How To Train Your Dog To Accept “Being Alone”

Exercise and obedience training go a long way in teaching your dog how that “alone time” is a necessary part of every dog/owner relationship.  This article explains the necessary elements to do it successfully with a new dog.

A common problem that occurs between dogs and owners comes from how the dog reacts to being left alone. In this type of situation, we have to keep in mind that our dog is a pack animal. He was not built to be on his own. The whole point of living in a pack is to be able to live as a group and work together, play together, hunt together, and raise puppies together. Every dog was made from this same mold. Being alone does not come naturally.

With proper care and training, we can help him adjust and accept staying alone for acceptable periods of time.  (It should be noted that dogs require companionship, just as we do–and to expect a dog to live his life otherwise is folly).

You need to be sympathetic and determined when training your dog to accept your necessary absences.

You will need to set up a crate or den area (some type of safe enclosure) for your dog and establish a permanent location for his water bowl and food dish, if he is older and being left outside of confinement. (Which I recommend only if the dog is 1.5 years-old, and has demonstrated responsible behavior for at least six months).

Give him safe toys to chew. Chewing will help him relieve his anxiety.  The Kong toys are great for this, as you can often smear a bit of cream cheese on the inside, and your dog will spend hours trying to lick it out.  Definitely serious business!

Your comings and goings during the first few days of acquiring your dog will help to communicate to him that you will come and go. Some puppies adjust easily while some will find this very difficult.  On this note, it is important to keep your dog in the crate at times, especially when you are home, so that he learns that the crate does not necessarily mean you are leaving.

Giving your dog something to do to keep him busy will help when he is left alone.  He should have safe things to chew. Another pet, such as another dog or a cat, will also help ward off lonely feelings. In addition, you can help him feel better by giving him a good exercise right before you leave. A tired dog is a happy dog, and strenuous exercise that adequately fits your dog’s exercise requirements will solve 80% of all behavior problems.

Doing obedience training before you leave for the day is important, too. Training exercises the mind as well as the body.  Some dogs that would otherwise need an hour of exercise will be exhausted after three five minute sessions.  (Obedience work should supplement physical exercise, which should be done after working obedience).

You can even leave the radio on while you are gone, too. Music and voices are a great comfort to a dog who has to spend the day alone.

The World’s Smallest Violin & What It Has To Do With This Dog Owner

A reader writes:

I recently bought a boxer puppy.  We love him dearly.  He is part of our family.  I am having some trouble with Tucker (all of which is my fault).  I am unsure of how to solve my problems.  The problem is that I have three small children.  My time is very limited.  I am a stay at home mom, so the dog is not alone.  That is not what I mean by having limited time.  I mean that I am busy caring for my kids, and doing everything else a wife and mother does, and don’t have the time to go to obedience classes, or even set up a consistent training schedule for Tucker.  I know he can become a well-behaved part of my family.  He is not terrible now.  My biggest problem seems to be separation anxiety.  Please offer any help you can.  I want my dog to be as happy with us as we are with him.

Thank you,


P.S. I read your book, but I am still confused.  Maybe that makes me a “Stupid is as Stupid does” owner, but I still think you can help me.

Dear Amy:

Did you read the section on Separation Anxiety?  It’s pretty clear-cut and straight to the point article.  If there is something that is still unclear that I can specifically help you with please let me know.

As for not having enough time to train you dog:

– Make him do down-stays while you feed the kids.

– Make him accompany you while you retrieve the mail.

– Let him ride in the back of the car when you run errands around town.

– Get him to do sit-stays while you change diapers.

– Play “Hide the ball” while you clean house.

– Find the dog a new home if you don’t feel you’ve got enough time for the dog.  But I think you’d be amazed at how much you can achieve with only 15 minutes a day.  The cumulative effect is amazing.  Wake up 15 minutes early each day or you can work the training around every-day routines like I describe above.

More Bulldog Problems: Is it House Training or Separation Anxiety?

Marilyn writes:  I adopted Sophie, a 3-year old 60-lb female English Bulldog, four months ago.

The problem is twofold–one, she pees in the house (and occasionally poops, too), and two, being an incredibly strong dog, she easily butts her way out of ANY crate, from airline-style
to an all-metal crate (and I even wired the latches shut, and strapped the crate to slider door handles!). I’ve tried leaving her in an enclosed space, but she busts up everything in the room in an attempt to get to a window (not a door!). She does have a urinary tract infection, and is on her third week of antibiotics to cure it. She hardly drinks any water. She’s taken out twice in the morning, a neighbor takes her out in the middle of the day, and she goes out twice in the evening. She has a very sweet nature, and is definitely insecure about being left alone.


P.S. Forgot to mention–evenings, weekends, or anytime I, or a friend, or any human being is with her, she’s fine, and doesn’t pee in the house.

Dear Marilyn:

Without knowing the dog, I can only take a shot in the dark:

It sounds to me like your dog has separation anxiety.

In the meantime, you’re going to have to buy a stronger crate.

I would recommend doing a search on the internet. There are private companies that make such crates out of metal/stainless steel.

I would call them on the phone and see if they feel that their crates would keep your dog confined and prevent him from hurting himself.

Always buy with a credit card, in case the product is inferior and they try to refuse to stand behind it.

Good luck,

Dog House Training – Leaving Your Dog Alone In The House

Leaving a Dog Alone At Home

Did you know that you need to train your dog to be alone in the house? Many dog owners don’t know what age you can reasonably expect to leave your dog alone in the house, without having any problems.

The answer to this question really depends on you and your dog, but generally speaking– If you’ve adopted your dog as a puppy, and you’ve followed all of the instructions in Adam’s excellent dog training book … then you will be able to start leaving your dog alone in the house at around 1.5 years of age.

Kathleen from our discussion forum at asks about leaving her dog alone: “How can I stop my dog from destroying my house while I’m at work? He’s almost five months-old and I have had him since April. HEEEELP!!

What Kathleen needs to do is understand that her dog is still a baby. Even though he may look like a full grown dog at this age–he’s not. And just like a baby would need to be put in a play pen or a crib when unsupervised– so does your dog. (Of course, your dog needs to be let out of the crate for regular potty breaks, exercise and play.  For some dog owners, confining the dog in a doggie-safe kennel run outside may work better).

But back to the crate: The crate also has an added benefit of giving your dog a “safe zone.” Everybody (even humans) needs a safe zone. That’s why we live in houses and apartments with locks on our doors. Because we need a place where we can be safe. The crate does this for the domesticated dog, by playing on your dog’s ingrained “den instinct.”

Cherie from our discussion forum adds, “There are basically two types of dog crates. One is the plastic airline-type crates and the other are the wire crates. If you go to the PetEdge site or any pet products catalogue (i.e. Drs. Foster and Smith), you can see examples of both those types plus some others.

By the way… before I learned better, my first collie chewed a coffee table into match sticks. He was just about the same age as your dog is.”

We recommend the plastic, airline crates. Once your dog is older and has demonstrated to you that he’s old enough to handle the responsibility of being alone in the house (by leaving him for short periods of time, that gradually get longer and longer– and by correcting unwanted behavior when he attempts it while you are home) you’ll soon have a pet that can be left in the house, unsupervised without causing any problems.

My Dog Barks When Left Alone

Dear Adam: We have a problem when we are not home. Our 2 year-old Shepherd/Chow mix rarely barks when we are home, but when we leave her in her nice pen outdoors when we are gone she yips and barks. We have tried stuffed animals and kong toy with food inside.

Do we need to get a bark collar? Any other suggestions or info. on the collars would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Beth Nordstrom

Dear Beth: First, I would try to figure out what is causing the dog to bark. It may be nothing more than nuisance barking.

In which case, a bark collar would work best. But I’d first rule out all other factors, such as: – A neighbor’s kid who may be taunting your dog. – Lack of exercise/stimulation. – Throwing a toy outside of the pen and then barking in an attempt to “make it come back” – Any number of other factors that could be eliminated before dropping $100 on a bark collar.

I don’t know what type of exercise regimen you’ve got your dog on now, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to buy a bicycle and start taking your dog for long runs. (It’s good for you, too!) As for which bark collars to use& the ones that I’ve had the most success with are the Tri-Tronics Bark Limiter. I’ve tried the cheap yellow ones they sell at the pet stores and have found them to be poorly engineered, consistently over or under-correcting your dog, and resetting themselves too quickly.

The citronella collars are largely a joke. The get clogged and jam frequently. The citronella runs out. Plus, I’m not crazy about spraying the stuff in your dog’s eyes.