By Raina Townson
Getting your puppy to feel safe and comfortable while alone takes practice!
Like any other lesson you teach your puppy, you’ll want to keep these learning sessions short and sweet! Many puppy owners make the mistake of putting a puppy in a crate and leaving for hours and expecting the pup to be okay. This is a big disservice to the puppy and does not help them build a positive association with being alone. This can actually make separation anxiety worse!
When teaching your puppy how to be alone you want to make sure that the space you have for your puppy to hang out in is secure and puppy proofed. A crate works great to keep a puppy contained and safe. Make sure the space is cleared inside and nearby of any hazardous items that the puppy could chew up, eat, or choke on. This includes power cords, shoes, trash, plastic and things of that nature.
Use positive reinforcement such as the puppy’s kibble, high value treats, and toys to start building a positive association with the puppy and the crate. Begin doing this in short sessions. It is a great idea to first reward the puppy for even being near the crate or checking it out. If the puppy is hesitant to go into the crate, try tossing a few treats into the crate.
Anytime puppy enters the crate, reward him and give him lots of verbal praise. Providing enrichment such as frozen kongs, licky mats and snuffle mats filled with kibble or treats is also a great way to help the puppy build a positive association with the crate. Once the puppy seems more comfortable with the crate you can begin closing the door for a couple of seconds at a time and as he seems to make progress you can extend the amount of time to a couple of minutes.
If puppy seems to be making progress with that, you can begin leaving the room for short periods of time. When you come back to your crated puppy, give him lots of praise and reward him with his favorite treats or toy! Keep this up and work your way up to leaving the house for short periods of time. Remember to never ever use your puppy’s crate or secure area as a space for punishment. Before you know it, you will have a puppy that feels safe and comfortable being alone.
Puppies who feel safe and comfortable being alone are not likely to try or succeed to escape from their crate, become destructive, or even hurt themselves due to separation anxiety.