TEACHING YOUR NEW DOG TO BE AT HOME ALONE
Now that you’ve added a dog to your home, it will take some time for both of you to get used to being apart. Having alone time is very important for both owner and dog, especially if you’re training a puppy. It may seem counter-intuitive, but teaching a puppy how to behave by themselves is fundamental in their training and will make both of you much happier.
Typically, we want to make a production out of leaving the house. Giving our dogs kisses and telling them that we’ll be back soon all feels like great reassurance, but can actually do the opposite. By being so excited right before we leave the house, it makes your dog think something exciting is going on, so when we leave them right after so much excitement, they feel left out or abandoned, which can lead to separation anxiety. To prevent your dog from learning that behavior, all you need to do is make sure you leave the house calmly. Don’t make a big fuss about leaving, and make sure you’re leaving the right kind of toys to keep your dog entertained while you’re gone. You can even get them ready to have some alone time by wearing them out before you leave. This takes a little planning ahead, but if your dog is already tired before you go anywhere, they’re less likely to act up while you’re not watching.
Always leaving interactive toys or long-lasting chew treats is a great way to make sure your dog has something to occupy themselves with when you’re not home to play. Interactive toys can vary in style, difficulty, and purpose. Getting a treat puzzle will keep a food motivated or working dog interested in the “game”, and taps into dogs’ instincts to hunt for their food. More laid-back dogs might prefer a nice bone to chew on for a while. Dogs with lots of energy to spare tend to do well with interactive balls or toys that have a place to hide treats. This encourages them to play, and is another great tool for satisfying their hunting and searching instincts. If you want to give your dog a specific place, like a crate, to hang out while they’re alone, using calming scents can really help. Lavender, vanilla, and chamomile are all great smells you can use near your dog’s space to calm them down even more. Air fresheners or oil diffusers can work wonders when used correctly.
The last thing you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re training your dog to stay calm, is staying calm when you come home. For the same reasons that you want to leave your house calmly, greeting your dog only while you’re both calm will encourage good behavior, without any negative reinforcement. To do this, for some dogs, it may work better if you already have treats to get their attention. Take their attention away from their excitement, and get them to sit and stay sitting. Once they’re displaying a calm and submissive behavior, give your dog the treat, and then greet them. The trick is to only give your dog a treat or attention once he or she is calm.
It can be hard to not get swept up in the excitement of getting to see your dog when you come home, but once they understand what is expected of them, coming and going will be a peaceful, easy experience for you and your dog.