When you're at work, out for a walk, or on vacation, a beloved and loving dog waits for you at home. To prevent this from becoming a tragedy, it's important to teach your dog to stay home alone. I'll tell you how to do it quickly and even make it fun. If you follow my tips at the end of this article, your pet will not only learn to calmly endure separation but will also learn to enjoy some alone time.

What does a dog feel when it's home alone?

Dogs are social animals and usually don't like being alone. Even if there are other pets in the house, a dog may feel anxious due to separation from its beloved owner. Thus, the idea of getting a second pet to keep the first one company doesn't always work.

When left alone without their owner, dogs may bark, howl, damage property, or relieve themselves indoors. In this way, they try to cope with their feelings.

Punishing a dog for this is pointless: it will only make them more distressed, and this will not reflect well on their behavior.

A properly trained dog will simply ... sleep in your absence.

But what you really need to do is correct the behavior, i.e., teach your dog to stay home alone. And the sooner you start, the higher your chances of success. But before you start training, you need to understand the root of the problem.

Is loneliness really the problem?

To solve the problem, you first need to understand its cause: why exactly is the dog anxious? It's possible that the issue is not at all about separation from you. The dog may be acting out due to simple boredom or anxiety, for instance, caused by a disorganized daily routine.

Before leaving your dog home alone, analyze whether it gets enough physical activity and mental stimulation. An adult dog should have at least two hours of walks per day. Ideally, the time for walks should be evenly distributed: an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. If you only take your pet out for 5 minutes in the morning, it won't have enough time to expend energy and play properly. Left alone at home, it will look for ways to use its energy and keep itself occupied. Usually, in such cases, either the apartment or the neighbors suffer.

During walks, it's important for the dog not only to run around but also to engage its mind: navigate obstacles, solve problems. Practice commands and tricks for at least 15 minutes a day or play search games with your dog. Searching for a hidden toy is an excellent mental exercise.

If you find yourself lacking the energy for activities with your dog, you can give it a puzzle toy with food inside or a snuffle mat – you can hide treats in it, and the dog will search for them.

How to Leave Your Dog at Home Alone Painlessly?

If your pet is fully exercised but still can't stay home alone, then the problem is based on anxiety. To distract your dog from its worries, leave some entertainments for it. The most effective are those associated with treats. For example, toys that can be filled with food, snuffle mats, or long-lasting chew treats. The monotonous movements of the tongue and focus will help the dog distract from sad thoughts and fall asleep.

If the anxiety is severe, the first method may not work. Then, you'll need to specifically train your dog to stay alone. We've prepared a step-by-step guide on how to do it correctly, quickly, and with minimal stress (For more details on "How to Train Your Dog to Stay Home Alone" read this article https://pottybuddy.co/blogs/potty-buddy-blog/how-to-train-a-dog-to-stay-home-alone):

Step 1. Teach your dog to relax in your presence.

To do this, take some treats, go with your pet to its bed, command "Place!" and throw one of the pieces onto the bed. The dog will run to find the treat. While it is chewing the treat, staying in place, approach, praise, and place the next piece on the bed. In this way, you reward the dog for staying in its place for literally a few seconds.

Gradually increase the intervals between rewards. Praise and reward the dog if it sits down on the bed from a standing position or lies down from a sitting position and puts its head down. If the dog leaves the bed, take a minute break and try again.

Step 2. Add distractions.

Once the dog has learned to lie relaxed on its mat, you can start adding "distractions" to the training. Initially, try stepping away from the dog by just 1-2 steps. If the pet stays lying down – reward it. If it jumps up to follow you, wait until it calms down, and try to simplify the task. For example, only step one foot away. If it stays lying down – good job, it gets a treat. If it jumps up – start over. But always end the training session on a positive note. You can make the conditions more challenging if out of five attempts, only one is unsuccessful.

Step 3. Incorporate actions.

Now that your dog stays lying on the mat when you move away, it's time to add actions you perform when leaving the house. Introduce them into the exercises one at a time. And once the dog gets used to them, combine them together. For example, the dog lies on the mat while you take your coat off the hanger, put on your coat, put on your shoes, grab your keys, turn the lock, open the door, step out into the corridor, close the door, and lock it.

As the dog learns to stay calm when you leave the house, gradually increase the time you spend outside the door. At this stage, it would be great if you could monitor the dog via video. This way, you can analyze how it reacts to your departure and adjust the exercises accordingly.

Short trips out of the house can be made once the pet learns to stay calm alone for half an hour. And now for a pleasant surprise: after 2 hours of separation from the owner, time seems to blur for the dog. That is, it makes no difference to them whether you are gone for 3 hours or 5. So, don't worry about this. The main thing is that their needs are met. And remember, leaving a pet alone for more than 8 hours is not advisable.

If your pet damages property or exhibits unclean behavior, We recommend first training it to stay in a crate. But the crate must be spacious enough for the dog to freely change positions.

How long will the training take?

Prepare in advance: changing emotional associations is a slow process, and it's not the dog's fault. On average, a pet can be trained to stay alone within 2-6 months. However, it's important to act correctly, be patient, and not punish the dog: otherwise, you'll regress both in training and in building a trusting relationship.

If you see no progress at all within two weeks of training, it's better to seek help from a behavior correction specialist. They can help refine your approach and save you time.

What is useless, and sometimes even dangerous?

Even if upon your return the dog has chewed up all the shoes in the house, made several puddles, and bitten the leg of the table, there is no point in scolding it. Accept it as a fact: the dog physically cannot understand the reason for your anger. Instead, it will become scared, more nervous, and will likely cause even more trouble next time.

For the same reason, forget about electronic collars that punish the dog. They will only cause your pet pain, add to its anxiety, and exacerbate the problem.

Not to mention, using them is cruel.

You will need time and patience to calmly leave your dog alone. But you will definitely succeed! So, do not delay and start as soon as possible: so that neither you, your dog, nor your neighbors suffer.