After spending four years working as a television news reporter and, eventually, news anchor, I decided I wanted to leave the more traditional office setting and work from home. Putting my degree to use, I immediately took a job with a successful health blog as a writer and social media manager. After helping a handful of businesses grow and thrive, I became inspired to launch my own company. Enter: Proud Dog Mom, LLC!
As I move through my 5th year as a work-from-home dog mom, I’ve learned a lot over the years. So, here you have it: My tips for work-from-home dog parents who need to power through the workday with the distraction of dogs!
First: Puppy-Proof Your Office Space
In my house, I’ve turned one of the spare bedrooms into a home office. It’s where I spend the majority of my day. And, since my two dogs love to stay right by my side (they’re basically my shadow), it’s where they spend the majority of their day too. To make sure my inquisitive fur kids don’t get into trouble, I’ve puppy-proofed the office space. Some things you want to watch for:
- Wires: Computers, printers, and phone chargers, oh my! Offices are filled with wires. For a lot of dogs, especially teething puppies, those wires can be pretty tempting to chew. To help avoid unwanted nibbles, keep wires organized with a wire sleeve!
- Small, Loose Supplies: Keep paperclips, rubber bands, staples, USBs, pens, highlighters, and any other small office supplies neatly organized and out of your dog’s reach. These are all items your dog can fit in his mouth, causing a potential choking risk. Plus, biting into an ink pen can get pretty messy! Here are some desk and drawer organizers on Amazon:
- Garbage Can: A lot of pups love to raid the garbage can. If you have a curious canine, get a trash bin with a lid! Here are some options on Amazon:
Before You Work: Tire Out Your Pooch
Have you ever heard the saying: “A tired dog is a good dog”? Well, it’s true!
Before you begin your workday, carve out about 30 minutes to take your pup for a nice walk or run around your neighborhood. If you have a backyard, you can also take him out back to play a good game of fetch.
If the weather doesn’t allow for some outdoor time then play fetch on the stairs — where you simply stand at the top of the staircase, throw one of your dog’s favorite balls or toys down to the bottom and encourage him to bring it back up to you. Or, consider investing in a doggy treadmill.
Make a Designated Dog Space
During the workday, you’ll usually find my Chihuahua, Diego, burrowed in his little tent bed. Then there’s my toy Poodle, Gigi. She typically chills on the office dog bed or accent chair. Setting up a nearby designated dog space is great for your pup and for you … less distraction when you really need to focus.
Work on the “Place” Command
The “place” command is simply training your dog to go to a specific place … like that doggy bed I just mentioned above. While in “place”, the goal is to get your dog to lie down, be calm, and stay there until you give a release command. This will come in handy when you want your dogs to settle in their place vs. them only settling down when they want to.
Before teaching your dog the “place” command, he should know how to lie down. Once you’ve mastered that, decide where you want your dog’s “place” to be. A portable dog bed or mat is perfect.
To train this command, you’ll need a handful of treats.
- Start off by standing close to the bed (AKA place). With your hand, point to the bed and use a treat to lure your dog over. Once all four paws are on the bed, say “place” and give him a treat. Celebrate this behavior with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Repeat this several times.
- Once your dog is consistently putting all four feet on the bed, introduce the “down” command. First, give the command “place” (while pointing your figure at the bed) and give a treat once all four paws are on the bed. Then, give the command “down”. Once your dog lies down, give him another treat.
- As your dog gets comfortable with step #2, only reward after the “down” command. Be patient with your dog and don’t get mad at mistakes. Don’t reward mistakes — simply redirect. Once your dog is doing the desired action on the bed, reward him in position and then give your release cue. Some trainers suggest the word “free”. Pick a cue and stick to it!
- Once your dog has mastered step 3, increase the time between lying down and giving the reward. Add time slowly, just a few seconds at a time. As you see progress, continue to add more small increments of time.
- Give the command from further away. Increase your distance slowly, until you can easily sit at your desk and point to your dog’s place as you give the verbal “place” command.
Getting your dog to stay and relax in place will take time. Your goal is to make your dog’s bed or mat a happy spot. Be patient!
Keep Your Pooch Mentally Stimulated During Conference Calls & Video Meetings
About to jump on an important conference call or Zoom video meeting? I can tell you first hand how embarrassing it is to have dogs barking up a storm in the background. It’s just not professional! So, before remote meetings, I like to give my dogs a bully stick, treat-filled snuffle mat, treat-filled interactive puzzle, or frozen food-filled KONG toy to keep them busy. Not only is it a great way to eliminate barking, but interactive puzzles and enrichment brain-games are also a great way to mentally stimulate Fido.
If your dog knows the “place” command, guide him to place and give his frozen KONG toy or interactive puzzle there!
Leave a “Do Not Ring Doorbell” Sign On Your Front Door Before Conference Calls
Does your dog bark when the doorbell rings? Some let out a few woofs while others go absolutely insane. In my house, my pups tend to get loud when the mailman walks up to our front door, drops off packages, and rings the doorbell to let us know we’ve got goodies. And, for some reason, the mailman always shows up when I’m on an important call. Go figure.
To help keep your dogs calm, place a “Please do not ring doorbell or knock” sign on your front door during work hours.
On the weekend, work with your dog and train him to stay calm when he hears the doorbell. But, in the meantime, the sign really helps!
Take Breaks Throughout The Day!
Every two hours or so, I get up and take a 5-10 minute work break. Not only is it good to give my eyes a break and my body some movement, but it’s also my time to re-engage my dogs. Walk around the block, do a quick training session, and show them some love!
At the end of the day, my dogs are my favorite co-workers. If you have any work-from-home tips for dog parents, drop a comment below!