For the past few years, I have been working primarily from my home office, and my two rescue dogs love it! I waited to adopt them until after I retired from my executive management position due to long days and draining commutes. Starting my own consulting business allowed me to work fewer hours from home, which was ideal for raising two rescue dogs.
I feel very fortunate that we can all hang out together in my home office, but this only came after many grueling years of working away from home. Fortunately, for many other people, the trend of working at home is catching on and became more common during the COVID Pandemic.
However, not all dogs love it when their favorite human is ignoring them all day long glued to their computer screen or phone. They can become fidgety, whiny, and sometimes downright demanding when they know you are right there and ignoring them! This can make it challenging to get your work done.
But your dogs can love hanging out in your home office in a way that will allow you to work if they know your schedule includes them. You can do this by setting up a consistent routine, creating a comfortable place for them to hang out, and by taking breaks that include your dogs.
1. Create a Comfy Space for Your Dogs
Activity Before and After the Work Day— Prior to the start of the work day when we are all downstairs in the living room, they are very active. My dogs always seem to get very excited about whatever may be going on outside. They bark at every little tweeting bird, passing FedEx trucks, various unseen critters in the backyard, and even falling leaves. This whole scenario repeats itself in the evening after dinner, while we (mostly me) are trying to enjoy the latest hot series on Netflix.
Settling In — One of the most interesting things I have discovered about my dogs is how much they settle down once we are in my office. They just seem to immediately calm down as soon as we head upstairs to my home office and I turn on the lights and fire up my computer. It signals to them that it is time for Mom to work.
Den Area — I think they settle easily largely due to the very nice bolster bed I placed under my desk. It makes a nice little den area in which they can both snuggle up together. They feel secure, and comfy, and have less obligation to chase away scary critters. I think they also like the fact that we are all together in one room–typical pack mentality. And, it seems to agree with some of their Cattle Dog herding DNA mentality!
2. Schedule Time for Your Dogs Each Day
Our Schedule — Another reason they can settle down in my home office is that we have a routine. Each morning we “commute” upstairs to the office around 10AM after we have had breakfast and they have chased critters from the yard. As soon as I turn on the computer, they jump into bed for a nap.
Toys — During the course of the day, I notice that one by one their favorite chewy bones and stuffed animals all end up in little piles around my office. Although this can create quite the obstacle course for me as I trip over toys to make copies or file documents, I am glad they find ways to entertain themselves.
Breaks are really important. They totally expect me to run downstairs at least once or more every two hours. This usually means snacks for them as I refresh my coffee or grab a snack for myself. Even though they eat two meals a day–breakfast and dinner, they get a midday treat when I have lunch. They each get their very own carrot to munch on. If I forget the carrots, they let me know in no uncertain terms!
Walks — Ideally, it would work best if I walked them twice a day in the morning and early evening. But I am not that organized. So, we usually go for one longer walk sometime after lunch. If we have not gone out by around 2pm, they get pretty antsy. In the summer when it is super hot here in California, the walk often gets bumped to early evening. When that happens, they are more likely to jump on me or bark as their patience for napping runs out.
This is probably where I am the least consistent. But even though the timing of the walk may vary, it happens every day, rain or shine! Here are some great tips from a vet at PetsBest.com for remote workers.
3. Rewards for Good Behavior
Treats, and more treats are critical for good behavior. Of course, as dogs will do, they periodically bark if they hear a noise outside. I wait for them to calm down and then reward them with a treat when they re-settle. Sometimes the treat turns into a bribe as a way to distract them.
If they are getting carried away with their barking and treats are not cutting it to break the impulse, I also have a can of pennies to stop them. I have trained them to come to me when I shake it. One hard shake and they come running back to me. The noise is unpleasant and breaks their impulse of uncontrolled barking. They also know that as soon as they come running back to me, sit at my feet, and remain quiet, they will get a treat. Works like a charm and saves my voice.
Since my dogs love hanging out with me in the office, they seem to understand that they have to abide by some rules to be in my office.
4. No Dogs Allowed for Zoom Calls!
I have tried to include my dogs in my Zoom calls, especially if it is a low-key conference with close teammates. Sometimes it works and is fun. But usually, it is a royal pain, and they invariably decide this is a great time to bark, because I am talking to someone else and ignoring them–just like two-year-olds!
Pressing the mute button can be an option if someone else is presenting, but not if I am the one doing the talking. This is true with phone calls as well. Even if I am wearing a headset, a loud bark can be piercing.
I also find it very distracting to have them in the room. They just seem to act up as soon as they know I am engaging with someone else. So, out they go with their favorite toys. Ironically, they quiet down immediately. As soon as I open the door again, they are right outside, quietly listening and innocently waiting to come back in.
5. Remember to Stop Working at the End of the Day!
Probably the most addictive part of working at home is remembering to stop! Because there are fewer interruptions, your dogs are hanging out with you, and you are comfy in your work jeans, it is easy to just keep going!
But keeping your work and life in balance is important whether you work outside your home or via a home office. Stop at dinner time, say hello to your family, and take your pups for a walk if you haven’t already. My dogs love to play fetch in the evening after dinner. If I am still at my computer past dinner time, they will let me know that they are not happy. With one swipe of a paw, they will knock my keyboard onto the floor!
If you can work at home, consider it a blessing. You have a lot more freedom to be with your furry pals and other family members. But you will also need to be a little more disciplined, set some boundaries, and create a space in your office where your dogs will love hanging out with you.
Be sure to see my comprehensive post, Everything You Need to Know About Adopting Rescue Dogs for some great information and tips. And, if you subscribe to our site, you will receive new post updates each time they are published.