Q: Won’t my dog just learn to self-soothe?A: Ah, one of the greatest myths in baby-raising and dog-raising. Self-soothing doesn’t actually exist…at least not the way we think it does. Allowing them to “cry it out” doesn’t change their stress level; it only changes their behaviour. They cry for less time each time because they’re learning that crying doesn’t work to bring us back to them, but they still experience the distress and this is still apparent in the measurement of cortisol – the stress hormone. This is an article that talks about this in babies. Most of the time, dogs who experience home-alone issues and are left to “cry it out” will escalate into a panic.

Q: Is it normal that my puppy follows me from room to room outside of the homework? How do I make him/her stay?A: Yep! Even if your puppy didn’t have home-alone issues, they will likely follow you here and there when you’re moving about because they’re curious and social creatures who want in on the action. I don’t bother teaching a “stay” for this – they usually grow out of this after a while (some dogs do, some don’t, some take a year) so it’s not that important. It won’t have an effect on the work you’re doing. 

Q: What if my puppy learns that barking makes me come back? A: This is called a “behaviour chain” and if it develops, it tells me that you might be leaving your puppy longer than they can handle (hence the barking) and that you come back when they’re barking, every time. If it happens once or twice, it’s not the end of the world. If it happens repeatedly, we will have a dog who learns that barking makes you come back. You could wait until they’re quiet and then return, but then you might be waiting for an hour! It’s not worth it to let a puppy “bark it out” – we know that this causes more harm than good, so just go back and let’s look at ways to work through it together. Get in touch with me so that I can help!

Q: Should I let my puppy sleep on the bed?A: Nope! And it’s not for the reason you imagine. The first reason I say “don’t let puppy sleep on the bed” is because they are not going to be 100% reliable in the potty training department for the first year and it is not fun to have to clean that up in the middle of the night or when they learn to pee on your bed because it’s nice and cosy. The second reason is because I want to take advantage of this critical learning period and teach them that being in their crate or confinement area is awesome, especially overnight. 

Q: Should I ignore my puppy for ten minutes before I leave and ten minutes when I come home? A: No. Puppies don’t understand why we’re avoiding them and it can cause more stress. Just be normal. Don’t get them worked up before you leave, of course…and don’t make a big fuss, but there’s no need to walk around staring at the ceiling and avoiding eye contact… I recommend that when you come home, get yourself unpacked, give your puppy a simple, calm “hello” and then out to potty right away. 

Q: Can I use treats to reward calm behaviour?A: Not really… Treats are not effective when we’re working through preventing home-alone issues. We will simply help our puppy feel safe and comfortable when alone and associate amazing things with their crate or confinement area as we work through this program. 

Q: Can I use punishment to correct bad behaviour?A: No! Punishment is never recommended with separation-related issues. We’re trying to prevent a problem, rather than cause one, and punishment is famous for causing other behaviour issues based in fear and anxiety. Puppies are so similar to children, so look at it from that angle. If you wouldn’t punish an infant for this behaviour, don’t punish a puppy for it. They’re not being anxious to get back at you or “piss you off” – they’re being anxious because…they’re anxious.  

Q: But isn’t my puppy just being stubborn, bad, or spiteful?A: We often think that puppies are being stubborn, disobedient, and spiteful when they are exhibiting behaviours like this, however puppies (just like infants) are not capable of these things. Doesn’t that change your perspective a bit? It puts our pups in a whole new light.