“Home Alone” training: Tips to avoid separation problems when you go back to work

One upside to the current situation is that we are spending plenty of time at home with our dogs. However, our dogs are quickly becoming accustomed to having the whole family with them all of the time. But what happens when we eventually go back to work and school? Particularly, for young puppies who may only have known their entire human family being with them, the transition back to “normal” life is going to be quite a change for them.

While we are at home, let’s be proactive and prepare our dogs for the time they will be left alone. Here are some home alone training tips you can implement now.

Set up a home alone area

Consider the place in your house or yard where your dog will spend their time when you are out of the house. For young dogs, good ideas for a home alone spaces are a laundry room with access to a small toileting area, enclosed deck or garage, or a room in your house that can be closed from the remainder of the house and gives access to a toilet area.

In this area, set up a dog bed or crate, water bowl and a toileting area (or access to the outdoors). Ensure this area is safe and secure, especially for puppies. There should not be any objects that the puppy could chew, climb on, become entangled in or pull onto themselves. Where the space has access to the outdoors, it needs to be secure too.

The space should also not be too large. We want to encourage rest and relaxation in this space.

Feed from a “stuffable” toy

Stop feeding your dog / puppy from a food bowl and instead give them their meals from a stuffable toy like a Kong toy. If you have 3 or 4 toys, you can “stuff” and freeze them in advance and then defrost one or two each day.

When you start feeding from a toy, take a note of how long it usually takes your dog to eat their meal. This will be important when you first start your home alone training.

Practise “leaving for work or school”

Now you have a home alone area set up and a dog that eats from a stuffable toy, you are ready to start your home alone training.

At the time you would normally leave for work or school, put your dog or puppy in their home alone area with their meal stuffed in their toy. Now the whole family needs to leave the house – you could go for a walk or drive or simply go out into the yard. Consider practising some normal “leaving rituals” like picking you keys and bags, closing doors and windows, turning off the TV, opening the garage door and starting the car.

When you first start this practise, you want to “return” home just before your dog or puppy has completed their meal from the toy. When you return, don’t make a big fuss, simply open the door and release the dog from their home alone area.

Each day incrementally increase the time you leave the dog by a couple of minutes until the dog can happily stay in their home alone space for an hour or more.

If you do need to venture out of the house during this time, practise putting the dog in their home alone space.

Incidental home alone practice

While the family is at home, put your dog in their “home alone” space, crate, or exercise pen etc with their toy stuffed with a meal. The family ignores the dog and goes about their business for the time it takes for the dog to eat their meal. This practice accustoms the dog to relaxing in their own space and not continually being in the presence of a family member. You could do this practise while you have a meal, watch TV, clean the house, put on washing or work from home.

Teaching the dog to be alone in a very methodical and gentle manner will help ease their transition to being left home alone when things eventually return to normal.

For whole food, homemade ideas for Kong stuffing please see: https://www.fullstride.com.au/blog/healthy-homemade-kong-filler-for-puppies

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay