News of Otsego County


The Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: How to help an anxious new puppy stay home by itself

The Dog Charmer
by Tom Shelby

How to help an
anxious new puppy
stay home by itself

Dear Tom,

She came to us at 12 weeks at the start of pandemic lockdown. Well, I know it’s my fault for taking her everywhere with me, for putting her in her crate at night and staying until she settles, etc.
With three adults in the household, she focuses on me ALL the time. If I go out without her, she’s a mess till I return.

How can I help her to stay alone for a few hours without losing her mind?

Sadie is an 18-month-old Havanese.

Marty DeLaney

Dear Marty,

You’re so right in referring to Sadie as a pandemic puppy!

You’re not alone. I was writing and telling people at the beginning of the pandemic, “Get out and get the puppy used to being alone.”

My guess is that 40 to 50% of the (hopefully) post-pandemic questions I’ve been getting have to do with separation anxiety.

The first thing I’d suggest is that you start making Sadie less dependent on you by asking the two other adults in the house to help. If they feed her for a couple of weeks instead of you, and take her out for occasional walks it will broaden her worldly view. You’ll always be her sun amongst many stars, but decreasing her neediness for you will make her more confident, which is exactly what you want, and a good start.

It would be great if the other two adults in the house called her from time to time and when she arrived, she got a treat. Sadie will appreciate it, too.

Henceforth, when you leave the house, de-emotionalize leaving and coming! If you appear
sorry to go or overly excited to return you’re emphasizing the separation.

Your goal is to make Sadie happy to see you go because that’s the only time she gets fantastic treats, like a hollow marrow bone with chicken or ham wedged in the middle of the bone. Remove it when you get home! The best toys only happen when you’re not home. Then there’s exercise.

I’ve been saying it for many years, “A tired dog is a well behaved dog.” In my book, “Dog Training Diaries,” aside from my crazy experiences and stories, the dos and don’ts of separation anxiety and aggression are given a great deal of attention.

Good luck,

The Dog Charmer

Cooperstown author Tom Shelby will be answering pet owners’ questions on training
their dogs. E-mail your questions to

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