How to Leave Your Puppy Home Alone
by Eric Kancar, LVT
Leaving your new puppy at home can be a stressful event for both you and your puppy
yet it doesn't have to be. The following recommendations can decrease this stress and
make for a happy puppy both when you are with him/her and when you are not.
Steps in Leaving Your Puppy at Home
Prior to Leaving:
• Crate train your puppy from the moment you bring him/her home so that he/she can
be left in his/her "den" when you are not home (always remove the collar). Your
puppy is safe in the crate yet you should not leave him/her in it for more than 4 hours
at a time.
• Get your dog used to being alone while you are home. Teach him/her to sit, stay,
and remain calm especially while you are in another room. Reward with treats and
praise calm behavior. Gradually increase distance and time away.
• Exercise your dog within an hour of leaving so that he/she is tired and has
defecated and urinated.
• Leave the puppy a safe chew toy such as a Kong (can be filled with treats) which
will keep him/her occupied for several hours. The puppy connects getting a treat
filled toy with you leaving. This is known as a positive reinforcement for your pet.
• If you don't crate train your puppy, confine him/her to a separate safe room such as
• Puppy proof your house (ie: store chemicals safely away, put garbage in a locked
room so that they can't get to it, keep unsafe objects out of reach, etc). If you think it
might be a problem, it probably will be. Your puppy will become curious when left
alone. Think of him or her as a toddler that you are leaving home alone.
• When you are home with your puppy give him/her attention but give little attention
30 minutes prior to leaving. This prevents the anticipation of you leaving and the
event will come and go with little to no anxiety. Also, leave without saying goodbye,
simply walk out the door.
• Leave the radio or tv on for a distraction.
• Don't make a routine of your leaving. (ie: put your coat on and grab your keys at
times other than right prior to departure).
When You Come Home:
• Be reserved and calm so as to not make a big deal of your arrival (just as when you
left). Wait until the puppy is calm before interacting with him/her.
• Have your dog sit and reward him/her with a treat, which is a positive experience.
• Take them for a walk as soon as possible so that he/she can go to the bathroom
again and burn off some energy.
• Do not scold your dog for any inappropriate behavior…dogs only learn that they are
doing something wrong when you scold them while catching them in the act. They
don't associate what they did 2 hours ago with you yelling at them when you arrive
home. Scolding will increase their anxiety about your return home and that may lead
to continued destructive behavior. They will start to fear your return and you.
Separation anxiety is a behavior disorder that dogs can develop as they grow from
puppies to adult dogs. It involves a dog, who, when not in the presence of its owner will
take out its fear, stress, and nervousness in ways that are problematic to the owner and
are emotionally damaging to the dog. We don't always know why it occurs because by
the time a problem is recognized it is usually too late. Prevention is key in owning a
happy, emotionally well-adjusted dog that will provide you years of happiness as
opposed to years of stress and frustration.
The problems that arise from separation anxiety such as chewing, digging, property
destruction, barking, self mutilation and elimination are NOT done out of spite contrary to
what you might think. Dogs are social animals and deal with stress/anxiety in ways that
become problematic for both pet and owner.
Preventing separation anxiety before it happens is key. Following the above
recommendations can aid in the prevention of separation anxiety.