Working from home when you have a dog can be an interesting mix of wonderful and challenging. On the one hand, you can feel good knowing your pup is receiving a healthy dose of their favorite thing – being by your side. On the other hand, it can be difficult getting work done with a dog who refuses to settle or thinks that your being home means it’s playtime, all the time.
So how do you strike a balance of entertaining your dog while still meeting your deadlines? Here are our top six tips for working from home with your canine companion.
6 Tips for Managing Your 4 Legged Coworker
Dogs love predictability and routine, which make them feel safe and secure. But just like when you work out of an office, your work from home schedule can vary from day to day. There may be days when you’re able to stop work early and days when you’re toiling into the night – and it helps if your pup can roll with the punches. If you routinely take your dog for walks at 5pm and then one day you can’t make it out till 6 or 7pm, it’s going to be upsetting for them that you’re not doing what they expect. Switching up walks and playtime (while still ensuring you provide plenty of both) will keep your pup flexible and adaptable, making your work from home life easier in the long run.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. The more you can exercise your dog during the day, the more likely they’ll be to leave you undisturbed when it’s time to work. In the morning, take them for a run around the neighborhood, play a game of fetch in the backyard – anything that will get them good and tired. Exercising them during your lunchtime or taking breaks for a quick game of tug-o-war will not only keep your pup happy and satisfied, it will also ensure you get a break from what’s likely a large amount of screentime and improve your mood as well.
Try Food Dispensing Toys
Distractions are your friend when you have a conference call or a fast-approaching deadline. Food dispensing toys are a wonderful way to keep your dog occupied, turning what would usually be a 3-second scarfing down of a treat into a mentally stimulating activity. For example, the classic Kong or the hilarious Monster Mouth are treat-dispensing chew toys that keep your dog’s brain engaged as they try to retrieve the food. You can place kibble, canned dog food, or healthy “people foods” like yogurt or pureed pumpkin into these toys to keep your dog entertained for quite some time. And as a bonus, they can continue to chew on the toys once they’ve retrieved the goodies.
Provide Puzzle Games
Puzzle games are interactive toys that stimulate your dog’s mind, and are perfect for anyone who’s experienced that a bored dog is a destructive dog. Puzzle games will not only provide the mental stimulation that’s so beneficial for your pup, they’ll also ensure your slippers don’t start to look tasty. Most pet stores nowadays offer a variety of these games, which involve problem-solving of some kind, followed by a reward for your dog. Trixie Dog Toys is a company that makes puzzles that require pups to flip lids, turn knobs, open drawers, and lift up cones to uncover hidden treats. Nina Ottoson is a wonderful company out of Sweden that produces puzzles that range in difficulty from Levels 1, 2, or 3, and (a big plus in our book) are always easy to clean. Whichever game you choose, we encourage you to take the time to show your dog how the puzzle works, play together with them, and always be in the room with them when they’re playing. You can see more boredom-busting toys here.
Create a Separate Work Space
If your dog is used to having your attention whenever they want it, it can be tough to break the habit. If your pup really can’t leave you alone when you’re trying to work, set up a home office in which they’re not allowed. Consistency is key here – even if they scratch at the door or whine, stay strong. They’ll soon learn that when you’re in that space, you’re not available, and that when you come out, you’re ready to give them plenty of love and attention.
Manage Your Stress
In any job, some level of stress is inevitable. When you work from home, the times when you’re stressed are on display for your pup – and they take their cues from you. It’s called mirroring, and the impact it has on your furry friend is real. The more calm and relaxed you are, the more your dog will follow suit, meaning they’re less likely to need your help and attention to settle down so you can work. Dogs are highly attuned to your body language and tone of voice, so when everything you have on your plate feels overwhelming, take some deep breaths, relax your shoulders, and watch how you say things. This will not only help your pup stay calm, it will help you stay focused as well.
With these tips in mind, you can not only survive working from home with your dog, you can thrive. When your eyes need a break from the computer screen or you simply feel like you’ve hit a wall, taking a break to play with your pup can actually make you more productive. The change of pace will be just what you need to spur creative thinking and get back to work with a positive attitude.