. You’ll only make it easier for him.

12. Avoid Over Spoiling Him

We all love to pamper our dogs, but it’s not always the right thing to do. Trust 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’re away.

No matter the age, over spoiling can lead to an anxious dog that will most likely chew furniture, pee around the house, and bark all day.

13. Give Him Some Space

Even though it can be difficult, try to ignore your smooshy little pup from time to time. 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 some independence is healthy and that most accidents happen out of boredom or loneliness on your puppy’s part.

So, avoid creating a situation where he’s overly dependent upon you. Instead, try to get him used to spend some time on his own, so he doesn’t panic and see it as a bad thing.

Whether you’re watching a movie, reading a book, or eating your dinner, simply give your pal the cold shoulder. In the meantime, he can relax quietly anywhere he wants in the house, or if you prefer, in his bed or crate.

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

Just remember that when it comes to puppies, small steps is the best way to go.

14. Make Sure He’s Tired

Everyone knows that a tired dog is a good dog, so make the effort to wear your pup out before you leave him alone for a few hours. You can take him out brisk walk or play fetch, anything goes, as long as you do something that will exhaust him. Otherwise, he will manage to find other ways to release his pent-up energy.

In addition, include 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 also his brain, 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. That means no petting, cuddling, hugging, or kissing.

Leave the house without interacting with your puppy at all, and wait until he settles down when you come back in. At first, he will be excited and try to gain your attention by jumping and barking at you. Don’t fall into this trap!

Giving in to his demands will only make things worse, and may even nurture separation anxiety.

16. Invest in a Pet Camera

Okay, I admit. I used to watch my dog all day when he was a puppy. I hanged a webcam on his playpen and could see and hear everything while I was at work. This peace of mind is just what I needed.

If I were you today, I’d look for an easy-to-setup camera that can be accessed from any mobile device, 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 that you’re interested in.

17. Ask Other People for 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 late. Also, check if you have someone in your family or a friend that can help you out.

This will give your pup a chance to stretch out his legs, and get some fresh air, which can only have a positive effect on his behavior. It sure beats coming home and finding a big mess and a stressed-out pet.

As a first-time dog owner, are you comfortable leaving your puppy alone at home? Tell us in the comments.

31 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

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