Dog Training Essentials: How to Train Your Dog to Be Alone
Your dog is your best buddy, and while you want to spend as much time with them as possible, sometimes you’ll need to leave them on their own.
Fortunately, with proper dog training and the right gear, your dog can stay safe, secure, and comfortable when left home alone. Here’s how to train your dog to be alone and why it’s important.
Important Tips Before You Begin
Your dog is an individual. Before leaving them alone, you’ll need to consider the following factors:
- Age: Puppies and senior dogs can’t stay alone as long as adults.
- Health: Does your dog need medication at certain times of the day or have other health issues?
- Feeding Times: Dogs prefer consistent meal times and avoid using a treat method while training.
- Environment: Are there noises or other disruptions that occur in your neighborhood that might bother your dog?
Setting up a webcam is an easy way to watch how your dog handles spending time alone.
How Long Can You Leave Your Dog Alone?
Go slow. Leave your puppy alone for short periods at first, and increase the time gradually as they grow more comfortable. Assuming the dog has no health or anxiety issues, follow these American Kennel Club guidelines, which are based on age and bathroom needs:
- Under 10 weeks – Along for one hour max
- Between 10 and 12 weeks – Two hours
- Three months – Three hours
- Four months – Four hours
- Five months – Five hours
- Six months – Six hours
After six months of age, a healthy dog can stay alone between six and eight hours. Keep in mind that eight hours is the top limit for most dogs.
Training Your Dog to Be Alone
A few different dog training methods are available.
The Crate Method
Most people use the create method. Don’t let your dog run around unsupervised in your home, as they can cause damage or even accidentally hurt themselves. Plus, with correct training, your dog will feel safe and comfortable in their crate while you’re gone.
Training your dog to use a crate is a straightforward process.
Introduction – Set the crate in an area of your house that’s familiar to your dog. Allow them to sniff and explore it on their terms. Don’t force them inside.
Toys and Treats – To motivate your dog to enter the kennel, place their favorite toys and a few treats inside. Encourage them verbally with praise, but don’t physically push them.
Close the Door – Once your dog has stepped into the kennel, you can close the door. Stay close by where your dog can see you. Open the door if they start to panic. (Ideally, your dog will be distracted by treats.)
Supervised Stays – Increase the amount of time your dog stays closed in the kennel while you’re in the room.
Unsupervised Stays – Leave the room for longer periods while your dog is in the crate.
Let your dog determine the pace. If they’re comfortable in his crate, you can start leaving him in there for five or ten minutes at a time.
Once your dog is comfortable spending 30 minutes in his crate with you out of sight, you’re reading to leave him on his own for shorter periods. Every dog is different. Yours could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to feel comfortable when crated for a half hour.
The Self-Occupy Method
Dogs feel more comfortable when they’re left alone with toys or treats (called “environmental enrichment“) to help them stay occupied. Environmental enrichment toys also help prevent dogs from destroying their surroundings, which can occur due to boredom or anxiety.
While some dogs naturally enjoy self-directed play, others might need some coaxing. There are a few different ways your dog can play on their own.
Treats – Kongs and similar toys filled with peanut butter or yogurt will keep a dog busy. To increase the time the dog is occupied, freeze the treats first.
Puzzle Toys – Popular puzzle toys typically involve either a ball or a playset that the dog must interact with to release or uncover treats.
Chew Toys – Some dogs love non-food chew toys such as ropes and fake bones.
These types of toys work best if you keep your dog in a room, such as a gated bedroom, instead of a kennel. They’re usually best for adult dogs who have experience spending time alone.
Arrivals and Departures: How You Act Makes a Big Difference
Don’t make your comings and goings a big deal. Avoid excessive fanfare and celebration. Keeping your entrance and exit low-key helps your dog stay relaxed.
When you leave, you can tell them goodbye, but don’t draw out the occasion. Put your dog in their crate or other designated space, give them a treat, and then head out the door.
Upon returning, don’t interact with your dog right away. Instead, take a few steps to get settled by removing your coat and so on. If you wait until your dog is calm to pet them, they’ll learn to associate good behavior with praise.
Ideally, you want your dog to stay calm whenever someone leaves and returns during the day. It allows them to stay relaxed even if they are visited by different caretakers.
Can I Train My Dog Myself?
Absolutely! Training your own dog has many benefits. It’s convenient, affordable, and, perhaps most importantly, gives you and your dog a chance to bond.
If you need help learning how to train your dog, you can find a course for dog training online from Amphy that allows you to learn at your own pace.
With proper training and preparation, your dog will stay safe and comfortable when left alone for several hours. Initially, you should crate your dog, but as they grow into adulthood they can usually stay home alone in a gated room. Also, make sure they have mental stimulation such as treats and puzzle toys to help curb their destructive urges.
Knowing that your dog is happy when home alone will give you peace of mind when you’re away—and makes the eventual reunion that much sweeter!