In this guide, we will explain why your dog should be able to stay alone and how to do it.
Why teach your dog to be left alone?
It is still often the case that owners do not understand the need to teach their dog to be left alone. Some continue to believe in the fact that a dog automatically adapts to all situations.
Since this is not the case, it is often very tricky to teach a puppy or older dog to deal with solitude.
Whether the dog lives in the city, in an apartment, in the country or elsewhere, he must be able to be left alone without constantly howling or destroying everything within his reach.
Living in close proximity to a howling dog as soon as the master is away can quickly lead to poor neighborhood relationships.
It is very important to never downplay a situation like this. It is essential to remedy or avoid it through education as soon as the dog arrives in the house.
In addition to bothering neighbours with his constant howling or barking, he can also very easily develop severe anxiety through such behaviour, which can later lead to behavioural disorders like depression, destruction and even self-mutilation.
How do you teach him to deal with solitude?
Whether a puppy or an older dog, the approach is the same, but learning is generally easier and less time consuming for the puppy than the adult dog.
A puppy with no skills at all is much more flexible than an adult dog that has to give up some skills and change them with new behaviours.
Understanding the dog’s natural behavior
A female dog raises her puppies until puberty. She teaches them all the basic notions such as cleanliness, socialization, hierarchy, autonomy, etc.
Depending on the age of the puppy, learning is done gradually between 0 and 5 months. Since most puppies are removed from the female at about 2 to 3 months of age, some educational gaps must then be filled by the education provided by the dog’s master.
It is only around 2 months of age that the female dog starts to gradually drive the puppies away. She drives them away little by little and then no longer responds to their requests nor sleeps with them.
It is generally by the age of 5 months that the dog is fully fit to sleep alone without any issue.
An attachment bond passed on
When a puppy is separated from his mother at the age of 2 to 3 months, he is not completely independent and tends to form an adoptive attachment to a person who is around him regularly.
If the puppy is welcomed by a single person, the attachment bond will usually be even stronger. If the puppy is adopted by a family, this bond may be unique or shared, depending on each case.
As his education could not be completed by the dog’s mother, it is essential to continue his learning as soon as he arrives in the household.
The attachment bond reassures the puppy, but he must quickly learn gradual detachment so that he can become a happy, serene, independent and more self-sufficient dog within his new family.
A few steps to teach your dog to be left alone
Simple rules applied every day with rigor and great patience are usually enough to gradually bring your dog to be able to stay alone without any problem.
- Give the dog a few days to get his bearings and feel safe.
- After a few days, no longer respond to all requests for play or dog stroking.
- Little by little, gently push the dog away from time to time and if he insists, show him his resting place (cushion, basket, cage, kennel, etc.).
- A few minutes later, call the dog back and take the initiative to play or cuddle him.
- Repeat this several times during the day.
- Do not allow the dog to “cling” all over the house.
- If this is the case, take him back to his resting place from time to time so that he can be left alone for a while.
- Position the resting place in a spot where he cannot observe all the comings and goings of the humans in the house.
- Avoid constant contact with the dog, either physical or visual, to avoid separation anxiety.
Once the dog is well adapted to a routine of solitude at his resting place even if the master is in the house, gradually begin training during the master’s absence.
You should start with a few minutes absence so that you can assess the dog’s reaction to bark, howl or destroy anything around him when being left alone.
- Avoid a departure routine in front of the dog.
- Avoid saying goodbye to the dog (be good, I’ll be back soon, etc.) before leaving.
- Avoid petting the dog before going out.
- Avoid kissing the dog before you go.
- Avoid taking your keys.
- Avoid putting on your coat.
- Adopt a natural attitude without ever feeling guilty before leaving.
- Avoid making the departure an important event that makes the dog even more insecure.
- Giving too much importance to the departure only increases the dog’s anxiety.
- Avoid refilling the food bowl before departure.
- Secure the dog’s accessible environment to avoid injury or prevent an extremely fragile object from falling and breaking into a thousand pieces.
- Take the dog out to relieve himself about 30 minutes before leaving.
- Have the dog lie down in his resting place and ignore him about 30 minutes before departure (this period can be shortened as time goes by, if the dog reacts well to the master’s absence).
- If he executes a request, take him back to his place of rest.
- Avoid running away, the dog must see his master leave to get used to it.
- Ignore the dog for about 30 minutes upon return (this time can be shortened if the dog does not destroy anything while the master is away).
- If he comes back, return him to his resting place.
- When you get back, if the dog has done something wrong, don’t scold him to avoid him associating the punishment with your return.
- Pick up any damage when the dog is not present.
Depending on the age of the dog and his background, the detachment stage may be shorter or longer. The dog is generally ready at about 5 months of age.
Before, he is not mature enough and after, the education process may take longer.
The situation must be adapted to each specimen because each dog breed reacts differently when left alone. The timing and way of doing things may sometimes have to vary depending on the dog and the handler’s habits.
After a few times, when the dog sees you leave and stays quietly in his resting area without tearing up the entire house, howling or barking, you can gradually increase the amount of time the dog is left alone so that he feels completely safe.
New products available on the canine market
First of all, if you have to go away for several days and cannot bring your dog with you, you can use a dog-sitting service or ask a relative or neighbour to take care of your dog while you are away.
Secondly, soothing pheromones are increasingly used by canine professionals to calm and soothe the dog alone in times of anxiety, thus promoting learning and safety.
It is a product that can be used in conjunction with the training period, especially when the dog is learning to stay in the house on his own.
As master, you must therefore ignore the dog’s requests and bring him back to his rest area, then return to pick him up a few minutes later showing him that it is not up to him to take the initiative but that this right belongs to the master at all times.
The education of the dog is often the opposite of that of humans. We can explain to a child how to act but the dog’s behaviour must be enforced.
Dogs need humans to respect their canine capacities in order to function well, but they also need sustained supervision in order to know their reference points and to refer to them on a daily basis to become an excellent life companion for years to come.
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