Leaving my 5mth puppy in the room alone

  • Hi all,

    Koda is almost 6 months and he's your typical velcro basenji. He follows me everywhere I go and he's good with other people when I need to leave him and run some errands.

    Lately he has become very reactive. When I get up and walk over the kitchen, past the front door, he will wake up instantly from his nap and follow me. Every time I open the front door, he will bolt towards it and if I dare leave out the door and leave him behind, he will cry, pace and howl.

    I've tried a few options to resolve this separation anxiety issue -

    1. I left him in a gated room, with plenty of space, a chicken treat and toys. This resulted in him howling instantly as I left, peed all over the floor, paced around and scratched the baby gate a few times (he knows how to get out if it isn't locked).

    2. I turned on the TV and crated him in our bedroom. I pretended to leave and closed the front door behind me. He cried but did not howl for approx. 10 minutes then fell asleep, occasionally waking up to softly cry.

    3. I did the same as option 2, but I closed the front door very quietly so that he wasn't aware that I was gone. He slept faster that time, but woke up after 30 minutes and started crying softly. He fell back asleep for 2 hours.

    I have a doggy camera to see what he's up to, and leave him with lots of treats.

    I was wondering if there was anything else I could do to help with his separation anxiety? Does crating him help? Or is this a puppy thing??

    I eventually want to let him loose in the house but not if he keeps acting like Option 1.

    Any advice would be very much appreciated.


  • My standard solution is to teach your pup when your body language says you are leaving:

    1. If you touch the leash, dog goes with you. If you do not, dog stays home.
    2. Go in and out repeatedly every half hour or so (for an afternoon) and your dog will "get it". All trips out of the house must be further away than the curb. If you stand on the other side of the door, your dog will smell you (and know you are only on the other side of the door). Which will totally confuse them. Go in and out about a dozen times over an hour or two. Your dog will get sick of the weird game and start ignoring you.
    3. Never leave the house without telling the dog goodbye. I tell doodle that I will be "right back" and kiss her forehead.

    Doodle is so tuned into this that she will walk from spot to spot in anticipation of her walk. Ok... Mom's putting on her shoes... she's in the bathroom... is she talking to Adam(?)... she always talks to Adam before we leave(!). At which point, doodle is standing in front of Adam's bedroom door waiting for me to let my son know that we are leaving. It's really kind of funny to watch. When I miss a beat, doodle will go back to what she was doing.

    Whichever routine you end up with, your dog will realize that you are going to come back and they will decide that having the place to themselves isn't so bad. Don't fret about it. Give your dog plenty of exercise and they won't chew on shoes, cry, pace, or scream. They'll just sleep.

  • @elbrant This is very helpful, I will definitely give this a try. I was trying to do the opposite by desensitizing him and opening the front door a few times!

    Can I ask how long it took for Doodle to get used to being on her own? Even if my partner leaves on his own and I stay in the room, Koda will start pacing around and whine. Do you think he has FOMO rather than him being anxious of being separated?

  • I have a similar situation with my 17 month old female. It's been hard to practice leaving the house because my husband has been working from home since the pandemic started.

    In terms of following you around the house I have found that mine has stopped doing this as much with maturity. Once she could manage the stairs safely we started leaving the internal doors open and going about our business and over time she has started to choose to stay downstairs at times.

    I have recently started practicing leaving her alone for just 3 minutes while I walk to the end of the road and back. She cries slightly but then settles. When she no longer cries at all I will increase the time and plan to vary the exits by sometimes leaving in the car and driving around the block etc.

    Similar to others, when any of us are leaving the house we say goodbye and she runs to the window to watch us leave. If she is coming with us I will tell her we are going for a walk so she knows she is coming.

    My Basenji is very food driven but isn't interested in treats when she is stressed about being left alone.

  • @kodabasenji It's not FOMO. Your pup is associating you and your partner as his pack. That's a good thing. I just think that your pup is upset because he isn't sure how to behave. He wants to be in charge and he cannot be in charge if his pack is not at home.

    Doodle got sick of my little game in one afternoon. Today she cocked her head like she was asking me if I was leaving... I asked her if she wanted to go wait in the car (she knows the word "wait") and she promptly turned and went into my bedroom. LOL

    Take your pup for walks and work on commands (like, sit, stop, heel, etc.) along the way. This is two fold. One, he will learn that you are in charge. And two, it will tire him out so that he behaves when you are out of the house. You've got this.

  • @jkent Thank you! We are also in a similar situation as he’s a covid puppy. It is reassuring that training is helping and we will try and enforce strict training, a little bit each day. Hopefully he gets that we will never abandon him XD

  • Practicing being alone is very useful. However, I would suggest practicing it after a long walk or when the dog is worn out, so he doesn't have the energy to put into being anxious.

    Also, leaving the dog with a (single) chew toy is probably better than leaving the dog with food.

    You may wish to train being alone with a crate.

    • Wear dog out with physical activity
    • Put dog in crate
    • Close crate, reward with food
    • Turn around and walk a step or two
    • Immediately turn back around and open crate
    • Let the dog out
    • Repeat, but each time walking further away when your back is turned. Eventually you should walk out of the room, then immediately come back and open the crate. Then once the dog is okay with you walking out of sight, work on duration; stay out of sight for a bit longer.
    • After this, you can work on leaving the house, and then building duration when out of the house.

    Of course this method, means he needs to like his crate.

    Also, I wouldn't turn the tv on, unless he's socialized to it and it's on a lot when you're with him. Otherwise, it will predict you leaving, and he might start to freak out when you turn it on. i.e. whenever you turn it on, you leave, so he becomes anxious.

  • @scagnetti said in Leaving my 5mth puppy in the room alone:

    Wear dog out with physical activity

    I agree. This is a key factor! Any dog left alone will be (less destructive) if they are ready for a nap before you leave. This is especially important for longer "shopping" trips!

  • All great advice above. Definitely not separation anxiety as elbrant says. It's normal. Practicing crate training a few hours a day at different times is important for when you need to run errands or if you travel with your dog. Mine whined a lot at first. He still doesn't like getting into the crate when he realizes that I'm on my way out (putting on coat, etc), but willingly goes in at our dinner time cause I feed him treats when he's in. We don't like him pestering while we eat. Feeding while in crate, and practicing rewards with the crate door OPEN the whole time, builds positive association with the crate, but a Basenji is smart enough to know the difference. In any case, it helps and the sooner you get started crate training and he or she learns to self-sooth and relax in the crate, the better.

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