Keeping your dog quiet while you are on a conference call can be a challenge at times. Have you recently transitioned to working from home and discovered that your lovable pooch can be quite disruptive during the workday?
If you are like me, you have probably experienced at least a few embarrassing moments when your dog erupts into furious barking in the middle of your virtual work meeting.
So how can you convince your dog to ignore those pesky, interloping squirrels or the invading mailman while you are on important business calls?
Below are some fun ideas for keeping your pet engaged and occupied while you work from home during the quarantine.
Follow these tips to set yourself and your dog up for success during this stressful situation.
Burn Off Steam: A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
This is the most important element of the plan.
Increasing your dog’s exercise will make a huge difference when it comes to his behavior during the workday.
This is especially true if you have an adolescent or a very young dog who constantly wants your attention and wants you to play with him throughout the day.
Most people have a little extra time in the morning since they no longer have to commute to the office.
Set aside 30 minutes in the morning to give your pup a good workout. This should be an aerobic workout, not a stroll in the neighborhood.
By the end of this exercise session, your dog should be panting, and his heart rate should be elevated.
Note—if you have an older pet or a pet with any underlying health conditions, please talk with your vet before increasing exercise.
Here are some examples of aerobic exercise for your dog:
- Power walking
- Playing fetch and/or tug in the yard
- Doing exercises with a flirt pole
Simply incorporating an extra 30 minutes of exercise per day will make a guaranteed difference in your dog’s behavior.
If you have an especially active breed, you may need to do a second 30-minute session later in the day—perhaps during your lunch break.
Examples of high-energy breeds include:
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Siberian Husky
- Jack Russell Terrier (Parson Russell Terrier)
- German Shepherd Dog
- Belgian Malinois
- Australian Cattle Dog
Mental Exercise is Just as Effective as Physical Exercise
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
We know that most owners will not be able to go for a 30-minute jog every single day.
It might be raining on some mornings, or you simply might not want to get out of your bathrobe just yet.
That is ok!
The great news is that mental exercise is just as tiring as physical exercise for your dog.
Instead of lacing up your jogging shoes, you can do a training session in your kitchen while you sip your morning coffee.
Work with your dog for 30 minutes on fun, basic commands such as:
- Puppy Pushups (Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit, Down, etc.)
- Leave it
- Watch me
- Touch (hand targeting)
- Shake paws
- Go to your crate/ bed
If you need a refresher on how to train your dog to do some of these simple commands, check out this video library of dog training with Victoria Stillwell.
When it comes to training, always use positive reinforcement rather than forceful training.
Training your dog for 30 minutes in the morning has an added bonus! In addition to burning off energy, your pup will also get a chance to brush up on some important manners.
Once you sit down in your home office, it is time to break out the enrichment toys.
You will want to have a couple of these ready to go every morning. Then you can distribute them strategically throughout the day.
We recommend holding onto them until right before conference calls. Give your dog one of these distracting activities right before you hop on a Zoom meeting.
If you have multiple dogs, give these items to them in separate crates or separate rooms to prevent scuffles.
Note—please supervise your dog with any new toy or item to prevent choking.
The Kong is the quintessential enrichment toy. It is so simple yet so brilliant.
A Kong is a hard, hollow rubber toy. It looks like a beehive.
You can fill the Kong with peanut butter, plain yogurt, cream cheese, or the official Kong stuffing spray.
You can put some treats or kibbles in the bottom and then seal the opening with your preferred filling. Check out this interactive diagram of how to stuff a Kong.
To make it extra challenging, put the stuffed Kong in the freezer overnight. It will take even longer for your dog to get through all the layers.
This enrichment activity is perfect because it can be done quietly. There are no squeakers or noisemakers. Your dog can work on this right at your feet and your coworkers will never know.
If your dog is on a diet, try stuffing your dog’s Kong with these low-calorie alternatives to peanut butter and treats:
- Small pieces of apple (no seeds)
- Pieces of sweet potato
- Cottage cheese
- Plain, low-fat yogurt
- Plain cooked white rice
There are plenty of similar hollow toys that you can try. Here are some of other options:
Food Puzzles are another fun, quiet activity that your dog can do in the same room while you are working.
There are a wide variety of these interactive puzzles available in a range of difficulty levels.
Nina Ottosson puzzles by Outward Hound are some of the most popular ones on the market!
Busy Balls and Wobblers
These toys are very engaging, but they can be a little noisier.
You will probably want to close your dog in another room of the house when you give your dog a busy ball or a wobbler toy.
Busy balls or treat balls are round plastic or rubber balls. They have small holes that dispense treats.
Your dog can roll the ball around the house and collect the treats as they fall out. Your dog will even get a little exercise with this activity.
Wobblers are hard plastic toys with a weight at the bottom. Your dog will paw at the wobbler and it will tip around to dispense the treats.
I sometimes feed my dog his whole dinner out of the Kong Wobbler while I am working in the other room.
He is usually so tired after he extracts every little bite of his dinner from the wobbler that he takes a short post-dinner nap!
Himalayan Dog Chew
The Himalayan Dog Chew is my working from home ace in the hole. I give one of these to my dog when I need him to be entertained for a really long time.
They are expensive, so I use them sparingly, but they are amazing!
These treats are extremely long-lasting, even for breeds that are very heavy chewers.
They also do not generate much of an odor or create a mess.
I have a large-breed dog who is a very robust chewer, but it takes him hours to get through one of these.
Bully Sticks, Knuckle Bones, Hooves
These types of enrichments will also keep most dogs entertained for a long period of time. My dog loves them.
It is really important to supervise your dog with these types of enrichment treats since they are edible.
Some owners are not a big fan because these can produce an odor as your dog chews on them. Some of them can also produce a stain.
It might be best to give this type of treat to your dog while he is outside or in his crate.
Note- if you have a dog that is prone to resource guarding, be careful with these.
Dogs consider these to be very high-value items and might try to snap or bite if you try to take them away.
DIY Homemade Enrichment Items
Dog toys and enrichment items can get expensive quickly!
Here are some options for making your own enrichment activities for your dog with items that you probably have around the house.
During the summer, dogs love frozen enrichment treats.
All you need is an ice cube tray and some dog treats.
Fill the ice cube tray with water or chicken broth.
Drop a few treats into each compartment and put the trays in the freezer.
Once they are frozen, your dog will have to lick through the ice to get to the delicious treats frozen inside.
These treats can be messy, so it is best to feed them to your dog outside or in a room with a tile floor that is easy to clean (like a kitchen).
Foraging for food is a natural activity for dogs in the wild. Our pet dogs love to have the opportunity to express this ingrained behavior.
Grab an old blanket, sheet or towel from the laundry.
Sprinkle treats or your dog’s evening ration of kibble into the blanket.
Grab the middle of the blanket and twist it so that lots of creases and folds are created.
Let your dog have fun snuffling and digging through the blanket to find his treats.
Peanut Butter Finger Painting
If your dog is crate trained, this is an awesome game for him while he is in his crate.
Lock him out of the room for a few minutes while you prepare the crate.
You will need a small bowl of peanut butter and a few treats.
Use your finger to “paint” the inside walls or bars of his crate with peanut butter.
You can also stick a few treats onto the walls of the crate with peanut butter. Or you can simply hide them in his bedding at the bottom of the crate.
Unlock the door and watch him spend hours licking the peanut butter out of every nook and cranny in his crate.
Homemade Food Dispensers
You can make your own food dispensing toys with recyclable items around the house.
For example, you can cut holes in a large cardboard box (like a cereal box) and watch your dog tip it around to get the treats to fall out.
You can also cut slits in a tennis ball and insert treats into the center of the ball. Let your dog use his brain to try to get them out.
You can make a food puzzle out of a muffin tin and tennis balls. Place treats at the bottom of each cup of the muffin tin.
Cover the treats with tennis balls (or other toys) and let your dog work on that for a while.
A Calm Environment
It is also important to create a peaceful environment for your dog while you work from home.
Soft Music or White Noise
Many dogs bark when they hear interesting noises outside such as the other dogs barking, cats fighting, the neighborhood kids playing, the mailman coming up the steps, etc.
Try drowning out the neighborhood noises by playing some soft, soothing music or white noise.
There is plenty of free music available on Youtube. Some of it is designed specifically to help dogs or babies sleep.
Just type in “calming music” and you will have an array of options. You can try a few different ones to see which ones work best for your dog.
Baby Gates and Crates
Baby gates and crates really come in handy when you have to turn your home into a home office.
Sometimes it is important to be able to work uninterrupted without the possibility that your dog will come careening into the room and drop a slobbery tennis ball in your lap.
Do some short practice sessions before you use these tools for the first time.
For example, practice being on the other side of the baby gate for just a few seconds at a time. Toss treats to your dog from the other side. Then return to your dog.
This will help your dog learn that good things happen when you are on the other side of the baby gate. It also helps your dog understand that you will eventually return to him.
We hope that these ideas will help you create a more pleasant and sustainable working environment for you and your canine companion during this difficult time.
With a little time, effort and patience, we know that you can turn your pet into a top-notch coworker!