Building your puppy’s independence during the day

If you give your puppy all the attention in the world during the day and are happy for them to be by your side continuously but want them to sleep alone at night, you honestly are not the only one.

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Donna Connelly - Dog Behaviorist and trainer

If you give your puppy all the attention in the world during the day and are happy for them to be by your side continuously but want them to sleep alone at night, you honestly are not the only one.

But what we want to do is to help your puppy build independence and confidence in the daytime, and that will positively impact their comfort in being independent at night time too. 

It’s really simple to do and doesn’t take a lot of time. We want to introduce micro absences to your dog so that being alone becomes no big deal.

3 steps to building your puppy's independence

    Step 1: Encouraging puppy to choose to be alone

    You start by providing your puppy with an enrichment feeder such as a Lickimat with their Marley Bones spread on it or a snuffle mat. Put the feeder on the opposite side of the room to you or in the hallway just outside the room you’re in.

     

    Your puppy must be able to choose to return to you if they wish. So there is no physical barrier between you and your puppy at step 1. If your puppy is struggling, then remain in their sight but slowly increase the distance between you and your puppy.

     

    Licking and sniffing helps release endorphins that actively calm your dog, so using a Lickimat or a snuffle mat can help your puppy to enjoy these micro-absences.

    Step 2: Encouraging puppy to accept a barrier

    The barrier could be a baby gate that still allows your puppy to see you, their crate, or a solid door.

    While you pop to the loo, put the kettle on, or put the bins out, simply give your puppy an enrichment feeder or scatter feed some treats on the floor. Make sure you put down enough to keep your pup occupied for the time you’re gone. I use Marleybones natural air-dried treats that work brilliantly for training. 

    Step 3: Slowly increase the duration

    To help your puppy get used to longer periods alone, slowly increase the time you leave them with their enrichment feeder or a chew.

     

    It can be tempting to increase the time alone continuously, but I recommend varying your puppy’s time unattended so that you’re not pushing them too quickly. For example, leave your puppy for 5 minutes (so long as they can manage this duration), and the next time leave them for 2 minutes.

     

    Be aware that during your puppy’s fear periods, they may regress slightly. These take place between 8 and 12 weeks of age and around 5 or 6 months of age and usually last a few weeks. During any regression, just take it back to basics and remove the barrier if your puppy becomes more anxious about time alone.

     

    Good luck! And remember you can always reach out if you have any questions. 

    Donna Connelly Dog Behaviorist and trainer

    Who?

    Donna Connelly is the founder and Instructor at Barking Mad Dog Training and has been working with dogs professionally for 30 year.

    Donna is a member of both the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers. Which ensures her methods are ethical, evidence based and practical.

    Fun fact

    Getting her first family dog, Shep at the age of 12, Donna now shares her life with her partner and daughter along with 4 Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Miss Scarlett (6), Grace (3), Valerie (2) and Darcy (1). Not missing out her German Spitz, Tinkerbelle (13) and the newest additions Kali (8 months) and Harry (9 months) both Jack Russells.

    Why?

    Donna specialises in helping new puppies and their owners. Along with helping and supporting multi dog households live in harmony and helping rehabilitated dogs with issues such as aggression and settling in the new home.

    Donna shares her knowledge here with us, and we just love learning new things every month!

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