Leash & Paws 'How To' Series:
Working From Home With Your Dog

Working from home presents its own set of challenges: slow internet, unreliable technology, and needy co-workers (we're looking at you, doggos). While pets are loving this extra time with their humans, getting things done can be tough. You may find yourself having difficulty being productive and staying focused with your pooch around all day.

Read on for 5 sure-fire tips for success while working from home with your dog!

Tip #1: Make your work space a pet-free zone
Anyone who works from home on a regular basis will tell you that it takes some serious discipline to stay focused on the task at hand all day long. There are an abundance of available distractions and it's easy to lose valuable hours of your work day watching just one more episode of that binge-worthy show or making your umpteenth trip to the kitchen for another snack!

As sweet and snuggly as your pet may be, they have the potential to be yet another distraction that interferes with your ability to be as productive as possible. Set yourself up for success by creating a work space that is free of all distractions – including cute and cuddly ones!

If you don't have a designated room or area of your home where pets are not allowed, or if you live in a condo or apartment with an open concept layout, try rearranging some furniture or consider investing in a portable pet gate to create a temporary physical barrier between you and your pet during the work day.

In addition to helping you stay focused, keeping your work space pet-free will also make scheduled breaks with your four-legged friend that much more rewarding and ensure that you'r maintaining a healthy separation between work and life.
Tip #2: Set a schedule - and stick to it!

Dogs are creatures of habit that thrive on consistency and routine. They're generally calmer and less anxious when their days follow a predictable pattern and they know what to expect from one moment to the next. As well, a dog whose day-to-day routine is grounded in stability is better prepared and able to manage any unanticipated events that may come their way.

Unless working from home is part of your normal pre-COVID-19 routine, your dog is likely already somewhat confused by you being home all day every day, not to mention the excessive time indoors and total lack of frolicking in dog parks. Add to that the many sights and sounds associated with an average work day, such as frequent phone ringing and loud conference calls with colleagues (most of which may be unfamiliar to your dog), and you've got yourself a recipe for one stressed out pup! A dog that's stressed out and anxious is much more likely to engage in unwanted behaviours that may interfere your work, such as whining, barking, chewing furniture, scratching at doors, etc.

To help your pet feel safe and secure during these uncertain times, try to keep them on a regular schedule that's as close as possible to their normal routine. You'll find your dog is much calmer and less disruptive when they know what times they can expect to eat, play, pee and poop! As an added benefit, a set schedule will help keep you on task and ensure you're ending your work day on time.

Tip #3: Take regular breaks to spend time with your dog

Speaking of schedules, make sure yours includes regular breaks throughout the day to stretch your legs, clear your head, and of course, spend time with your favourite furry coworker! Even a 5-15 minute break can have tremendous benefits for you both. A quick cuddle session with your pet is an effective way to recharge your batteries, relieve work-related stress and boost your mood. After a brisk walk in the fresh air or a quick game of tug-of-war, you'll feel physically and mentally refreshed and ready to tackle the next item on your to-do list.
Tip #4: Don't reward unwanted behaviours

As with most new things, there's bound to be some period of adjustment while your pet gets used to having you home 24/7. Animals learn from their past experiences and in your dog's experience, your presence in the home typically means attention, cuddles and playtime for them so, don't be surprised if your pet has suddenly taken to whining or pacing, scratching at your office door or barking during your conference calls. Over time, your dog will likely adjust to you being home every day of the week, and these unwanted behaviours will stop. Just be careful that you're not inadvertently reinforcing these undesirable behaviours in the meantime!

For example, if your dog is whining to be let into your home office, and you open the door to let them in, you've just taught your dog that whining is a very effective way to gain access to your work space – and dogs do what works, so you can bet Fido will be using this strategy again the next time he wants in! Dogs are learning all the time and you don't want yours picking up bad habits that will persist long after the pandemic is over, so stay the course and stick to the plan for a pet-free work space and scheduled breaks to spend time with your dog.
Tip #5: Be flexible. Be patient. And be ready to laugh when things inevitably go wrong!

Working from home may take some getting used to for both you and your pet, and there are bound to be some bumps along the way as you navigate these strange times together – and that's totally okay! Go easy on yourself and your dog, and do your best to embrace the humour in the situation when things take longer than expected or don't go according to plan – we could all use a little extra laughter in our lives right now!

APRIL, 21 / 2020

Text author: Sarah Kmiec
Photography: Unsplash