Who’s the Boss When You’re Working From Home With a Dog?

Your dog has been working from home since the day you brought them home — way longer than you have. Now that you’re sharing a workspace, how do you all get along? Do you interrupt each other’s meetings, work sessions, and nap times? Working from home with a dog can be frustrating, especially when your dog wants to stick to his routine. 

The year 2020 saw a sharp rise in remote workers because of the global pandemic. A Standford University report suggests that 42% of workers in the U.S. are working from home full time. Another think tank called GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics suggests that 56% of the U.S. workforce could do their jobs from home, and they predict that now that we’ve been in a global pandemic and forced to work from home, the trend will be more of a norm.

Working from home presents a mix of advantages and disadvantages, especially for our pets. While dogs might be pack animals who are thrilled to have everyone sequestered under one roof, we humans have had to get creative to make sure our animals don’t get in the way of productivity.    

We’ve got tips for how to survive endless interruptions when working from home with a dog.

How to Stop a Barking Dog During a Conference Call

Remember a few years ago, when this video called “A conference call in real life” went viral? About 2.5 minutes in, a barking dog interrupts the meeting. 

Most of us can laugh off interruptions from our kids and pets, but at the same time, the interruptions can be unwelcome. 

The dog, after all, is confident that his job is to guard your property and alert you of visitors (… and squirrels … and other dogs … and delivery people …). He’s confident that your job is to feed him, let him out, and give him attention when he needs it. 

So, you might have some training and retraining to do, to let them know that yes, you are still Top Dog, even if you’re working in their workspace. Here’s what to do to stop them once they start barking; the next section offers preventive tips to avoid barking altogether.

1. If your dog starts barking during a conference call or an important Zoom-type meeting, keep your ultrasonic training device nearby, out of your video camera’s sight. As soon as the dog starts barking, press and release the button. This will get your dog’s attention and interrupt their barking.

2. Mute your microphone and issue the “quiet” command to your dog.

3. Keep healthy training treats nearby. When your dog is exhibiting good behaviors, like quietly keeping you company, give them a treat and praise.

4. Every time your dog starts to bark, press and release the button.   

How to Prevent Endless Interruptions From the Dog

What’s the saying that says something like, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Most of your coworkers, vendors, clients, and partners are accustomed to the disruptions that come with working from home. Those moments can even inject a little levity and camaraderie into your meetings and business relationships. 

But when you’re in focus mode, head down, deep in a project … your dog could not care less. When it’s time to go out, it’s time to go out. When they’re bored, they’re bored.

There are things you can do to prevent your dog from interrupting your workday and important business meetings.

  1. Tire them out – As you begin your day, look at your calendar and schedule at least a 20-minute walk or play session with your dogs. Tired dogs are less likely to care about the outside world, which means fewer interruptions. Plus, the walk is good for you, too.
  2. Give them a job – Five minutes before meetings start is a great time to give your dog a puzzle toy that can keep him or her busy for the duration of your call. A Kong stuffed with peanut butter keeps many dogs busy.
  3. Close the windows – If your dog shares a workspace with you and can see outside, close the blinds before you begin your conference call. If they can’t see passersby, they are less likely to bark at them.
  4. Sequester them – Designate a safe place for your dog that is cozy and comfortable and out of earshot of your microphone or phone before you join a conference call. This might mean kenneling them for a short time, with a familiar toy or blanket; it might also mean closing your office door. 
  5. Get on a schedule – Both you and the dog would benefit from a regular schedule, even if you loosely define it. Even some time management theories say that we humans benefit from shorter blocks of work interspersed with short breaks. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, says to work in 25-minute work blocks with 5-minute breaks between. That’s enough time to take a short stretch outside, play a couple rounds of catch, or enjoy a healthy snack.  
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