5 Tips To Help Your Dog Transition to Working From Home

5 Tips To Help Your Dog Transition to Working From Home

The coronavirus will truly affect our daily lives in the weeks and months ahead, and of course, many of us will be spending more time than usual at home. This means that normal household daily routines will change and this will have an effect on our beloved furry family members.

So how can we help your dog transition to working from home? I’ll be sharing some of the things I do in the house to entertain and stimulate our Cockapoo Archie when I’m at home. 

My Experience

Over the past year, my life has been turned upside down and I have seen myself in and out of hospital having numerous surgeries. As a result, there have been on and off weeks and months on end that I have been in the house with Archie. 

I have seen the effects there can be on Archie’s behaviour when I am suddenly at home for prolonged periods.  The positive effects are lovely which tend to be more cuddles and having a shadow follow me around the house. On the other hand, there are a number of unexpected things I have had to manage such as him demanding constant play, expecting to go outside more often than I could offer, and dealing with evening tiredness tantrums that usually displayed themselves as manically running around our coffee table or digging up his bed.  In addition, and more worryingly he started to become agitated being left alone in the space we call ‘his room’ when I was home.  

I began trying out a variety of strategies to help manage these new behaviours that manifested with me being at home for long periods of time and all because Archie was not used to this being part of his routine. 

My Top 5 Tips to help your pooch positively transition to you being at home in the days

1. Maintain or establish a sleep routine: To begin with, each time I transitioned to being home for long periods of time, Archie’s routine would go out the window and the sleep regime that he desperately needs to maintain being the best boy he can be would no longer exist.

So to help your dog transition to working from home, it’s key to maintain their regular sleep routine.

What works for us:

  • Purposely create physical distance via use of a gate or closed door for periods of time each day 
  • Enforce daily snooze times by putting on soothing music, closing the blinds to block out distractions, asking him to ‘go for a snooze’ by encouraging him to lie down and leaving him alone – essentially creating a new snooze routine!
  • Keep mealtimes consistent.  A longer lie in can be tempting yet a shift in meal times can really muck with toileting habits. Trying to determine if Archie needed the toilet outwith his normal times or simply desired to go outside was tricky to interpret and manage.

2. Spot and use new opportunities for learning: With being at home during the day, I became aware of the normal activities happening in and around the home that I previously was not privy to such as the bin man collecting the rubbish, the fast walking postal lady, the neighbours walking to and from the shops, the number of squirrels that use our fence as a racecourse and so on. 

Archie began showing heightened reactions (what I really mean is barking loudly and often!) when watching these things happen. I interpreted his reactions to the property line trespassers to be either his fear system going into overdrive from sheer tiredness or his desire to protect me going into full effect. 

I quickly began to prepare for these trespassers and worked with Archie to turn these moments into learning opportunities and to prevent myself from suffering from ringing ears after bouts of intense barking spells!

What works for us:

  • Aim to desensitise to the stimulus if possible by slowly building up tolerance levels to stimuli and reward profusely for only watching and not barking
  • Recognise when using distraction techniques might be best and pass on treating it as a learning opportunity!  
  • As difficult as it is, choose when to ignore certain behaviours. The motto I live by and I suspect many others might as well  – ‘reward the good, ignore the bad’

3. Teach a new trick: Archie loves learning new tricks and thrives on receiving full attention at these times. Or I could be kidding myself, it could equally be the sight of the clicker which he knows guarantees him a load of treats. Usually after a trick training session, Archie is pleased with the treats he has earned and I’m over the moon watching him grow, learn and master new skills. 

Some tricks he has learnt over the past year are stand, hop, chew your bone, twirl, jump, quiet, snoot, and put your hands up. Tricks we are currently working on are tidy up, sit pretty, go over, go under, and relax.

What works for us:

  • Dedicate short bursts of time each day to work on new tricks
  • Decide on a trick to teach and stick with it consistently over several sessions  – don’t expect perfection in the first session!
  • Review and solidify known tricks to generate some enthusiasm and confidence

4. Add in Mental Stimulation Games:  All too often in the past, I fell into a guilt trap of thinking I couldn’t provide the amount of physical exercise Archie needed. A session in the house focusing on ways to get Archie using his brain always proves to be just as exciting and almost as tiring for Archie as physical exercise. I’m particularly passionate about integrating mental stimulation games into his routine.  We know mental health is equally as important as physical health and this is the same for our pooches.   

Some of the brain thinking games we rely on inside the house are Find It, Un-tie It, Self Control Activities and Which Hand. If anyone wishes for more information about any one of these, please do get in contact.

What works for us:

  • Choosing to value mental stimulation activities just as much as physical-based ones 
  • Dedicating time to add in mental stimulation activities even for only a minute or two each day
  • Add variety by switching up games often  

Click here for a range of DIY enrichment games that you can create at home.

5. Expand physical activity past the reliance on walks: Previously, I had thought that ensuring Archie had enough physical activity, meant only off lead walks with other dogs and playing fetch. I now find it remarkable how much I can get Archie panting by just playing fetch in the house in our narrow passageway between our living room and kitchen. Any space, even as small as it may be, I can use to get Archie’s heart rate up, even if it may just be jumping to catch a ball.

What works for us:

  • Do what’s reasonably possible to offer the best level of physical exercise I can in the day.
  • If walks need to be limited, than choosing walks to match Archie’s needs. For Archie this is an off lead walk, ideally along a forest path with lots of scents. 
  • Being tactful when choosing to engage in a bit of physical activities in the house, such as  just before or after enforced snooze times!

Focusing on these 5 things has transformed our days together in the house from hard going to joyfully manageable!

If you have any other tips to help make these times a bit easier, then I would love to hear them and I am sure others would as well.

Jennifer Taggart

@archievslife

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