Teaching him to stay alone, how long CAN it take?

edited March 2019 in Behavior & Training
Hi, everyone!

I got my little hokkaido - it's a male - last Friday night. He is so close to be already potty trained and gets more and more comfortable. He grew up in the countryside and I live on a busy street, so it was a bit of a shock, but he is a fast learner. To me, he is the exact description of what I read on hokkaido. He doesn't really like strangers so far and barks at people walking around the house, but we're working on it and he gets better. But one of the things I'm the most worried about is to know if he will ever be able to stay alone at home, or when. My breeder was an excellent one, her dogs are healthy, well treated and they all have their own kennel to spend the night and some part of the day too, so I know it's possible. Right now, because he is only 11 weeks, my boyfriend brings him to his office, but eventually, he won't be able to do it every day because he is a lawyer and has meetings sometimes. Orion - his name, of course - can be in another room all by himself without us, he sleeps in his crate overnight with one or two breaks only, etc.

But I know he whines and loudly cries sometimes, when he's in his crate and we're not around. I know, he is young, but did you all succeed to leave your japanese or hokkaido dog alone at home? I would just like to have an idea of how long it can take. I work really hard to make him feel safe and happy in his crate. I stuff Kong with frozen homemade treats, I will hide some treats in the crate's blanket, I never go to him when he cries, I always wait at least 5 seconds of silence, I practice him to stay a few seconds, then a few minutes in it, etc. I really do everything I know and everything I read to bring him to like or at least, tolerate his crate. At night, no problem.

So, I would just like to know if this breed is harder to crate train since they looove their humans, or if he will ever be able to be in his crate for a few hours until I can trust him to be free in a bigger area - I have another dog and two cats, so I am not taking any chance until he is old enough - or an idea of how long it can take to leave him there for an hour or two. Just need some hope that I'm working hard, but not in vain ;)

Thank you so much!



  • The Hokkaido can a bit velcro, but even more than that they are quite vocal. The rule of thumb I heard way back when with regard to crates and puppies is 1 hour plus however many months they are (so a 2 month old pup is usually okay for 3 hours).
    As far as whining goes, it seems you're doing it right. Usually it takes a few weeks to get the crate training going really well, and I've found it helps if that's where they sleep at night. That way it's not just a place they're put when you're leaving the house. I'll also give puppies all their meals in their crate (positive experiences) and things like that.
  • Sleep in the crate every night, all meals in the crate, never use the crate as punishment or to put an end to something the pup loves, and never "reward" the pup by letting it out or giving it ANY attention when its crying. If you can be consistent in all of these things, should be crate trained very quickly. Where I've seen failures is usually when people let the dog out because its crying, or don't have a regular routine of crate time every single day.
  • edited April 2019
    Also teach "crate" or "go to bed" or "place" or whatever you want to call it. Lure into the crate with a treat, and keep giving treats every few seconds for as long as he stays inside. If he comes out the treats stop. Eventually he'll run in there when he wants a treat and staaaaare like I'm here! where's my reward! so then you start adding duration, making him wait longer and/or closing the door for a few seconds before rewarding. You can build this up to minutes at a time. Also work on a release word (we use "okay!") by giving the release and then tossing a treat away from the crate so he goes to get it. Make sure not to let him release himself, however. Its important that he learn that "go to bed" means he goes in the crate and STAYS in it, not just dashes in for a treat and dashes right out.

    ETA: Or, if he's like my Hokkaido boy, he'll bark demandingly at me instead of staring haha
  • As a canine behaviorist, separation anxiety is something I'm called in to fix fairly frequently.

    What your puppy is experiencing is normal. Dogs are social pack animals, and to ask them to feel comfortable being alone is an unnatural function which goes against every evolutionary process in their brain. Furthermore, separation anxiety is largely genetic, so by selectively breeding the “velcro” dogs as desired by so many people, we have ingrained a deep set dependency on human interaction and therefore, distress when their human caretaker leaves. Hokkaido are major velcro dogs.

    In most of my cases, the key to treating separation anxiety involves changing your OWN behaviors before we even address the dog’s.

    Altering Your Dog’s Dependency
    Your dog comes up to you seeking attention. You’d do what any loving dog parent would do, right? Pet your dog. What you may not realize is this interaction is creating a dependency on human contact for the relief of stress. Your dog thinks “hmm, I’m lonely… let me get some love from my human.” What happens when this human leaves, though? The dog has no means of dealing with the stress on their own; so they panic instead. “Obviously, the most logical solution, in that case, is to eat the couch,” says one of my dogs. (We’re working on changing his mind.)

    Now, I’m not saying you may never pet your dog. I’m just saying don’t let your dog initiate it. If they come up to you and start whining, pawing, or barking for interaction, simply ignore it. Once they settle down, YOU come up to THEM for love and affection.

    Altering Departure & Arrival Routine
    If your dog has separation anxiety, you might notice they get increasingly antsy when they think you are about to leave. A very natural reaction might be petting him and assuring him that everything is going to be okay, saying you won’t be gone long, and telling him to be a good boy. When you arrive home and your dog is overwhelmed with joy, who wouldn’t squat down and shower him with affection? Doing so only emphasizes your absence, though. Instead, completely ignore your dog at least 30 minutes before your departure, and 30 minutes after your arrival back home.

    It’s also important to habitualize your dog to your departure routine by uncoupling the cues they have picked up on (shoes on, grabbing keys, grabbing wallet, putting makeup on, etc). You do this by going through your whole departure routine, then not leaving. Sit down on the couch and turn on Netflix instead. Do this at random points during the day until you notice your dog is no longer showing signs of stress during your departure routine. This can take several weeks.

    Distracting Your Dog During Departure
    This is one that you’ve probably heard of before, so I’m going to be quick. When you leave, offer your dog a KONG with frozen food in it (or some other form of tasty chewy). When you return, immediately take the object away and put it up where your dog cannot access it.

    If your dog’s symptoms are severe, there’s a very good chance he won’t even touch the chewy. This is okay though. Still offer it to him. It will act as a gauge of how well your dog is progressing. The more comfortable he gets with you leaving, the more interested he will be in the food. Don’t give up.

    Graduated Departure & Rewarding Relaxation
    Graduated departure is exactly as it sounds. When your dog is in a relaxed state (I like to start this when they are sleeping on a dog bed or in their open crate), slowly start walking away. Do NOT tell them to stay or otherwise give them a command. We are rewarding and shaping relaxation here. On your first try, you may get a few feet, you may get out of the room, you may get out of the house. Every dog is different. However, the key here is to never go so far that your dog feels the need to get up and follow you. A video camera is helpful here.

    Gradually increase both the distance and the duration until your dog is comfortable with you leaving the house for brief periods of time. If you have access to a remote feeder and video camera, this will come in handy to reward relaxed behavior.

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