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16 March 2020


Working From Home With Your Dog: A Complete Survival Guide

Learn how to be productive with your dog while working from home.

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Have you added a pup to your pack recently or transitioned to a remote role and you need to figure out how to manage your workday and still give your pup some quality time? Here are some great tips and tricks, and a sample schedule that you can adapt to your own workday and lifestyle.

How to work from home with your dog

1. Set up your office space

Decide where you’ll do the bulk of your work. Are you okay with your laptop so your pup can sit next to you on your bed or the couch? Or do you need a more formal desk setup with a second monitor and all the office bells and whistles to feel your most productive? Either way, set up your space and let your dog get used to seeing it. If you have a private home office, decide if you will even allow your dog into the office. If the answer is no, you need to stick to your guns and only engage with your dog in the spaces you want them to stay in.

2. Plan your day and schedule your pup’s around it

Unlike in your office at work, you won’t be able to work straight through the day. The night before or first thing in the morning, take a look at your calendar. What do you have due for the day? When are your conference calls? Take a few minutes to plan out when you will have time to take breaks to walk and feed your dog and make sure they’re getting enough attention. Yes, this is time-consuming, but you’ll be much more productive. Don’t forget you’ll have a little more time since you may not have to get as dressed up (or even put on pants) and you don’t have to commute both ways. If you have a puppy or young dog that still needs to nap throughout the day, you might want to set up their crate away from where you’re working so you can give them some time in their crate to take a nap while you take calls or meetings or even have a block of uninterrupted time to get your work done. As a bonus, you may feel more energized and be more productive since you’re taking breaks.

3. Take longer walks and add some training and playtime

You might need to wake up a little earlier or block some time in the afternoon to make sure your dog is getting out for a real walk. This will help them burn some extra energy. Should longer walks not be an option or your pup needs something else to do, try adding some playtime in the house. You can grab some puzzle toys for them to work on and spend some time obedience training.

If your pup loves to learn and has the basics down, you can work on tricks like high fives, crawling, or get in your box. These tricks, as well as many others, count for the American Kennel Club’s Novice Trick Dog Title if that’s something you are interested in pursuing. If your pup isn’t ready to perform tricks, the basics like, sit, down, come and stay can be fun and engaging to work on together.

You could even put together a basket of special toys and puzzles that you only use during these play breaks. Those toys will become extra special for your pup since they know it will mean some quality time with you! I keep some tuggers in a special bin and only take them out for play breaks with my dog. His tail starts wagging as soon as he sees that tugger come out! He knows exactly what it means – FUN!

4. Stick to a schedule

While there may be some variation in your days, try to get up at the same time and keep walks and meals around the same general times each day. This will not only help your pup but it might help you feel more productive too, especially if you have never worked from home before. When working remotely you may find you have trouble shutting down at the end of the day. Your dog may be able to help you keep some work-life balance.

5. Give your pup a special toy or treat to enjoy while you’re on a conference call

Somehow pups have a sense of when we’re on the phone and can’t drop everything to play for a few minutes. Your pup might start doing everything they can think of to get your attention when you are on the phone or a video conference – including destroying things they don’t usually even pay attention to. This is not going to help you focus on the task at hand.

Before you hop on your call, consider spending a few minutes playing and then offer your pup a special toy or treat. If your pup knows the command go to your mat or go to your bed, this is a good time to use it. You can offer a special treat for them to enjoy in their place while you are having your call or meeting. This could be a bone, a bully stick, a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese, or even their favorite flavor of Ollie’s fresh pet food.

Make sure to keep your pup in your line of sight or have someone supervise in the unlikely event of choking. Some other personal favorites for my pup are sweet potato chews, which you can purchase or make at home, Hundurs Crunch (dried cod skins), and Nylabones filled with cheese or peanut butter. If you have a dog bakery near you, think about picking up a few special treats for your pup to enjoy while you’re on your call.

6. Communicate with colleagues

From technology fails or etiquette faux pas, to your pup barking or dancing around in the background the best way to smooth over the situation is to communicate proactively. If you’re on a video call with colleagues, while you are chit-chatting at the beginning it is okay to say something like, “I have a puppy and you might see or hear him during our call”. That way if your pup jumps in your lap, barks, or squeaks a toy, no one will be surprised.

If you have a particularly chatty pup you might want to stay on mute when you aren’t speaking. This is a generally accepted best practice to minimize background noises and distractions anyway. That doesn’t mean your pup won’t bark or squeak when you’re in the middle of trying to talk! Depending on the culture of your company, some teams might enjoy seeing each other’s pups! I once took an online class and we were chatting via Zoom video. It had been a long day so I took my class from the couch. My dog thought it would be fun to sit next to me. I was on mute but he decided to lick my face midway through class. Everyone was cracking up and we had to take a break so he could meet everyone.

7. Try to enjoy it

Even though you may be working from home due to less-than-ideal circumstances, try to make the best of the situation. You may find that you enjoy not commuting and that you have more time to bond with your pup!

A girl sits at her desk typing with her dog at her feet.
Charlie and I work together in my home office. (Photo Credit: Alexa Nahas Photography)

Example remote workday schedule

If you aren’t sure how to make the day work with the added responsibility of taking care of a dog, see the sample schedule below. While you may not be able to achieve this perfectly every day, you can strive for something like this that works for you. If you need some more work time, you could always start your day a little earlier. If your work can’t be broken up enough to care for your pup you can consider hiring a dog walker or asking another family member or friend to help you care for your pup while you work.

7:30 am Wake up
7:35 am Take your dog for a 20-minute walk (or the length that is appropriate for your dog).
8:00 am Coffee for you and breakfast for the pup
8:30 am Work while the pup naps
11:00 am 30-minute walk
11:30 am Check email, slack, and phone messages
12:00 pm Lunch for everyone followed by low-key playtime or belly rubs
1:00 pm Conference calls and more work (dog naps in their crate or on their bed)
3:00 pm Playtime, 5 minutes of training work, and a potty break
3:30 pm More working time and a snack break if you’re hungry
5:00 pm Dinner for the pup and a walk after
6:00 pm Yoga class or a home workout
7:30 pm Eat dinner

8:30 pm Final walk, get ready for bed, and catch up on some TV or reading (answering emails or finishing some work optional)
10:00 pm Bedtime

How ever you and your pup decide to make it work, make sure you are taking breaks, and enjoying each other’s company! Your dog may become your new favorite colleague.

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.

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