How To Teach Your Dog To Be Alone

Discussion in 'Labrador Behavior' started by pippa@labforumHQ, Jul 29, 2018.

  1. pippa@labforumHQ

    pippa@labforumHQ Administrator

    May 10, 2011
    Learning to be alone sometimes is harder for some dogs than others. It’s not particularly natural for a young dog to be on it’s own, these are social creatures that would normally live in a family group.

    That said, most dogs do learn to be alone, and coping with being alone is an important skill for any pet dog in our modern world.

    I've put some notes on how to teach your dog to be alone in this post because it's a question that comes up quite frequently on the forum

    Why do dogs need to be alone?

    Even if you are retired or work at home you need to teach your dog to spend time alone.

    Dogs that fuss and get upset when they are alone are not well equipped for living in the human world

    None of us can guarantee our dogs permanent company.

    You can’t predict the future and if anything were to happen to you and one day your dog may need to stay temporarily (or permanently) with someone else

    For a dog that is not used to being alone, just being left while his owner goes to the bathroom can be upsetting. And dogs that howl and bark when left for a couple of minutes can be difficult to re-home if anything happens to their owner

    When is the best time to teach dogs to be alone?

    The ideal time to teach a dog to spend time alone is before 13 weeks, as a part of the whole puppy socialization process. It isn’t the ONLY time, but it is the best Don’t wait until your puppy is older, or leave him for long periods during this early training process, if you can avoid it.

    Use his willingness to accept new things at this age to establish lots of tiny breaks between you. But avoid leaving him so long that he gets upset.

    Simple steps like being able to shut a door between you for five seconds are a cause for celebration in a tiny puppy. Practice going in and out of your front door with your car keys in your hand long before you actually intend to leave your puppy alone in the house.

    If your puppy misses out on this learning stage you can still teach him to cope with being alone, but you’ll need to take is slowly, little step by little step

    How to teach your dog to be alone

    The key principles here are

    • To make being alone something that happens gradually so that it never becomes distressing
    • To make being alone quietly and calmly more rewarding than being alone noisily

    Dogs don’t find being alone scary if it happens slowly and builds up over time.

    Dogs DO find being alone scary if they are left alone for long periods, if something upsetting happens to them while they are alone, if they are left alone until they are desperate to go to the toilet or until they have an accident.

    Remember, when you leave your dog they have absolutely no idea you are ever coming back.

    Only by you repeatedly coming back after an interval that is not upsetting, will your dog learn that going away is no big deal.

    SOLUTION: Leave your dog alone many many times for tiny short periods of time. Build these periods up gradually - we are talking seconds here not minutes.

    Some dogs will bark and get excited when they are left, even if they are not upset.

    Unfortunately this means that they are much more likely to GET upset than a dog that just lies down quietly and falls asleep when you leave.

    SOLUTION: Reinforce calmness in the crate or when alone.

    You can do this using the ‘click for quiet’ routine

    Why am I struggling to teach my dog to be alone for a few minutes?

    Most people who struggle with this process have simply moved the goalposts too fast.

    Look for a baseline from which to progress. A period of time for which your puppy or older dog can cope with losing visual contact with you. This could be as short as two seconds to begin with.

    How can you disappear for only two seconds? Place your dog in a crate (or behind a baby gate) next to a door and move the door until it blocks your dog’s view of you then immediately open it again

    If your dog can't cope with seeing you disappear for a second? Try moving half of you behind a door, then all of you - just momentarily.

    Remember to reinforce the dog for being calm while you disappear.

    If your dog is inclined to bark when you go out of sight use an event marker such as a click or the word YES, to mark any calm behaviour. This means that you can still reward the dog even if they start making a noise before you can deliver a treat or open the crate and pet them.
  2. barrmatt

    barrmatt Registered Users

    Jul 30, 2018
    Thanks for this. I have a 9 week old puppy, and am using Click for Quiet with him in his crate. He is doing great (I think!). He howls and cries for about ten seconds after I leave the room, before being quiet again and these gaps are increasing quite quickly - within 4 days he is able to be quiet for up to 25 seconds. My question is - should I expect the initial howls to subside, or is that to be expected as he's still quite little? Or am I taking it too fast, and should I shorten the gaps? Thanks for the help!
  3. barrmatt

    barrmatt Registered Users

    Jul 30, 2018
    I should say - I am using a clicker to make his silences
  4. KonaTip

    KonaTip Registered Users

    Aug 23, 2018
    Thank for this article! We have been using your advice and been building up the time she is left alone, started small, 10-30secs over three weeks,then today for two hours (in her crate with lots of praise ). When I came home she was sound asleep and I loved her up then spent lots of time outside with her, then we had quiet snuggles!
    Jade likes this.
  5. Tess Howell

    Tess Howell Registered Users

    Feb 25, 2019
    Eastbourne,East Sussex
    I’m still new to this problem.
    My 9 week old puppy gets so upset when I leave the room for any amount of time.Ive been using the clicker and lots of praise but he howls and only stops when he’s asleep.
    He got his jaw stuck on the pen today and fortunately I was there and was able to release him. I feel terrible and terrified he will hurt himself!
    But I have to be able to leave the room from time to time.He has lots of cuddles and time with us in the evening on the sofa.Hes been really good at socialising and has done so much:
    Visits to the sea,family ,shopping,restaurants and more.We have both been actively trying to get him used to life before the 3/12 is up .
    He seems to hate his pen, but he has to be safe and secure at present .
  6. Paige Bower

    Paige Bower Registered Users

    Sep 11, 2019
    My 5 month old still barks like crazy when I walk through the door after being alone. Normal? He is quiet when I leave (with his kong), but is barking upon my return. Maybe he just hears me? Not sure.
  7. marta5

    marta5 Registered Users

    Dec 16, 2020
    nice post!
  8. Rosie the black lab

    Rosie the black lab Registered Users

    Jan 31, 2021
    Nova Scotia Canada
    Our 12 week old whines and sings crying songs in her play pen before and after she is fed and walked. But overall we find that if she is exercised enough throughout the day she is much quieter and it's easier to leave her alone between activities.
    We also found some videos online about giving them instructions to be alone. So we're trying to teach her to stay and lay on her bed and that while she stays we leave a few chew toys to keep her busy and calm.
    The nylabones for puppies have been so helpful!
  9. bekzclz11

    bekzclz11 Registered Users

    May 9, 2022
    Teaching Alone Time

    Begin by closing your puppy in the confinement area with a chew toy or other constructive activity, then quietly walk out of the room. Return immediately and reward them with praise and a treat. Repeat the process, slowly increasing how long you're away each time.

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