How To Work With A Dog As Your Coworker

December 2, 2020

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phone, fintech notebook, and coffee cup on table, with a hand over the notebook with a pen.

Here’s how it happens: the Zoom call you have with a potential client is scheduled for 2 p.m., and you spend an hour prepping. You’ve checked your background, your internet connection, put a tie on, or fixed your makeup (we all know you have pajama pants on!) and muted your phone and emails. You’re ready! Until the delivery driver knocks on your door and the dog starts barking like it’s the end of the world!

You smile, your client smiles and waits.

We all understand. But that doesn’t stop the fact that it’s distracting and reflects poorly on you.

During quarantine, dog adoptions and purchases skyrocketed.

“At the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, a nonprofit shelter, adoptions were double their usual rate in late June, with 10 or 13 adoptions a day, president Madeline Bernstein said. A waiting list had formed for certain types of dogs, and for puppies in general because so few were left in the shelter. (WashingtonPost.com)

We spent 2020 learning entirely too much about our colleagues, vendors, and clients’ home lives. Now, in 2021, it’s time to get back to work, without distractions. It doesn’t look like we’ll be back in the office anytime soon, and even if we are, wouldn’t it be nice to bring Fido to work with you? Let’s look at some of the ways you can control your puppy enough to stay professional, while also enjoying the benefits of having a dog.

1. Exercise

Of course, your dog will be quiet if he is sleeping! By walking your dog before sitting down to work, you are more likely to have a calm pup during your conference call. And the benefit is not just your dog’s.

One of the biggest downfalls of 2020 is the lack of exercise that people were getting. Many of the people that were used to going to the gym stopped due to the concern of COVID spreading. Many employees that relied on a commute to get some exercise no longer have that commute. One of the best ways to get exercise without fear of COVID-19 is running or walking outside with your dog.

Desk-bound individuals across the world use the Pomodoro method. The concept is that by breaking work into 25-minute periods with a five-minute break between each period, you can remain focused and get more done. After four 25-minute periods, you get a break long enough to take a quick walk with your dog! You’ll be amazed at how this quick break will invigorate your day.

 

 2. Comfort

You wouldn’t expect an employee to sit in an uncomfortable chair for eight hours. Your dog also needs to be comfortable. Again, if a dog is tired and lying on a comfortable bed, she is more likely to sleep.

Many people have tried putting their dog in a different room, or outside while on conference calls, but this isn’t the best long-term method. My beagle will cry at the door or howl. Some dogs will become bored (or cold) and dig the back yard, or even run away. By keeping your dog beside you while you work, you train him to be a good member of the pack; which is not all that different from being a good teammate or employee!

Keeping water on hand and making sure your dog is fed before you go to work ensures one less distraction. Don’t bring squeaky toys to work!

 

3. Rewards

Bribery will get you everywhere!

When you have your dog in the same space as you, you can usually foresee any issues. When someone rings the doorbell, you’ll be right there to talk to your puppy and reward them for calming down quickly. If you get a phone call and that triggers the dog, it’s much easier for them to understand if they are right next to you.

We can’t expect a dog to not bark. It’s their instinct and they don’t understand that it could be annoying. You can get them to calm down quickly though. Sometimes it’s as simple as a command with a treat once they’re quiet and sometimes it’s more physical. One schnauzer-owner found that hugging his dog after he barked stopped the behavior and then he received a reward.

 

4. Consistency

Humans often fall into the trap of thinking that animals understand us. A dog is a different species, so training is really just forming a habit that teaches dog and owner to communicate on an understood level. When you say “Sit!” and point down, your dog will eventually understand that “sit!” means sitting and pointing down also means sit, whether it’s one or both commands at the same time.

If you provide a reward to your dog for good behavior every time they do the behavior, they’ll jump at the chance. But if you reward them before they do it, they’ll be confused.

As I mentioned, I have a beagle. He (and most of his kind!) likes to run away. We have an electric fence to help keep him off the road and the collar he wears beeps before he gets to the fence. This is his warning. He has been trained and conditioned to understand that beeping means “Back Up!” Now, he wears a new collar that just beeps when we press a button. So, when he starts to bark during my workday, I press the button, he hears the beep and stops barking to figure out what happened. I reward him with a treat and tell him he’s a good boy, and the moment passes very quickly. This is how we have become a good team.

Do you work with your dog? Need more than these tips? Our friends at fluentwoof.com created a great guide for working at home with your dog.

Check it out here: https://fluentwoof.com/working-from-home-with-a-dog/

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