Your initial reaction is that it sounds great. “I get to be working from home with dogs?!?!?” And a lot of it is kind of great. No more running home at lunch for bathroom breaks. Your video conferences have surprise furry cameos. Your guilt upon leaving them behind every morning has vanished.
But then reality comes crashing in like an unexpected hairball. It’s hard to type with a dog slowly squeezing a squeaker all day. Video meetings get longer when everyone is showing off their pets. And if you had guilt about leaving them behind while you went to work, it’s somehow exponentially worse when they’re just … staring at you all day while you work.
From your dog’s point of view, the situation is confusing. “Why won’t you throw the ball? It’s right there! You’re home! We go for walks when you’re home! What is that rectangle in your lap? And why is it echoing so badly?” Dogs who are used to regularly going to the office or on other daily excursions might now be more stir crazy then before. And they don’t have any way of understanding why their world is different.
So while there are certain advantages for both dogs and people who are thrust together a lot more, it’s not all snuggles and tail wags. Here’s how to make the situation a little more tenable for everyone involved when working from home with dogs.
Prepare your surroundings when working from home with dogs.
If you can’t make your regularly scheduled trips for groceries and supplies, make sure you consider your dog when planning ahead. When working from home with dogs, stock up on food and treats (and maybe consider the occasional extra-special treat, just to mix it up). Make sure any pet medication is stocked up. Consider keeping some pee pads on hand, even if you don’t have a puppy or otherwise incontinent dog. You never know when or if you’ll be barred from getting outside, and for some pets, when they gotta go, they gotta go. Also take a look at your stock of dog toys. Pets need variety as much as humans, so keep some surprises on hand for those longer or drearier days.
When working from home with a dog, go for walks. Lots of walks.
Getting outside is where your dog can be a great advantage; they are a reason to stand up and get active. It’s easy to get lost in your laptop for eight hours a day when working from home. But someone standing there with a leash in their mouth is a great reminder that you both need a regular dose of fresh air. It’s the most beneficial reason for working from home with a dog.
When working from home with dogs, stimulate their minds.
For many pets, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exertion. That border collie who just wants to chase the ball until they collapse? Their mind races as fast as their feet. And let’s face it; if you’re trying to work, you can’t be chucking the Frisbee 4 hours every day. So providing mental stimulation is a win-win. It buys you some time and occupies theirs.
How do you stimulate their minds? Glad you asked! Here are a few ideas.
Food puzzles can be a great way to start the day. Most dogs will do almost anything for a treat, so if you can offer a way for them to spend time working their brains while you check emails, everyone wins. And the options are endless, ranging from a simple Kong filled with peanut butter to more elaborate interactive toys.
Work on training in your downtime. Even old dogs can learn new tricks and behaviors. You’re spending so much time together; why not finally perfect that roll-over command or work on keeping your dog from jumping once and for all? Pets love the attention that comes with training, even if it’s training away behaviors that they seem to enjoy. And it’s good for you to step away from your screen and enjoy some flesh-and-blood-and-fur interaction.
Remember that mental and physical exertion aren’t mutually exclusive. When out on walks, let your dog follow their nose and explore the wide-open space. Taking a new route on walks can be a sensory explosion for a sniffing snout. For some pets, even deviating a few yards can open up whole new worlds. Be patient and give them more time than usual to overturn every leaf or take a hard look at every fire hydrant. It’s all information for their brains.
Remember that dogs relieve your stress, and you, theirs.
It’s proven that just being near a dog can lower blood pressure in certain situations. Dogs seem to have positive effect on anxiety, depression and overall health, but the opposite is true as well. Anyone who has had a pet who suffers from separation anxiety can see how your mere presence can relieve their stress. Now imagine that the human who makes you happy was home all day but also ignoring you for vast amounts of that time. This isn’t to say that anyone can or should spend all of their time cuddling with pets instead of working (or is it?), but remember to consider their feelings. If you’re constantly repressing the urge to take breaks to play fetch, consider that they don’t even have work as a distraction. You are their distraction. But when working from home with a dog, it’s quid pro quo!
Take lots of photos.
You’re home a lot, and social media is blowing up with people posting photos showing how they are passing the time. When working from home with a dog, be sure to include them in your work-at-home selfies. They’ll love the attention, and we’ll love seeing them.