Using a Safe Confinement Area
It’s likely your new puppy has never been alone before. It’s unfair to expect them to go from constant companionship to spending an entire eight-hour workday on their own. Start by teaching them to be alone while you are still in the house. A safe confinement area, like an exercise pen or crate, is perfect for this purpose. If you use a crate or exercise pen appropriately, they will see their confinement area as a place to relax rather than as punishment. Alternatively, you can limit your puppy to a small and safe area with baby gates.
To help your puppy associate this space with good things, feed them meals inside it. If the area is large enough, you can also spend some time playing in there together. To entice your puppy, set aside special toys they only get inside their crate or pen. When they’re happy to enter the confinement area on their own, you’re ready to start alone-time training.
Teaching Alone Time
Begin by closing your puppy in the confinement area with a chew toy or other constructive activity, then quietly walk out of the room. Return immediately and reward them with praise and a treat. Repeat the process, slowly increasing how long you’re away each time. In the beginning, even one or two minutes might feel too long for your puppy, but over three or four days, you should be able to build up to fairly long periods.
As the time span increases, return to check on your puppy periodically. If they are quiet and calm, reward them with low-key praise and a treat before leaving to continue the countdown. Don’t make too much fuss when you check on them. You don’t want your puppy to miss you when you leave the room.
If your puppy is crying in their confinement area, you’ve likely started the training before they’ve learned to associate the area with good things, or you’ve left them alone for too long. Don’t make a habit of letting them out when they fuss. Otherwise, you will teach them that whining opens the door and earns attention. Instead, shorten their time in the confinement area to what they can handle, and build the time more slowly.
Remember that confinement in the exercise pen or crate is only temporary while you work on your puppy’s alone time training. Once your puppy is confident on their own, and they understand potty training and the rules of good behavior, you can start giving them access to your home while you are away, one room at a time. The goal is an adult dog that is relaxed, self-assured, and can be trusted with more freedom.