Leaving a dog alone: ​​separation anxiety training

Leaving a dog alone: ​​separation anxiety training

Most dogs don’t like to be alone. However, it is important that your dog learns to relax even when you are away.

Dogs are pack animals and being alone is unnatural for them. But don’t worry: dogs can learn to be left alone. We explain below how that works and what the best time is to train ‘being alone’.

Running errands, a visit to the doctor, or a friend with a dog allergy – there are situations where you can’t take your dog with you, no matter how well-behaved it is. That’s why it’s important to teach your dog to be alone.

Also Read: Dog sharing: one dog, two owners

Why are dogs afraid of being alone?

Dogs are descended from the wolf and wolves live in a pack. They work together in hunting and raising puppies. No animal is left alone. Only sick or weak animals that can no longer help the pack are left behind.

This instinct is still more or less entrenched in our dogs. It is therefore not surprising that dogs do not like to be left alone.

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Separation anxiety or loss of control?

The fear of being alone is not equally present in every dog. The cause of the fear also differs. Dogs are individuals and just like us humans are shaped differently. They have been through different things and every dog ​​has a different character.

Yet the dog’s fear of being left alone can often be traced back to two main causes:

  1. Fear of abandonment
  2. Fear of losing control

Fear of abandonment

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are actually afraid of being alone. They feel helpless and abandoned without their owner.

Dogs that are afraid of losing control worry that their owner will get in trouble without them. They feel that they have to protect and watch out for their owner. If you go out without your dog, he will not be able to perform this task and this will worry or make him angry.

Loss of Control

The training described below is primarily about overcoming the dog’s separation anxiety. If, on the other hand, your dog suffers from a loss of control, it is advisable to work on something else first. In this case, your dog must first learn that you are the leader of the pack.

If your dog suffers from a loss of control, help from a professional is often needed. Professional dog trainers or dog psychologists can help identify and resolve the root of the fear of loss of control.

Leaving a dog alone: ​​separation anxiety training

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How does the fear of being left alone manifest itself?

Just like the different causes, there are also different ways in which the fear of being alone manifests itself. Some dogs bark and howl, walk restlessly up and down between the window and the front door, or destroy furniture, while others suffer rather silently. They withdraw, do not eat or sleep and squeak softly.

Recognizing the body language and sounds your dog makes is very helpful in overcoming separation anxiety therapy. Some experts recommend using a pet camera with a video function and monitor how the dog behaves when left alone. The video recordings can provide insight into the cause of the fear and being alone and how deeply embedded this is.

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Why it is important that the dog learns to be alone

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety are under enormous pressure. Simply not leaving your dog alone is not the solution. Especially because this is almost impossible in our daily lives. Would you like to arrange a babysitter every time you go to the supermarket? That cannot be done.

In order to live harmoniously as humans and dogs, it is therefore important that dogs understand that they cannot follow their owners everywhere. The calmer your dog is when you are away, the more relaxed you can attend your appointments.

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How long can dogs stay home alone?

Even if your dog is completely relaxed and calm, you can’t leave him alone all day if you work full-time. Dogs need their social environment to feel at home.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to deduce from this how long it is okay to leave your dog alone. Dogs are unique individuals and unfortunately, there is no general answer to this question.

While some dogs start barking when their owner reaches for the car key, other dogs only become restless after several hours of being alone. However, after a maximum of four to five hours, the limit is reached in all dogs. Then they really have to go outside and do the need.

Dog sitter

Regardless of how calmly your dog behaves, the bottom line is: dogs should not be left alone for several hours every day. Very anxious and sensitive dogs can even become ill or depressed if left alone often. And sitting or dog sharing can help in this case.

Nevertheless, your dog shouldn’t get terribly sad every time you’re not there. Because even people who work from home have meetings and appointments where they can’t take their dog with them. It is important that your dog gets through this time stress-free.

Retrieving is ideal before leaving your dog alone. Physically and mentally fatigued, your dog can be relaxed alone.
The best time to train it all
Learned young is done old. When it comes to teaching your dog to stay alone, this statement is certainly true. If dogs notice at puppy age that it is normal for their owner to go away without them for a short time, this also becomes self-evident later on.

You will learn how to practice being alone with a puppy in our article leave puppy alone .

Training an adult dog
Good news: adult dogs can also learn to be alone. The bad news: the training generally takes longer. But your patience will be rewarded and even with age your dog will be happy to be alone stress free.

Tired learning gets better
The best condition for teaching your dog something new is when he is physically and mentally fatigued. If your dog is under-leveled and bored, he’ll have trouble absorbing things and may be barely able to keep up with the training.

Before starting the following exercises, make sure your dog is tired and content. This works best if you are exuberant with him beforehand: go for a walk, let your dog search and fetch and make sure that he can lose enough energy.

Dog sitter

Regardless of how calmly your dog behaves, the bottom line is: dogs should not be left alone for several hours every day. Very anxious and sensitive dogs can even become ill or depressed if left alone often. And sitting or dog sharing can help in this case.

Nevertheless, your dog shouldn’t get terribly sad every time you’re not there. Because even people who work from home have meetings and appointments where they can’t take their dog with them. It is important that your dog gets through this time stress-free.

back to menu ↑

The best time to train it all

Learned young is done old. When it comes to teaching your dog to stay alone, this statement is certainly true. If dogs notice at puppy age that it is normal for their owner to go away without them for a short time, this also becomes self-evident later on.

You will learn how to practice being alone with a puppy in our article leave puppy alone.

back to menu ↑

Training an adult dog

Good news: adult dogs can also learn to be alone. The bad news: the training generally takes longer. But your patience will be rewarded and even with age, your dog will be happy to be alone stress-free.

back to menu ↑

Tired learning gets better

The best condition for teaching your dog something new is when he is physically and mentally fatigued. If your dog is under-leveled and bored, he’ll have trouble absorbing things and maybe barely able to keep up with the training.

Before starting the following exercises, make sure your dog is tired and content. This works best if you are exuberant with him beforehand: go for a walk, let your dog search and fetch and make sure that he can lose enough energy.

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Training in 6 steps: This is how your dog learns to be alone

1. Preparation

Does your dog have a favorite place in the house? Very well. After a long walk, point him to his favorite blanket or dog bed and give him something to entertain himself quietly. For example, this can be a chew bone or be a dog toy that he likes.

2. Practice at home

Before you actually leave the house, you should start exercising at home. If your dog is completely absorbed in chewing his bone or seems completely relaxed, leave the room briefly. Close the room door, go to another room and come back after a few minutes.

3. Build up time slowly and flexibly

At best, the dog won’t even notice you’re gone. After several reps, you can then begin to increase the time you are away – but not gradually. Stay away for 10 minutes once, then 5 minutes, then 15 minutes again. This will get your dog used to how long you are away varied and he won’t get worried after a while.

Leaving a dog alone: ​​separation anxiety training

4. Come back to rest

It is important that you go back into the room when your dog is calm. If you enter the room when your dog is barking loudly at the time, he’ll learn that his behavior is the right way to get you back.

Tip: is your dog not calm for a second? Then of course at some point, it only helps to come back. Instead of calming your dog with words or hand movements, ignore him completely. Only give him attention again when he has calmed down.

5. Goodbye and come back

For training success, it is also necessary that you do not make a big event out of leaving. Petting your dog extensively and saying goodbye several times until you really go is extremely counterproductive. Dogs are smart and know right away when something isn’t right. In addition, the nervousness can be transferred to your dog.

Also, when returning to the room, do not greet and pet your dog excessively. Even if it is difficult: do not give your dog too much attention and always remain calm and relaxed. This is the best way to teach your dog that it is the most natural thing in the world to be alone sometimes.

6. Practice Variations

Shortly before we humans leave the house, we often perform the same actions. Put on shoes, scarf and coat, mobile in the handbag or backpack and we reach for the house key. For dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, this often creates tension. They start howling before you even leave the house.

If you temporarily leave the room with a different ritual, your dog will become less stiff when he notices certain actions. Once your pet has learned to stay home alone, you can calmly return to your old ways.

Until then you have to be flexible. Go out once with training pants and sneakers, once in a dress or suit, in socks or dress shoes, or once with a handbag or just your keys.

7. Leaving the House for the First Time

Indoors, can you leave your dog alone in a room and close the door behind you without making him nervous? Fine! Then you can now leave your home for the first time.

Just like with the training indoors, you should not do this until you really have an appointment. Instead, first go to the letterbox, garage or water the flowers in the garden.

Again, don’t make a big event out of leaving and coming back, and gradually extend the time you’re away—without becoming predictable.

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How long does the training take?

Depending on the age of your dog and how intense the fear of being alone is, you should allow several weeks for the training described above. Sometimes you see results after two weeks, sometimes it takes six to eight weeks. In general, young dogs learn faster than old dogs, but adult dogs can learn new things too!

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When do I need help from an expert?

If you don’t see any progress after one to two months despite regular practice, it may help to ask a professional for help. Veterinarians, animal psychologists, and dog trainers are good contacts. Maybe there is more behind the fear of being alone than you think? Sometimes traumatic events in the past can lead to separation anxiety, which can only be overcome with professional help.

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Conclusion: Any Dog Can Learn To Be Alone

Tricky or not, with proper training and a lot of patience, any dog ​​(regardless of age) can learn to be left alone. Do not give up hope and practice slowly and carefully. Even if the dog finds it difficult to be alone in the beginning.

Don’t overdo the training by focusing only on quick results. If you find it’s getting too much for your dog, take one or two steps back in training. This will pay off in the end.

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