Doggy NewsDoggy Training

Preventing Separation Anxiety-How to help puppies cope with being home alone

It takes time for our puppies to be comfortable with being left on their own, even for short periods. We should never force a puppy to experience isolation before they are ready but there are some key things we can do to help set our puppies up for success.

Dogs are not wired to like being alone, they have been bred to be with humans. However, we need to be able to go out and be confident that they are not distressed at home, causing chaos and destruction.

Puppies are even more vulnerable to being alone, and to help prevent severe separation anxiety, then we need to teach them this valuable skill.

When we bring our puppies home everything changes for them in an instant. They are separated from their brothers, sisters, mum and family that have been with them since the moment they were born. It's not surprising that this causes our puppies to want to be close to us, as they learn all about the strange new world they find themselves in.

Very young dogs really need us there as much as possible. They look to us for survival, food, shelter and emotional security. Suddenly disappearing will freak them out and they will panic. Being able to trust us will actually help them become more robust and resilient in their adulthood.

Not every owner can be at home 24/7 for the first few months after getting a puppy, so it is essential to teach them how to be alone. It’s as important as toilet training.

We know that forcing separation too soon can be really damaging to our puppy's emotional and physical well being.

So how do we help them to be ready?

Puppies will naturally become more independent when they develop a secure relationship with us. When they know that we are always on hand to support them and they can rely on us to keep them safe and happy, they will start to
feel much more confident in their surroundings and the wider world.

When we are teaching our puppy to relax on their own for short periods of time it's important that we make it as easy as possible for them to succeed.


Before leaving our puppies we must first ensure that they have had everything that they need first. By ensuring all of their needs are met appropriately we can ensure that we are setting them and you up for success BEFORE you start the process.

A walk or physical exercise appropriate for their age (typically 5 minutes per month of age)

Food, preferably given to them in a way that is interesting and enriching. E.g. in a snuffle mat, Kong or puzzle toy

A chance to use their brain by doing some fun training games with us.

A chance to go to the toilet.

Right from day one, play puppy peekaboo.

This is not the ‘jump out shrieking and scaring them’ version, but a more sedate game of learning that when something disappears, it reappears. Quite simply, pick up an object, toy or treat. Hold it out for your puppy to see, flip your hand behind your back so it is out of view, and immediately present your hand again to your puppy. It vanished, it returned. And they can eat the treat or play with the toy. Repeat this just a couple of times in a session. Little and often is best. Build up to holding it for 1 second behind your back.

Next, it’s you that hides. Choose a time your puppy is relaxed but awake. Go to the doorframe, step part-way behind it so your shoulder and half your body still shows, and instantly come back in. No fuss, no drama, no words needed.

Go back to what you were doing, and then repeat once your puppy is calm again.

Next stage is to make your full body hidden from view just around the doorframe, and instantly reappear. When you leave and re-enter the room, act as if you have just gone to get something from another room so no big fuss. If your dog wants attention and a cuddle, do so. Don’t ignore them.

You want to only do this randomly during the day, and no more than twice in a session.

Build up time out of view literally in one second increases. The key is to not rush and ‘round up’ to speed up the process.

You want to keep at your dog’s coping pace. Look out for the subtle anxiety signs such as lip licking, paw lift, noises or agitated head movements. Stop if you see these, and drop the time a little until your puppy gets used to where you are before you increase the time again. Even one minute feels a lifetime for your puppy, so count the seconds instead.

It may be super slow progress, but it is one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your puppy.

Taking it steady is likely to save you a huge headache, a lot of house repairs, and a very distressed dog later on when you need to go shopping or do errands without them.

Final thoughts.

Please don’t be tempted to allow your puppy to cry it out. This is a fast track way to making separation issues a lot worse. Keeping training sessions short and sweet and building up time within what your puppy feels comfortable with is going to allow them to build their confidence. It may take a bit longer, but surely having a well rounded confident adult dog whom is happy to be alone for periods is better than having a dog that is terrified of being left alone even while you go to the toilet.

If you are struggling and need more help, then reach out to a Certified Separation Anxiety Specialist.

Jo Sellers is a Certified SA Pro Trainer and ABTC accredited, and runs Pippin Pets Dog Training. All the Separation Anxiety packages and courses are online and she has helped hundreds of dogs all over the UK cope with being home alone. Her Dog Separation Anxiety Awareness Day is 30th September.

For more activities to play with your dog to prevent separation anxiety you can download our ebook – preventing separation anxiety