With around 60% of people currently working from home our dogs have never seen us so much! This canine companionship can help us get through challenging projects, long meetings and stressful days, as well as encouraging us to have regular breaks that get us away from the desk, taking some lovely walks and enjoying lungfuls of fresh air. However, the “new normal” can be a real change for our dogs too. No more sneaking up on the bed and digging up the covers for an epic nap while they have the place to themselves, because these pesky humans are home now, ALL THE TIME!
The challenges of home working with a dog can range from our furry friends trying to bark hello to our work colleagues on calls to intensifying or developing anxiety issues. So what can you do to keep your dog happy while you’re working from home?
Exercise - Before work try and give your dog a good walk as their fitness and the weather allows. Investigating all the exciting smells of doggy friends and nature can provide mental stimulation, as well as getting your dog and yourself some exercise. This can encourage your dog to snooze when they get home, and allow you to get started on your tasks for the day. Regular walks throughout the day by you or a local borrower can help your dog to release energy and be more settled at home.
Mental Stimulation - Mental stimulation is really important for dogs. Some breeds need this more than others, but ensuring engaging playtime can benefit all dogs. Sometimes that can be having fun with you or with their borrower, but it is important that our pups also know how to entertain themselves so that you can get on with work. There are many games and toys on the market (and DIY ones you can make!) that prevent and reduce boredom. They’re great at redirecting your dog’s focus and reduce their reliance on you for constant entertainment.
Treats - Although tempting, try not to give your dog a treat at the start of every meeting to keep them quiet, as this can quickly lead to considerable weight gain and the resulting health issues. However, in moderation, good quality dog treats are fine for most dogs that don’t have weight or dietary issues, but try not to get in a routine of always giving treats at a certain time, as then a favourite chew is no longer special or a reward, just another expected meal. Most dogs will be happy to disturb your meeting to remind you when it’s due!
Alone time - Spending so much time together, can make our dogs become very attached to us. Although it’s great to have a close bond with our puppy pals, it is important that they can cope on their own four paws when we need to leave home without them. It can be really useful to go out for a small time every day (as allowed by restrictions) without your dog. Start by leaving them for simply a few minutes, making sure they are left in a safe, comfortable, familiar space, then gradually building up the length of time you are away for. Don’t make a fuss of your dog when you leave or come back, try giving them a treat or toy 5-10 minutes before you leave, so they are otherwise focused. When you get back, do something before interacting with them, like putting the shopping away, letting them calm down, then you can reward their positive, calm behaviour with attention. With time you can make the whole business of you leaving for a bit, a much less stressful event for your pup.
Stress reducing products - If your dog is showing signs of being unsettled with you working from home there are some fantastic items on the market to help dogs that appear stressed, and the best people to speak to about them is your own vet. They will be able to advise what they feel would work best for your dog. It is important to remember though, that you still have to work on your dog’s behaviour, because as helpful as these products can be, they are not designed to be a magic quick fix on their own.
Get help! - If your dog is showing any signs of anxiety (which can include pacing, panting, salivating, destroying furniture etc) or any other behaviour issues you are worried about you should consider hiring a qualified animal behaviourist. There are many wonderful dog behaviourists throughout the country who can help you and your dog, and your local vet can advise and/or refer you to them.
This last year has seen a vast shift in how people work, and it is important to remember how much this has affected our pets too. Working from home with a dog can be tough, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!