Have you recently found yourself having to work from home because of COVID-19? Do you have one or more dogs? Your dogs probably love this. But, possibly, you’re finding some aspects of this set up to be more difficult than you anticipated. Undesirable behaviors can interrupt your work day.
- Maybe your dog makes uninvited “appearances” during your video conferences.
- The weather is nice, your windows are open, and your dog barks every time another dog or person passes by.
- Your dog brings your balls and tug toys and demands your attention.
- Other problems?
It gets old, doesn’t it? So, let’s take some time to both manage and resolve these undesirable behaviors.
Completely resolving an undesirable behavior, like barking at passersby, can take weeks or months, especially if your dog has been able to rehearse the behavior often. Let’s start with management. By managing an issue, we’re not really changing a dog’s behavior. Management is all about manipulating the environment to avoid the issue while you can work on a permanent behavior change.
Your best management tools for many of these undesirable behaviors are wearing your dog out early in the day and providing solo activities for your dog through out the day. What do I mean by “wearing your dog out”? Well, what I do NOT mean is playing fetch until your arm falls off. While some physical activity is good, what your dog really needs is to work her brain.
Some suggestions to get your day started
- Take your dog for a sniffing walk in the morning before you start work. This is not about how far or how fast you can go. You want your dog to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Going to a new park or neighborhood usually sparks the sniffing, but you can do this in your own neighborhood too. Take your time, and let your dog sniff anything and everything for as long as she likes.
- Make a game out of your dog’s breakfast. Dog food from a bowl is boring. There is an endless supply of puzzle feeders on the market. If you feed your dog kibble, you can try the Kong Wobbler or any of Nina Ottosson‘s puzzles or any variation thereof. If you feed raw or canned, try freezing the food in a Kong or Toppl. Any of these options will extend your dog’s mealtime as well as require her to use her brain. If you don’t want to invest in more toys, see what you have around the house. For feeding kibble, you can punch holes in a cardboard box or milk jug. For feeding canned or raw, try freezing it in a muffin tin or bundt pan.
What about later in the day?
Schedule some times throughout the day for interacting with your dog.
- Rather that feeding your dog her entire breakfast in the morning, you can save some for later in the day. Again use puzzle feeders to occupy her brain. Weather-permitting, you can also scatter some kibble in the yard for your dog to find.
- Teach your dog a new trick. Start with your dog’s current knowledge and work from there. It can take days or weeks to perfect a trick, but you only need to work on it a few minutes at a time. Get a clicker and start working. Need ideas? Head over to Do More With Your Dog for lists of tricks for earning titles. I am a Certified Trick Dog Instructor. Not only can I help you teach your dog a new trick, I can also evaluate those tricks for earning titles. Contact me for more information.
- Take a short walk. You don’t want to overstimulate your dog. Save the running and fetching for the end of your work day. Just take a few minutes to get outside to get some fresh air.
Over the next few days, I will be posting more specific ways to manage problems like barking at passersby, etc. on my Facebook page. If you need help with specific problem you’re having while working at home with your dog, post that question in the comments below or send me a message.