AS LIFE starts returning to normal and people return to work - many new puppy owners will now be faced with leaving their fluffy companions alone for the first time.

Celia Callan, an animal behaviourist and dog trainer at The Animal Behaviour Clinic and Puppy School, who runs classes in Wilton and Stratford Sub Castle, has shared some useful tips to help your puppy adjust and also some of the behaviours owners can expect.

She said: "As we have been locked away in our homes, our puppies have probably never spent any time alone. If they were to be left, how long do you think it would be before they become distressed?

"The answer is probably only a few seconds. Some dogs may never have been taught to be alone and can become very distressed when their owners leave.

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"Dogs are social animals and if they have built a strong bond with you, then they will miss you when you are not at home unless you have trained them to cope with isolation.

"We give them lots of cues that we are going out and this can make them very unhappy. Making a bit point of leaving and telling them that you will be back soon, will only make it worse.

"They don’t have the ability to understand that we will be coming back eventually, unless they have been taught to get used to it gradually."

Behaviours to expect

  • Barking
  • Howling
  • Chewing
  • Trying to escape
  • Urinating and defecating
  • Not eating

These are just some of the symptoms they may experience when being left.

Leave them with a chew or stuffed Kong and don’t touch it until you return, which Celia says is a good indication that your puppy is stressed when left alone.

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Training tips

"All dogs can learn to cope with being alone, but the training needs to start ASAP," explains Celia.

Here are few things that you can start with to get your puppy used to being alone:

  • Don’t leave your puppy alone especially on days when they are upset, agitated, hungry, full of energy or anything new is happening (e.g builders are outside working on the road).
  • Do the isolation training only once all their needs are met. After feeding, toilet, walk, playing, etc. Puppies need physical and mental exercise before you attempt to leave them alone, so they are tired and ready to rest.
  • You will need to start gradually leaving them. It will all depend on your puppy and how they cope, as to how long they can be left.
  • Record your puppy using a camera or on your mobile.
  • If you leave and they wake up straight away and go to the door you left from and start barking, then you will need to start within the home environment.
  • Try leaving them in their bed with a Kong or chew. Gradually start to move away from your puppy so you are not right next to them. They will need to learn to cope with being alone in the same room as you are first. After several repetitions, slowly increase the time that you ignore them for. So, you may be sat in the same room as them but reading a book whilst they are in their bed relaxing or chewing on something tasty.
  • Puppies that can’t be left alone for very long should only be left for a few seconds/minutes at a time. Don’t leave them so that they become stressed and start barking.
  • Once you know how long it will take before they become distressed, then you can start to leave them no longer than that time (e.g 30 seconds). It is important to go back in before any distress so that they can feel alright about being left alone.
  • Gradually build up the time you leave them for. See what they can cope with but don’t leave it too long before going back in. You don’t want them to feel any distress.

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Celia said: "This process can take a while and needs patience from the owner. It may take over a hundred leave sessions before they can be left for a few hours."

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