A lot of us are in quarantine and/or staying home to help prevent the spread of infection. This means we're skipping get-togethers with friends; we're cancelling family trips and plans we had with relatives; and - the big, possibly weird one - we're working from home. All of this means we are home A LOT.
Being home during the week - working from home - is something that might throw your new co-worker (your SideKick) for a bit of a loop:
Suddenly, it’s the weekend every day.
Their human puts on a weird business-y voice when they talk to the computer or have a headset on.
They get in trouble when they try to join in on calls (even though it’s what they normally do to talk to Grandma and everyone loves it).
It’s a weird time for everyone. And, in the remote training sessions I've had with clients over the past couple of weeks, we've talked a lot about the struggles they're having working from home and managing their new co-workers...
The following are a few of my suggestions and ideas to help keep the peace, maintain your sanity while working from home over the next few weeks (or longer), and transition your dog to your working-from-home schedule.
1) Set or create intentional quiet time. It’s very likely that your dog isn’t napping as much as they normally do or did before you began working from home; and an overtired dog is mischievous and frustrating and looking for things to do to stay awake or simply excited and curious about what their human could be doing each time you shift in your seat.
Set a schedule or create some regular, consistent times your dog will be in their kennel or in their room for some relaxation and a nap.
This may be similar to the schedule you had prior to working from home (in the kennel at 8:00 am and again at 1:00 pm, etc.) to mirror what they may already be used to; or you may set it up to be close to what your future schedule may look like (whether that is working from home for longer or a new schedule outside of the house).
You may start with a short period of time, such as half an hour, and increase it a bit as you go to an hour or two hours in order to give them a solid chunk of time to get a nap in.
If your usual schedule or their previous kennel time included a stuffed Kong or a chew toy or some other (safe-to-eat-while-unsupervised) chew, feel free to give that to them during this quiet time. It will be reminiscent of the time they had to themselves prior to you working from home and it is a relaxing, calming activity.
Additionally, while it is great that your dog can and will get used to you being home more and get used to your work schedule at home, we don’t want them to get UN-used to being on their own; we don’t want them to forget how to settle down by themselves and lose the independence they have or had when they were home alone for a longer span of time. If that happens, we may have some difficulties when we return to working at the office or away from home full-time again.
2) Provide relaxing, calming activities. If you can’t pay close attention to your dog or you need them to be occupied well for a conference call or something like that, you may choose to give your dog activities they can do on their own!
Often, I tell people to focus on activities that are calming and relaxing for our dogs (and that keep them busy for a few minutes, at least): chewing, licking, lapping, sniffing, and dissecting.
You may give your dog a stuffed Kong or Kong-like toy (don’t forget that there are SO many things you can stuff into a Kong!).
Provide a long-lasting chew or flavored chew toy (something that is safe for your dog to chew solo and without your supervision) – a No-Hide, bully stick, sheep hoof, antler, etc.
Provide a mental enrichment activity that will occupy your dog for a bit! A meal-dispensing toy or a Busy Box, for example. One of my favorite suggestions for mental enrichment these days is the 100 Days of Enrichment challenge from AniEd! If you've followed this blog for a bit, you know I did this challenge with my dog over the Winter and they're running it for a third time right now!
3) Create a 'work station' for your SideKick. As you've been working from home over the past week or so, it's possible your SideKick has been doing some things that aren't amusing to you and that you're not easily able to address while you're working:
Barking out the window
Chasing the cat or the other dog
Crawling around on your lap, your keyboard, your desk
Or begging for your attention in some other way
When you’re home, create a spot for your SideKick that is specifically designed to give them a behavior or activity that is alternative to the above behaviors! Having this work station gives your SideKick something to do that is rewarding and that has them still part of the "action."
I suggest setting up that work station for your SideKick right next to you:
Set your dog’s mat, bed, or blanket up next to your desk, the couch, or the dining room table – wherever you’re working and within arm's reach (I mostly suggest this because my treat tossing skills are dismal at best).
Provide a couple (quiet) toys for your dog - a chew toy, a familiar and beloved stuffed animal, their Kong, or anything they might like.
Prepare some treats to hand out; they can be in a bowl or container on the desk next to you, in a treat pouch, in your pocket, or just sitting on your work surface.
Encourage your SideKick to hang out at their station by placing or dropping a couple treats on it any time you see something you like, such as when they:
Are quiet, calm, relaxed
Sit on the mat
Lay down on the mat
Put their head down on the mat
Roll onto their side
Are able to look around (instead of just staring at you)
Are able to acknowledge noises they hear (outside or in other parts of the house) without feeling the need to yell at the source of the noise
This exercise is helping your dog learn (or remember) how to settle, which is a difficult skill for any of us (have you ever tried meditating? Sheesh, it ain't easy)! Rewarding relaxed behavior and encouraging more of it will help your dog learn to offer it more on their own AND the visual, physical target of that work station serves as a reminder to your SideKick of that option to relax and that alternative to the other behaviors we aren't superfans of! This work station is something really great to utilize during work if you're trying to listen in on a conference call, talk on the phone with a client or co-worker, or having a video meeting with someone who does not need to see your dog's butt as your dog attempts to nest in your lap right in front of the webcam...
These are just a few suggestions to help you and your SideKick transition a little easier to that work from home life; if you need any extra assistance or help, don't hesitate to reach out!