Helping a new puppy to feel relaxed, safe and happy when they spend time on their own is tricky at the best of times but it's an even harder job during the current lockdown. We are restricted with where we can go and we can't leave the house unless it's essential, it feels like a mountain to climb. It's so important that you start alone time training now with your new puppy, don't wait until you go back to work which let's face it could be months away. By that point, your puppy will have become too dependent on you that they will find it very hard and they will struggle to cope. Prevention is better than a cure in this case.
Decide On a Confinement Area
I am a big fan of confinement areas when it comes to puppies. It makes me feel uneasy when I turn up at a clients house and the puppy has access to the whole first floor. I think of all the opportunities that the puppy has to get into mischievous or worse danger themselves. There are options when it comes to confinement areas and again it depends on the puppy and how you train it. You can use a crate, a playpen or baby gate off a small room. Whichever option you choose, take time to make it the best place for your puppy to hang out, think of it as your dogs Disneyland. Ideally, they can spend a short amount of time in there without getting distressed.
Give Them Something To Do
The aim of this training is that the puppy feels happy, comfortable and safe when you aren't in sight, so don't leave them in there initially without anything to do. Boredom won't help your puppy to enjoy being alone. Kongs, lick mat and safe chew toys stuffed with food are perfect for the job and they will keep your puppy busy and hopefully tire them out enough to have a little snooze once they've finished. If you use part of their daily food portion to help with alone time training then you can do 2 or 3 kongs a day. This step won't last forever, later down the line a simple biscuit will do the trick when you go to work but remember you are trying to create a very strong association with being left alone so don't be stingy at this initial stage.
It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Every puppy is different which means the pace that you go with alone time training might be different than Joe's next doors. Once you've decided on the confinement area and you've introduced a fun, tasty food toy in the confinement area then it's time to get started. At this stage I always recommend that you plan alone time training around your puppies toilet schedule and naps, that means don't try alone time training when they are likely to need the toilet and don't try it when they are full of beans, if they are sleepy then they are more likely to settle.
Pop your puppy in their confinement area, give them a kong and when they get stuck into the kong you can nip out of sight for a few minutes then come back in, hopefully, your puppy didn't notice that you were gone but if they did then next time stay in the room and read and work up to getting out of sight.
My Top Tips
Don't let your puppy become a velcro dog, allowing your puppy to follow you around the house and sleep by your feet is a lovely feeling but it's not helping them to become independent little pups. Using baby gates to stop your puppy following you, they can still see you but they can't follow you to another room.
Toilet time is your time. Going to the toilet or having a shower is a great opportunity for your puppy to have some alone time, the toilet door stays shut!
Wi-fi cameras are very useful when it comes to alone time training, being able to keep an eye on your puppy and know exactly what they are doing when you aren't there can help you know if they are coping and whether to increase duration next time.
Don't let them cry it out and they won't just get used to it without any help from you. Invest in the time to help your puppy enjoy time on their own.
Keep your departures and arrivals low key, don't rush in and make a fuss of your puppy, say hello to be polite, then give them attention after a few minutes.
If you need any more help on this, book an online session today and we can come up with a plan for your puppy.