By Kong Company Staff
As a professional dog trainer, you know that teaching a puppy how to be home alone and happy is an important step in preventing problem behaviors and separation anxiety. Dogs are naturally social animals and so being alone is usually not easy for them. This is why teaching owners how to help their puppies feel as calm and confident as possible while on their own is essential to everyone’s well-being.
Important note: Before discussing the training with a client, you should remind them that their puppy’s emotional state needs to come first. Some owners will try to get a jump-start on separation training by practicing departures as soon as they get their puppy. While this is a great idea in theory, it can lead to further distress if a puppy feels confused and abandoned.
Tell you clients that the first step in prepping their puppy for separation is getting him confident around barriers. Teaching puppies that they cannot always have everything they want when they want it will help with not only help with separation training, but general tolerance and impulse control.
Next, your clients need to decide where their puppy will be left is the next crucial step in this process. Many clients will opt to leave their new puppy in a crate or pen to prevent them from engaging in destructive behavior or eliminating in the wrong place. Getting him comfortable in their crate will help to prepare him for eventual departures.
When looking to select a crate, owners should opt for one that is big enough for their puppy to stand up, turn around and lie down, but no larger. If the crate is too large, he will likely use half for sleeping and half as a toilet. Note: If a client wants to buy a larger crate for their puppy to grow into, they can use dividers to limit the available space.
Encouraging their puppy to rest in the crate or pen at other times of day (with the door or gate open if a puppy isn’t quite there yet) helps build positive associations that this is a place of rest and safety. They should also give their puppy a food-stuffed toy, such as a Puppy Kong (image above right), to lick and chew in his pen will help accelerate process. While a puppy is resting or chewing, his owners can practice opening and closing the door to get him comfortable with this, and then rewarding him for staying calm.
This can also be done around pet gates and doors. For example, if their a puppy is distracted by his owner going into the garage, they can scatter some treats outside the door while they are out of sight. This keeps their puppy busy looking for treats while they slip in and out of the garage. If an owner is planning an activity that could take longer, such as getting changed or bathing, giving their puppy a Kong toy (image right: Puppy Activity Ball) to play with on other side of the door will help build a positive association with his owner being out of sight.
Although preparing to leave a puppy can seem like a long and stressful process for many clients, it is ultimately one of the most important training aspects they will go through as it sets their dog up with essential skills for life.