Working remotely has its own benefits and challenges, but the biggest benefit, is having your pooch as a coworker. Not only is it great for their physical and mental health, but it also improves yours.
That being said, having your dog nearby can sometimes be unproductive. A little cuddle here, a five minute playtime there. From your dogs perspective, when you start working from home, your normal household daily routine can turn upside-down. This can have an effect on our furry family members, and before you know it, they’re sending you a ‘woof’ for attention.
So how can we help your dog transition to working from home, whilst creating a productive environment? I’ll be sharing some of the things I do in the house to entertain and stimulate our Cockapoo Archie when I’m at home.
Over the past year, my life has been turned upside down and I have seen myself in and out of hospital having numerous surgeries. As a result, there have been on and off weeks and months on end that I have been in the house with Archie.
I have seen the effects there can be on Archie’s behaviour when I am suddenly at home for prolonged periods. The positive effects are lovely which tend to be more cuddles and having a shadow follow me around the house. On the other hand, there are a number of unexpected things I have had to manage such as him demanding constant play, expecting to go outside more often than I could offer, and dealing with evening tiredness tantrums that usually displayed themselves as manically running around our coffee table or digging up his bed. In addition, and more worryingly he started to become agitated being left alone in the space we call ‘his room’ when I was home.
I began trying out a variety of strategies to help manage these new behaviours that manifested with me being at home for long periods of time and all because Archie was not used to this being part of his routine.
1. Start the day with a walk
Give your dog a nice big walk in the morning. Not only does it have many benefits for your dog’s physical, mental, and emotional health, but it puts a ‘pep’ in your step for the day ahead. Walking your dog first thing in the morning will also help deter annoying, attention-seeking behaviours, including that ‘woof’ for attention. After your walk, your dog should be content with lounging around until you finish work.
Do what’s reasonably possible to offer your dog the best level of physical exercise possible. If walks need to be limited for whatever reason, then choose a walks to match your dog’s needs. For Archie this is an off lead walk, ideally along a forest path with lots of scents.
2. Maintain or establish a sleep routine
It’s key to maintain their regular sleep routine, which can be difficult for your pooch when you’re around all the time. One of the things that works for us, is by purposely creating physical distance via use of a gate or closed door for periods of time each day.
You can also enforce daily snooze times by putting on soothing music, closing the blinds to block out distractions, and teaching your dog to ‘go for a snooze’ by encouraging them to lie down and leaving them alone.
You should also keep mealtimes consistent. A longer lie in when you work from home can be tempting. Yet a shift in meal times can really mess up toileting and sleeping habits.
3. Spot and use new opportunities for learning
While working at home, I quickly noticed all the normal activities that Archie sees on a day-to-day basis. Such as the bin man collecting the rubbish, the fast walking postal lady, the neighbours walking to and from the shops, the number of squirrels that use our fence as a race-course and so on.
Archie began showing heightened reactions when watching these daily activities unfold outside the window. Well, what I really mean is barking loudly and often! I interpreted his reactions to the property line ‘trespassers’ to be either his fear system going into overdrive from sheer tiredness or his desire to protect me going into full effect.
I quickly began to prepare for these ‘trespassers’ and worked with Archie to turn these moments into learning opportunities and to prevent myself from suffering from ringing ears after bouts of intense barking spells!
Start off by aiming to desensitise to the stimulus. If possible slowly build up tolerance levels to stimuli and reward profusely for only watching and not barking. To avoid over treating, you may want to recognise when using distraction techniques might be best.
As difficult as it is, choose when to ignore certain behaviours. The motto I live by and I suspect many others might as well – ‘reward the good, ignore the bad’
4. Teach a new trick
Archie loves learning new tricks and thrives on receiving full attention at these times. Or I could be kidding myself, it could equally be the sight of the clicker which he knows guarantees him a load of treats. Usually after a trick training session, Archie is pleased with the treats he has earned, it’s worn him out a little and I’m over the moon watching him grow, learn and master new skills.
Some tricks he has learnt over the past year are stand, hop, chew your bone, twirl, jump, quiet, snoot, and put your hands up. Tricks we are currently working on are tidy up, sit pretty, go over, go under, and relax.
Take short bursts of time each day to work on a new trick. Perhaps it’s something you do together during your lunchtime break? Decide on a trick to teach and stick with it consistently over several sessions – don’t expect perfection in the first session! Review and solidify known tricks to generate some enthusiasm and confidence.
5. Add in Mental Stimulation Games:
All too often in the past, I fell into a guilt trap of thinking I couldn’t provide the amount of physical exercise Archie needed. Sometimes waking up, you’re not ready to roll straight into a walk, or perhaps you’re not in the mindset for a long walk and that’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Other times, even after a walk Archie seemed ready for more!
Previously, I had thought that ensuring Archie had enough physical activity, meant only off lead walks with other dogs and playing fetch. Now find it remarkable to see Archie panting just by playing fetch in the house in our narrow passageway between our living room and kitchen. Any space, even as small as it may be, I can use to get Archie’s heart rate up, even if it may just be jumping to catch a ball.
I soon found that a quick play session in the house where Archie has to focus and use his brain proved to be just as exciting and almost as tiring for Archie as physical exercise. I’m particularly passionate about integrating mental stimulation games into his routine. We know mental health is equally as important as physical health and this is the same for our pooches.
Some of the brain thinking games we rely on inside the house are Find It, Un-tie It, Self Control Activities and Which Hand. Click here for more DIY enrichment games that you can create at home.
Remember to value mental stimulation activities just as much as physical-based ones. I recommend dedicating time to add in mental stimulation activities even for only a minute or two each day. That minute or two can make a big difference in wearing out your pooch! Don’t forget to add variety by switching up games often.
Do You Have Any Working From Home Tips?
Focusing on these 5 things has transformed our days together in the house from hard going to joyfully manageable!
If you have any other tips to help make these times a bit easier, then I would love to hear them and I am sure others would as well.
Jennifer Taggart @archievslife