How To Work From Home With a Dog: Tips From Team Members

How To Work From Home With a Dog: Tips From Team Members

Working from home with your dog nearby 24/7 may be one of the most adorable perks of remote work. It can also be challenging.

When your dog insists on being the star of your Zoom calls or won’t stop barking at anyone who dares to walk past “their” window, your furry BFF can quickly turn into your most distracting work-from-home nightmare.

So how do you stay productive while also making sure your four-legged, fluffy colleague gets all the pats they deserve? I asked several pUpwork (puppies + Upwork) team members for their best tips on working from home with a dog. They also share the (many!) benefits of being a WFH pet owner. Let’s take a look at all their wonderful insights.

1. Create a routine for your dog

Routines are great for everyone—humans as well as our furry friends. When you transition to working from home, your dog may be confused, especially when you first start. This change in structure can also lead to undesirable changes in their behavior.

The best thing you can do for your dog is to create (and stick to!) a daily structure. Dogs thrive on routine. Continue to feed them as you usually do. Take them on walks at the same time each day. Upwork team members share more advice for structuring your daily routine below.

“I try to take my dog Wangcai for a walk three times a day. This routine allows me to work peacefully and I don't feel guilty about not spending enough time with him,” says Content Marketing Associate and dog mom to Wangcai, Hayalsu Altinordu.

Hayalsu and Wangcai

Hayalsu Altinordu with her dog, Wangcai

2. Walk your dog early

A tired dog is a happy dog. Build a morning walk into your daily routine. The idea is to tire them out so they’re content and leave you alone to start off your workday without any distractions.

Senior Manager, Trust & Safety Investigations and work-from-home colleague to Barley and Shea, Chris Horne says, “Make sure you walk them as far and hard as you can in the morning. This will help them settle for the day, and also gives you some exercise too.”

Barley and Shea

Chris Horne’s dogs, Barley and Shea

Director of Human Resources Katherine Abikarram and pawrent of two-year-old Franklin, agrees. “Taking a long walk with my dog before work always helps him get energy out and I get fresh air before starting my day!”

Katherine Abikarram’s dog, Franklin

3. Schedule consistent dog playtime

Of course one walk a day won’t keep them from seeking attention from you throughout the day. Your dog is going to want to keep playing with you. And let’s be honest, if you’re around your dog all day, you can only resist playing with them for so long.

Once again, it’s best to create a consistent playtime routine. Sync up your dog’s calendar with yours and set aside several times during your day to take breaks and play with them.

JD Fuentecilla is a Business Analytics specialist who works from home alongside Lucy, Tokyo, and Loki. “Something that really works for me and my dogs is having a consistent playtime outside work time. When it's playtime, I give them all the attention, love, and energy and they happily reciprocate! Then when it's work time, they're somehow out of energy to create any trouble while I’m busy.”

JD Fuentecilla’s dog, Lucy

Horne agrees, “Set aside playtime in the day for 10 minutes during a coffee break, so they learn they play when you do, not when they want.”

4. Make a separate dog workspace

Creating a separate area where your dogs can spend time while you work is very helpful in establishing a work-from-home routine for your dog (and you!)

Social Media Manager Kirsten Agnello-Dean shares her home office with her dogs, Ella and Study. “Just as your home office should be tailored to your personality and full of the things that help you do your best work, make sure your space is set up for your pups as well—think comfy beds and quiet toys,” is Agnello-Dean’s advice.

Study

Kirsten Agnello-Dean’s dog, Study

Senior Content Designer Haley Donoughe works from home with her dogs Colton and Palmer. Her advice is to “Make sure they have a dedicated ‘workspace’ too. Whether that's a dog bed, chair, or daybed, it's helpful to have a space where they're expected to be while you're working.”

Colton and Palmer

Haley Donoughe’s dogs, Colton and Palmer

5. Say no to puppy eyes

Dogs are social beings and when they want something (i.e. your attention), they can be oh-so-cute! Case in point: every dog photo in this article but especially the puppy eyes from Donoghue’s dogs Colton and Palmer in the photo above!

When you’re around, your dogs are likely to expect more pats, more walks, and perhaps a bite of your lunch too. As convincing as those puppy eyes may be, stick to your routine. This will teach them you’re working and they can only interact with you during play, walk, and meal times as per your schedule, not theirs.

Altinordu shares, “I have to admit that it's tough for me to avoid the puppy eyes, and he always tries to get some of my food! Meetings are the most challenging. He constantly pokes me and seeks my attention, like he knows I have an essential thing to do. That's when the LickiMat becomes my savior.”

6. Keep your dog busy with toys and games

The best way to keep your dogs on their best behavior is to provide them with lots of stimulation. As discussed, walks and playtime are great for this. However, your dogs may still get bored during the day and crave activity. Keep them stimulated—and avoid destructive behavior—with the help of dog toys and games.

Senior Communications Manager Elisabeth Copper co-works with her pet-colleague Clay by her side. She says it’s important to “Encourage your dog to play independently. There are so many awesome toys and treats that keep pets distracted, engaged, and happy while their humans are working all day, so find what works best for your pup and they'll thank you for it!”

Clay

Elisabeth Copper’s dog, Clay

“I have several agility toys for Wangcai to keep him active, such as treat dispensers and a Lickimat. He loves yogurt, and that yogurt on LickiMat keeps him busy for a while. The magical treat dispensers and puzzles also keep him busy,” shares Altinordu.

7. Work on training your dog to lower the amount of barking

Dogs bark. That’s normal. However, excessive barking can be annoying, distracting, and stressful.

If your dog is barking a lot during the day, start by taking note of what is triggering their behavior. Are they barking because they’re bored? Do they bark at passersby? Or perhaps they’re barking as a way to get your attention?

Work on training your pup to reduce their need to bark unnecessarily. The techniques you use will vary, depending on why they’re bow-wowing. For example, if they’re barking for your attention, you could try to ignore them and see if that removes their motivation to bark.

Senior Manager, Stock Administration, Debbie Tiberi is the dog parent of Malibu and Zuma. She shares a simple but effective tip to keep the barking at a minimum, “I recommend keeping your windows closed; otherwise your dogs will hear every little noise outside and start barking.”

Malibu and Zuma

Debbie Tiberi’s dogs, Malibu and Zuma

8. Consider puppy social days at dog hotels

Long days at home, especially when you’re busy, can be boring for your dog. The occasional social day at a puppy daycare or dog hotel could be fun for your dog and give you a much-needed break as well.

Agnello-Dean takes advantage of her local dog daycare when necessary. “If I am having work done in my home or a day that's packed with meetings, I'll drop the dogs at daycare once or twice a month. It allows me a calm day and helps them burn off excess energy, especially during the cold winter months when we're all stuck inside!”

9. Keep them busy during meetings

The occasional guest appearance from your canine colleague is gladly welcomed in many work meetings. However, constant interruptions from your pets—especially during more serious meetings—may not always go down well with your colleagues.

While pet-owners are prone to feeling guilty for seeking “alone time” during the day, Agnello-Dean says, “Sometimes having your pups around can be stressful too. It's okay to set them up in their own space in another room for really important calls and presentations.”

Donoughe agrees, “If you have an important meeting, or maybe you're facilitating, it's okay to not have them in your office. If I know I will be off mute most of the meeting, I'll put Colton and Palmer in their crate. They're comfortable there and I know I won't get distracted. This tends to only work if your dog is crate trained or comfortable not being with you every moment.”

Additionally, if you’re expecting a delivery, prepare ahead. The dog vs. mailman love-hate relationship certainly continues to hold true for many a dog, especially in Horne’s household. “DO NOT let them see the UPS delivery person walk up the driveway. You need to be quick, or your video call will end in a stream of barks—not all of them from the pups!”

10. Be sensitive to their needs

Like humans, every dog is different. Some may be okay if you shut your office door and leave them on the other side. Others simply don’t cope well if they’re away from their owners.

B2B Content Writer and human colleague of Ivy, Emily Gertenbach has found this to be true in her own experience. “Ivy is an American Staffordshire terrier, and one of their characteristics is that they LOVE being around people. This is extremely true for her, to the point that she'll want to lie directly behind my feet while I work. To help with this, we got her a second bed and some comfy blankets and laid them next to my desk. This way, she has her ‘own space’ in my office. She really likes it—I now sometimes find her in there without me!”

Ivy

Emily Gertenbach’s dog, Ivy

​​Apart from separation anxiety, your dog may have other anxieties or sensitivities you may need to be mindful of as well. Tiberi shares, “One of my dogs is very sensitive to sound. The Slack message notifications give her great anxiety, so I had to mute the sound. Now I just have to be very diligent to check for messages!”

11. Have bribes and treats on hand

Dog parents everywhere know that bribes go down a treat when you need your dog to be on their best behavior. (That pun was fully intended, using an Aussie/British phrase for when something results in a great outcome!)

Agnello-Dean’s advice is to “Always have bribes close at hand during video meetings. I have a jar of treats on my desk that I can reach off-camera and toss to my dogs if they start barking during a call. A chew or puzzle that takes a while to eat is perfect for longer calls. Bully sticks are my go-to.”

12. Be patient with yourself and your dog

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself or your dog. Working from home can be an adjustment for both of you. Your dog probably can’t rationalize why you’re suddenly always home with them. As happy as they may be to see you all the time, give them a while to adjust to their new routine.

Copper reminds us to “​Keep in mind that transitioning to a work-from-home model is an adjustment for dogs too! I used to take Clay into the office with me so he had a lot of time to socialize with other humans and dogs. Now he just hangs out with my fiancé and me all day! I don't want him to get codependent or antisocial so I make sure he has plenty of playtime with other dogs, whether that's at the park after work or at doggy daycare once or twice a week.”

If working from home with a dog around is new for you, be patient with yourself as well. You will learn as you go. Remember you and your dog are both doing the best you can.

Fuentecilla’s reminder is to “Think of them as your coworkers and their main job is to just be your pawesome buddy!”

Benefits of working from home as a pet owner

Working from home with your pets can be equal parts aww-inducing and distracting—fun but also occasionally stressful. However, overall our pUpwork team members shared that they’re thrilled to have more time with their dogs. After all, being a work-from-home dog owner has many benefits:

1. Reduces stress levels

Research shows that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).

“They're the best listeners. If I have a stressful day one of my pups is always there for a quick hug and play session,” says Agnello-Dean.

2. Provides constant companionship

“Working from home can be a bit isolating, so I love the companionship of having my pups nearby. It is comforting to have them around me. I never feel lonely,” says Tiberi.

Research confirms what many dog owners already know: Dogs can help you feel less lonely. Donoughe agrees, “I would be so lonely if I didn't have dogs while I work from home. They're my at-home coworkers.”

3. Increases happiness—for humans and dogs

Dogs make us happier. The converse is also true. Our dogs love that we’re home and spend more time with them.

Abikarram says “Having a puppy around while I work has definitely done wonders for my general happiness.”

“​I love seeing her pure enjoyment of life. When it's warm out, we both like to hang out on the balcony while I work. As soon as the balcony door cracks open she comes running—the delight she gets from lying out in the sun and looking out at the trees and houses is adorable,” shares Gertenbach.

Fuentecilla sums it up well. “My dogs are definitely a dose of serotonin for me. It’s like having a buddy around who understands you!”

4. Supplies reasons to get up and move

Dog owners are more active than those who don’t own dogs, according to TIME.

“Having dogs in your home office gives you an excuse to get up from your desk, start and stop your day in a timely fashion, and keep you from overworking,” says Agnello-Dean.

Copper agrees. “Being able to use them as an excuse to get outside of the house is a huge plus! I sometimes struggle with giving myself breaks, so knowing that my little guy needs a walk is the perfect motivator for shutting my laptop and getting some vitamin D.”

5. Lessens the guilt of leaving dogs alone

Dog lovers hate leaving their dogs alone for long periods. However, working from an office often necessitated this. Working from home helps dog parents spend more time with their dogs and lessens their guilt about leaving their dogs by themselves.

Donoughe says that working from home has definitely helped to lessen her pet owners’ guilt. “I used to feel so bad about leaving them all day. And if I had an event after work, I had to coordinate with my husband to make sure the dogs weren't in their crate for too long.”

Altinordu agrees. “I love being able to spend the whole day with my dog and not feeling bad for leaving him alone all by himself. Dogs are like furry babies and they need constant attention. I love the ability to go out on a walk with him according to my schedule. He is literally my partner in crime!

Horne believes it’s a great outcome for the animals and “Working from home provides great stability for the pets.”

Working from home with a dog is a win-win for all

When we talk about the benefits of remote work, most of us are probably not thinking about the impact on dogs and their owners. However, it’s obvious that the uptick in working from home has certainly been a win-win situation for dogs and their human parents alike.

To sum it up, Gertenbach says, “I've been working from home with Ivy for almost two and a half years. In that time, our bond has gotten even stronger, which is great. I feel like she respects me as the ‘leader’ more than before when I was away at an office for much of the day.”

If nothing else, being at home together could be an opportunity for you to perfect your photography skills and possibly turn your dog into an influencer. That’s a joke…maybe. After all, it’s hard to resist constantly taking photos when you have such cute subjects readily available to pose. “Since working from home, the amount of dog photos on my phone has increased exponentially. And I'm not mad about it,” shares Donoughe.

Is working from home with a dog in your future?

As someone who is personally a huge dog lover and hoping to get another dog one day soon—the advice and experiences shared by everyone here have taught me a lot about what to expect when working from home with a dog.

If you’re looking for a puppy companion, consider adopting from your local animal rescue or shelter. In the U.S. this includes organizations such as The Humane Society, AKC Rescue Network, Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, or look into animal shelters and rehoming programs local to you.

And finally, before you go, here’s one more thing to think about: if you’re craving more time with your dog or are looking for a more flexible career option, you may like to consider freelancing. Learn more about becoming a freelancer or sign up for a freelancer account on Upwork to get started.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Author Spotlight

How To Work From Home With a Dog: Tips From Team Members
Radhika Basuthakur
Content Writer

Radhika is a self-confessed word nerd and content expert with over 15 years of experience writing content for businesses around the world. She is a cheerleader for flexible work, a passionate world traveler, and spends her free time alternating between a good book and a good hike.

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