"Mummy plays that boring game again. Nothing ever happens."
To teach my dogs to stay home alone without getting any anxiety attacks, we play the “nothing happens” game till he concludes I'm a very boring and predictive person who always comes back.
We were in our Barcelona home, just flew back from Croatia. I had one week's time before our first trip to teach two months old Gucci not to cry when he stays home alone because I had to start working while he would be left alone and hiden in a non-pet-friendly hotels.
I started by hiding in the bathroom for a few seconds, which was shocking for him, he was stuck to me all day long. His eyes were like plates when I closed the bathroom door and left him outside. After a while, he was looking at me with interest not even trying to enter the bathroom after me.
“Mummy wants to be alone. She'll come out in 3 seconds. OK. I'm cool with that."
Then, in the most relaxed way, I said “wait” and went out of the apartment. I would wait for a few seconds in front of the door and then come back like nothing happened. Just a relaxed: “Good boy” while I continued to do whatever I was doing.
His eyes were like plates again, he was waiting for my signal to acknowledge that something very important has just happened; first that awful departure of mine and then that glorious return. But I wasn't giving it any importance.
After a few more times of leaving and coming back, he sat down on his fluffy butt and looked at me with the same cool expression on his face. “What the hell does she think she's doing? It's a boring game, every time the same, every time, she comes back and nothing happens.”
That was the thought I wanted him to understand.
“She leaves and nothing happens, she comes back. It's that stupid game of hers.”
I was staying outside the door every time more (I wonder what did my neighbors think of me), waiting for the first little whine and then I would quickly enter with the “sssssshhhh!” sound and angry look in my eyes. He stopped after just a few minutes.
After three days, I even started to go to the supermarket and then I would silently sneak to my door, he wasn't crying even once. We did it so many times, he was left without any doubt:
“It's no big deal, she's coming back!”
After only one week of training, my 9 weeks old doggy learned how to stay alone. Not “home” alone, but “hotel” alone!
A lot of toys will help a lot
To make it easier for him to stay home alone, I got plenty of toys. Every week I would hide some of them and give them the ones he hasn't seen for a while.
That's how his toys kept him always interested and busy. Sometimes he looked almost as he wanted me to leave so he could play with a “friend" he just happens to find again.
We were staying in the hotels for five days and for the weekends we would return to Barcelona. Almost everyone in Spain works split shifts, so I had to adapt too.
In the beginning, he was too young to go out (and not vaccinated yet) so in the morning I would just put him on he's diaper while I was in the bathroom.
Then I would put the “Please don't disturb” sign on the door and I would leave for work. After 2 pm I would go back to pick him up, put him in his bag and we would go shopping or to a park. I would leave the sign “Please, clean the room” on the door.
At 5 pm the same: “Please don't disturb”, Gucci stayed with his “friends" and at 8 pm I was already with him.
Our game was perfect, till my mum put her fingers in my child's education.
We got caught once
We were caught only once! After he spent two weeks with his grandmother, my mum, who spoiled him rotten as all grannies do, I left him in the hotel room, as always.
When I was about to enter the hotel door in the afternoon, the hotel manager was frowning on me from behind the reception. I spotted his look from the entrance and I knew it! I knew my mum spoiled the little brat and now he was calling for the attention when he heard someone walking down the hall. Arghggghgg…
“Señorita …, do you want to tell me something?”
OMG, I was 4 again and no, till you tell me what you found out, no, I won't tell you what I did.
“What are you talking about? Oooooooh, you mean the puuuuppyyyyyy? He's so small, should we even call him a puppy? He's… a mouse!"
(Yeah, because mouses are allowed in hotel rooms. Good job.)
“OK, anyhow, we're leaving tomorrow, let us sleep here one more night, pleeeeease…”
So he did. OK, that hotel had to be crossed on my perfect-hotels-for-hiding-a-pup list.
I entered the room without a word.
Gucci was 5 months old and he was sitting on the bed like a child waiting for his mum to come back home from the parent-teacher conference. Plate eyes, no breathing. He KNEW he blew it up!
I looking at him once with an angry look in my eyes and then I started to ignore him. Not a kiss, not a word.
He NEVER, EVER, did it again.