Preventing separation anxiety when you work from home

I work from home, how can I teach my puppy to be comfortable left on their own? 

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many people struggle with this one! It can feel impossible to teach your puppy to feel safe when they are home alone when you are always there with them. I have some great news for you, and it may surprise you. Being home most of the time is actually one of the easiest ways to teach your young puppy to be comfortable home alone!

When you first bring home your new puppy, they have left everything they have ever known – their mother, siblings and the environment they grew up in. They are in this new place which may feel a bit scary. When they are still with their mum, puppies will snuggle up and sleep together. 

Photo of puppies sleeping together. Credit to Ayla Verschueren
Photo of puppies sleeping together. Credit to Ayla Verschueren

When they first come home with you, it can feel very daunting suddenly being completely alone. I always advise sleeping next to your puppy for at least the first few days or until they feel confident being further away from you. 

Offering your puppy comfort at this vulnerable stage can help build their confidence. Before your puppy can feel safe home alone, they need to feel safe when you are there. 

I would your training early on within the first week or two of bringing your puppy home. Not by leaving them alone straight away, but by showing them that fun things happen when they are away from you! One way to do this is to spread something tasty on a licki mat, or inside a Kong and fasten it to something. Many licki mats come with suction pads on the bottom so you can stick them to the floor. With a Kong, you can thread a piece of string through both holes before stuffing and tie it to a sturdy table leg. Start doing boring activities in the same room as your puppy whilst this toy is there for example, washing up. Whilst you are there, your puppy is likely to be more interested in their toy than they are in you. If they are not, then I would spend some more time introducing them to their new tasty treat so they understand what it is and how it works.

The next step is to increase your distance from the puppy with their toy. Start wandering out of the room whilst your puppy still has some tasty food left. Ensure your puppy has the option to follow you if they choose, we don’t want them to no longer be able to follow you. Instead we want them to realise that they can be with you and nothing fun is happening or they can be away from you with lots of tasty snacks. 

If you work from home, the good news is that all of these tasks can be done whilst carrying out everyday chores such as washing up or putting laundry away. 

Leaving the house. 

Choose where your puppy is going to stay when you leave the house. This should be an area they are familiar with and feel comfortable in such as a bedroom or living room. Shutting your puppy in a bathroom they never otherwise enter is unlikely to set them up for success. If your puppy is crate trained, you can start home alone training with them in their crate. If they are not a fan of their crate, you can always pen off an area of a room, or use the play pens to block off areas you do not want your puppy to access such as around the TV. 

An example of barriers being used to block off areas your dog must not access.

When we first start teaching puppies that it is safe to be left home alone, we want to start with very very small steps. We want them to feel calm and relaxed about you leaving. If your puppy is feeling stressed and anxious before you even get to the front door, they are unlikely to feel calm and relaxed whilst you are gone. 

We also want your puppy to know you are leaving, so for this reason, I would avoid giving them any “special toys or treats” when you leave as they may not notice you leaving if they are too distracted. Do leave safe toys and things for them to chew on which they would normally have access to throughout the day though. 

The next step would very much depend on your puppy’s confidence, but for most puppies you would start by walking out of the room then returning. Once your puppy is unphased by you doing this, I would progress on to opening and closing the external door then finally, leaving the house. 

You will want to start with nice short durations of 1-30 seconds. This can be done whilst you are on a coffee break or lunch break or before/after work. As your puppy’s confidence develops you will be able to increase how long they are left. This should be done gradually and at your puppy’s pace. Some puppy’s feel confident quickly, others take more time, but it is important that you take the time working through these early stages of their home alone training. 

That all went great, but I can’t stand outside my door for 30+ minutes!” 

This is where it is good to start getting creative with your training. Do you have a couple of hours with no Zoom meetings? Does your WiFi reach your car? If so, could you work whilst sitting in your car for a short period during the day? Do you have a neighbour or nearby friend who you would like to visit for a coffee? Perhaps there is a cafe, coffee shop or even a local corner shop where you can go grab some shopping whilst you do your training? 

Remember, the aim of this training is to show your puppy that it is safe to be left home alone. If you can manage to leave them for short periods of time, even 2-3 times per week, your puppy is more likely to feel confident and calm when you do need to leave for appointments, meals out, shopping trips etc. 

When working from home, you can take your time with their home alone training. There is no rush and it doesn’t matter if you are not able to do home alone training every day, just try to do some a few times per week. Take your time, give your puppy plenty of positive experiences of being home alone and then when you do need to leave, your puppy will hopefully feel confident and safe without you there. 

If you are struggling with your puppy’s home alone training and would like further support and guidance, then please feel free to get in touch and we can look at what package options may suit you. 

Published by Dog Training with Amy

Dog Trainer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: