The fear of being left behind is practically ingrained in puppies. For puppies, it is essential for survival to always stay close to their mother and the pack animals. Left alone, a puppy is usually unable to survive. After the first 15 weeks with their mother, you can take over responsibility for the little dog.
Why puppies have separation anxiety
A puppy usually comes to you at an average age of twelve weeks. At this point, the puppy loses its sibling group and its caring mother. It is now up to you to take responsibility for the little one and give it security, food and affection. This is because the first foundation stone of his relationship with you is already laid at this time.
In order to have a well-socialised dog later on, make sure that the puppy is not separated from its mother too early. Separation at eight weeks of age, for example, can cause the young dog’s fear of loss later on. It is equally important for the puppy’s mental development that the little dog is not left to its own devices until it is 15 weeks old.
When it arrives at its new home, the puppy must come to terms with its first separation – and get used to its new caregiver or human family. Everything is new, exciting or frightening for him at the same time. Unfamiliar daily rhythms, noises, voices and smells are real hard work for the little guy. So first of all, the puppy has to build up trust in you and bond with you before you can even think about leaving your little four-legged friend alone.
The first steps to be left alone
You should not start training your puppy to be alone until he is five months old. Every puppy reacts differently when its caregiver leaves the room or the home. You may be lucky and your little one curls up in his basket and sleeps. But this tends to be the exception. Most puppies get nervous, start barking or whining, and may tamper with your home furnishings out of frustration and stress management. Therefore, it is important to approach the puppy’s alone time exercises gently.
Even your walk to the bathroom can be designed as a first exercise. The aim of this everyday exercise is to make it clear to your puppy: “I’m going into this room alone and I’ll be right back.” For the puppy, this “sudden disappearance” of his caregiver should become a matter of course. Therefore, it is important that you do not pay attention to the puppy beforehand. For example, let him play with his toy or chewing bone and use this moment to leave the room quite unobtrusively. As quietly as you disappeared, you should also appear inconspicuously. On no account should you be tempted into a goodbye or make a big deal about your return by giving the puppy a special cuddle.
Another small exercise is to change rooms frequently without paying attention to the puppy. The little one will run after you – and not just once. Keep changing rooms until the puppy no longer enjoys running after you. When the puppy eventually accepts that you are in another room, then it is time for the next exercises.
The big step out the door
Now you can dare to leave your puppy alone for the first time by leaving your home. Again, it is very important that you are very unobtrusive, without making any farewell gestures or saying goodbye to the puppy. Close the door behind you, stop a moment later and listen for the sounds your puppy makes. If he immediately starts barking or howling, then go back inside, but without paying attention to him! In this case, you will have to go back to the preliminary exercises and train with him even more consistently. However, if your puppy behaves calmly, it is time to increase the length of time he stays away. At first it is enough if it is only taking out the rubbish, for example, later you can clean the front steps and at some point even a short shopping trip is possible.
If you already know that your dog only needs to stay alone longer at certain times of the day, train him to be alone at the same times. In this way he will learn to adjust his internal clock accordingly – and will be able to wait much more calmly for you to come back.
How long can you leave puppies alone?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this important question. Every dog is different in this respect. But especially in puppyhood, the rule is quite clear: as short as possible! Puppies generally have short sleep and wake phases and need to relieve themselves quickly. If the puppy wakes up too often in your absence and has to relieve itself, this can lead to the dog developing issues. He may also get into the habit of chewing on sofas and table legs out of frustration or fear. Unwanted behaviour patterns or anxiety disorders can be a result of being left alone too long in puppyhood.
Keep in mind that it is not appropriate for adult dogs to be left alone at home for a long working day. Up to five hours is considered the maximum.
If a new pet has joined your family you need to be perfectly equipped from the start to ensure they can settle in to their new life easily.
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