At Home Alone For The First Time

As your puppy is almost a year old, you may wonder when you can start leaving him alone, and loose, in your house. In general, don't rush this. Some active sporting breeds may not be ready for this step until well past eighteen months of age. A more laid back pup may be all set at eleven months. Each puppy is unique.

Should I confine my puppy if I leave him alone?

Confining a puppy when you're out, whether in a crate or a gated area, is not just about preventing housebreaking mistakes, it's also about preventing other bad habits from developing. Puppies, with their inquisitive minds and active jaws, can find all sorts of things to get into long after being reliably housebroken. For example, once a pup experiences the canine joy of shredding a Sunday newspaper, or tearing open a pillow from the couch, you will have a new and annoying problem to manage. It's far better if your pup never discovers such things.

Most pups should stay safely confined until they are a year old. If, for the last month or so, your pup has exhibited exemplary behavior when you are home, and no stress when left alone, then it may be time for a slow introduction to more freedom. Your job? Setting your pup up to succeed.

First steps

Giving your puppy brief bouts of freedom, interspersed with regular confinement, is a good way to start. This should not be a cold turkey situation where, all of a sudden, your pup goes from the usual confines of his crate to total freedom all day long. That kind of rapid and extreme shift in schedule can stress any pup, and stress leads to problems.

Instead, start by leaving him out while you make a quick run to the ATM or video store. Take him on a nice long walk before, do a little training, give him a special chew toy then go. Start slow, build on success.

Set your puppy up for success by puppy-proofing your home. Make sure that anything that can harm your puppy (cords he can get tangled in, objects small enough for him to ingest, etc.) are put out of reach. It's also a good idea to move any breakable objects so they will be out of a playful pup's way.

Start out by leaving your puppy in one puppy-proofed room, and close the doors to other rooms. Give your puppy a little freedom at a time. When that's gone well for a few weeks, grant access to another area. Remember: pups will often pick the least used area of the house if they are going to make a housebreaking mistake. Under the dining room table or in the guest room are frequent choices.

Leaving and greeting your puppy

When you leave, avoid heightened emotions. If you make a big deal out of leaving your puppy alone he'll react as though it is a big deal. The same goes for when you return. Huge emotional celebrations when you walk in the door condition your pup to expect a lot of excitement, and that sets him up to stress as he awaits your return. As with so many things, act the way you want your puppy to act. If you want him to be calm and matter-of-fact about your comings and goings then be calm and matter-of-fact about them yourself.

Taking things slowly, and carefully arranging success for your puppy, can make the transition from crate to freedom go as smoothly as possible, whenever it is that your pup is ready

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