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At least one species is enjoying the social distancing required by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic - our dogs. What pup wouldn't love spending all day, every day with their owners? But being home all day with a dog can be a challenge when you have work to do. Here are some tips for working from home with your dog, to help keep up your productivity and minimize distractions by your pup.
If possible, exercise your dog before work. This can be a walk or run, an extended game of fetch in the yard, playing chase or any other kind of physical activity your dog enjoys. Physical exercise will help your dog release energy and tire them out for (at least) a few hours.
Research has shown that taking regular breaks is good for productivity. Working long stretches without them can lead to stress and exhaustion, while taking breaks can help refresh the mind and increase creativity. It's suggested you take a break every 75 to 90 minutes, which makes for the perfect time to give your dog some much-needed attention. Using these breaks for short play sessions will keep your dog's energy from building up and continually tire them out throughout the day. You can play more physical games (like fetch, tug-of-war and chase) or brain games (like find the treats and training practice).
Pro Tip: Set designated play times for your breaks to minimize distractions and teach your dog obedience.
Dogs who are anxious, bored or not getting the attention they crave can resort to destructive behaviors (like chewing or urinating in the house). Keeping your dog occupied and mentally stimulated will help minimize these issues. Give them something to work on, like a chewing bone or puzzle toy. The longer the distraction, the better. That being said, you won't want to give your dog too many treats or else he or she may gain weight.
Pro Tip: Don't give your dogs treats or bones if you have multiple and one of them likes to resource guard.
We can't ignore our dogs when we're home all day. And furthermore, being cooped up can cause a lot of anxiety and restlessness for you both. So make sure you give your dog enough physical attention to satisfy his or her needs. Belly scratches, head pats and ear rubs can reduce stress in both you and your dog. In addition, working from home can feel isolating, so your dog can provide the closeness and companionship you're missing. Try placing your dog's bed, blanket or favorite toy by your workspace so you can spend time together.
Working from home means you're not interacting with people the way you would at the office. But you don't have to sit in silence. Instead, talk to your dog. MRIs have shown that dogs can understand human language better than we thought. So having a one-way conversation with your dog is a great way to display your affection. Use a praising tone, words of praise or "baby talk," as research has shown that dogs enjoy those most. Moreover, you'll feel the benefits of interacting, especially if you're feeling isolated at home.
Some dogs who crave your attention may resort to whining, crying, begging, nuzzling or pawing at things. It's best not to give in to your pup, as that will reward and reinforce the behavior. It essentially teaches them they can get what they want by whining, crying, etc.
If all else fails, you can always create a dog-free work zone. This can be achieved by closing your dog out of the room you're working in or simply keeping your dog in a separate area of your home. This is the most effective way to prevent your dog from distracting you while you work.
Whether you decide to create a dog-free work zone of keep your pup in your office with you, make sure there's always has access to his or her water bowls. And if your dog requires specific feeding times, make sure he or she has access to their food during those. This will reduces interruption caused by consistently needing to provide food or water for your pup.
Each day can be different when working from home. Most likely, there won't be a set routine and schedule that works for every single day. Because of this, it's best to remain flexible and adapt to what's in front of you. Don't let yourself get bogged down by what the day "should" have looked like or what "rules" you weren't able to follow.
It's hard balancing things in life and working from home with a dog is no different. So it's best to practice self-compassion and don't be too hard on yourself if things don't go according to plan. Give yourself a break, if you ended up playing with your pup instead of working on a task.