4 Tips for Leaving Your Puppy Alone for the First Time
Most people work outside their homes, usually for eight hours a day, five days a week. So when you adopt a puppy, your new dog may spend a good deal of time by itself. Puppies can be prone to separation anxiety, which spurs destructive behaviors. Here are some things you can do to keep your belongings safe, and your dog less stressed, when you’re leaving your new puppy home alone for the first time.
1. Get Some Exercise Beforehand
If possible, trying walking the puppy early in the morning before work. Longer walks are preferable, though some dog breeds need considerably more physical activity than others to stay physically and psychologically healthy. Ideally, if you adopt a purebred puppy, you should choose a breed that fits your lifestyle well.
2. Confine Your Dog Using a Crate or Dog Gate
Some owners crate their puppies while they’re at work, to prevent them from chewing furniture or soiling rugs. If you want to do this, you’ll need to go through the process of crate training, which can take some time. You can crate train a puppy by gradually introducing them to the crate for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, accompanied by plenty of treats.
Experts recommend not leaving a very young puppy in a crate for more than a couple of hours, varying with age. Older puppies can stay in a crate for longer, but a reasonable maximum should be about five hours or so. Pet gates can help keep your dog confined to certain areas of your house when you’re not home.
3. Spend Time Bonding with the Puppy
Many people take a few days off of work when adopting a puppy, so they can ease their new pet into the routine of being left alone during the day.
Make sure your dog has access to fresh water and food while you’re away.
Whether your dog has the run of the house, or you’re confining them to a crate, they’ll need an ample supply of food and water to stay comfortable. You should also consider investing in a comfortable dog bed, so they have a good place to rest and sleep.
4. Puppy-proof your home
Puppies are inquisitive and intelligent, and they often explore things with their mouths. When you’re adopting a new puppy, you’ll need to make sure your house is free of anything that they could hurt themselves with. Some things you can do include:
- Using cord protectors to prevent your puppy from chewing on electrical cords
- Store harmful cleaning supplies and medications out of reach
- Get rid of houseplants that are toxic to dogs, or move them someplace that’s out of reach
- Make sure you have a dog-proof trashcan that your puppy can’t get into
How long can you leave a puppy alone at home?
While puppies do get separation anxiety, they’ll learn that you always come back after work. The biggest issues with leaving a puppy alone will be making sure they have food, water, stimulation, and the opportunity to relieve themselves without making a mess. That last one is a big issue that varies with a dog’s age.
Puppies can generally go without using the bathroom for about one hour per month of age. So, younger puppies will need something like a puppy pad that they can use while you’re away. You can also consider hiring a dog walker to come when you’re not at home.
By the time your dog is around six months old, they should be able to “hold it” during your workday, so this will become less of an issue.
Is it normal for puppies to have separation anxiety?
Many puppies, and even adult dogs, get separation anxiety when their owner isn’t around. Some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others, including:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Border Collies
- King Charles Spaniels
- German Shepherds
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Toy Poodles
- Bichon Frises
- Australian Shepherds
- German Pointers
Separation anxiety can cause dogs to become disruptive. While it generally gets better over time, as your puppy gradually learns that you’ll always come back at the end of the day, you may need to use a crate or pet gate to restrict your dog’s movement while you’re away and keep them away from things they could chew up or urinate on.