Last October I made the decision to move my work out of my rented office and back home to adopt an adorable little puppy. It was simultaneously the best and worst thing I did and if I’m honest, 9 months later I’m still adjusting. It’s been a tough few months getting used to the fact that there is another little creature relying on me everyday, that I have to make much more of an effort to actually see people during the week and keep myself motivated. When the weather is grim, it can be hard to muster up the enthusiasm to take the pooch out for a walk and then sit in a makeshift office trying to be productive. I have to admit, my idyllic visions of strolling in the sunshine with a very well behaved pooch quickly went out the window, as did the undisturbed work days. This post is a mixture of how to survive working from home generally and how to survive working from home with a little pooch that can be quite demanding, especially in the first few months. Here are my 10 tips to survive working from home with a puppy.
1. Establish an anti-routine
Yes, that’s right. If you’re a freelancer like I am you’ll know that some days can be so full with work that you barely have time to eat and other days can be quieter and you’ll have all the time in the world to play with your pooch. Your new companion will need to fit into this life and so establishing a routine might make your life more difficult. If you routinely take her our at 8am and then one day you can’t make it out until 10-11am, your pooch is going to be asking you why she’s not going out at the time she expects. Vary the walks and play time as much as you can, it’ll make life easier in the long run. She will learn that she will get playtime and a walk time when you’re ready and it’ll help her become more adaptable to life changes.
2. Don’t shirk on the exercise
Even though your day to day routine isn’t by the numbers, don’t think you can get away with not taking your pooch for a walk. My chocolate Labrador Ruby has an enormous amount of energy and needs to be walked for around 40-50 mins 3 times a day. It’s a huge commitment so make sure you’re ready for it. However, you can build this into your life. I’ve always talked about how important breaks away from the screen are, so take advantage and head out in the middle of the day. If you can’t afford to leave your screen that long, do it in short bursts. Aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do, a tired dog is an obedient dog and your less likely to be disturbed when you do sit down to work if your dog is satisfied and happy! It’s also a great way to start the day. If you work from home it can sometimes be difficult to motivate in the mornings and feel like you’re ‘going to work’. So, get up, shower and head out for a morning walk. It’ll clear your head and make sure your fresh for the morning ahead.
3. Training is important
Even though your indoors it’s important to train your pooch so you can ensure good behavior. If your dog is going to have a bed in your office when your working or be sleeping in another room it’s important to teach them where they should be sleeping and a command so you can tell them when playtime is over and that they should be going to sleep. It’ll make things much easier for you in the long run. Teach them commands like ‘stay’ for when the doorbell goes so you don’t have an escaped dog. ‘Down’ and ‘sit’ are always important. If you have clients visiting your home office, you need to know that your dog can behave. Not only is this just practical, it’s great brain stimulation for your dog. A little training and often throughout the day will engage them and tire them out as well as make good progress towards a well behaved pet. I’ve made training into games for Ruby. For example when we come in from a muddy walk I’ve taught her to spin around on a towel which she thinks is a great game because she gets a treat out of it and I get to dry her paws without any fuss. It’s also important to train the dog to be able to be on her own for periods of time. I’m not an advocate of leaving dogs for 8 hour days but you certainly need to be able to confidently leave for meetings and come home to an intact house. Start with leaving her in a separate room with the door closed for 20 minutes now and again and build up to leaving the house for half and hour, an hour, 2 hours etc. I personally think that 6 hours is the longest you should leave an animal. They are social creatures and didn’t we adopt them to spend time with them?
It’s a well known fact that puppies can chew. We’ve all heard the horror stories of dogs chewing whole couches into pieces when their owner was out of the house. This is part of the reason I chose to move home before getting a dog. A bored dog is a mischievous dog, simple as that. In the first few months, even after you’ve done the morning walk and a bit of play you may find your dog is still feeling a little mischievous and may wander around your office to find things to chew. I’ve lost two Wacom stylus pens, a stack of envelopes, a book and a pair of shoes so far. The key to this is to distract with things that they are allowed to chew. I have a number of rubber bones that have done the trick. I even fill them with treats like peanut butter if she’s refusing to settle down. It takes her a while to dig it all out while I can get some work done. Eventually these items will become a lot more interesting than your shoes because she will have associated them with positive things like treats and you won’t have to worry about letting your dog wander around unsupervised.
5. Introduce them to the postman
If they’ll let you of course. Doorbells and letterboxes are often triggers for dogs and it will drive you insane if every time they hear the letterbox they go insane and bark the house down. Introduce your dog to the noises when the postman arrives, let them sniff the letters and become accustomed to the action of letters falling and someone coming to the door. If the postman will let you, keep a lead on but introduce the dog to your postman so she can suss him out. After all she’s only being a good guard dog. I’ve been lucky, our post guys are great and Ruby barely moves now when the post arrives. It’ll save you some headaches later on so persevere.
6. Get networking
One thing I really miss now that I’ve moved the office back home, is the day to day interaction with people. I shared a big open office with 2 other companies and it was great for a morning gossip over a cup of tea and lunchtime chats. Moving home was a huge shock and I remembered why I had moved to an office in the first place. Although you’ve got your pooch for company, it can be quite lonely. I’ve combated this by making sure I go to networking groups as often as I can. It feels good to get amongst other working people and is an excuse to brush your hair and get some makeup on. Working from home with a dog can definitely send you into the world of baggy trousers and bed hair and a pocket full of poop bags.
7. Walk somewhere new on the weekends
The good thing about working in an office was that you got to leave the office at the end of the day and go home. It can feel sometimes that you’re in the same old dreary routine if you’re walking the dog in the same park close to home on the weekdays and then going home to work. The last thing I want to do now is do the same routes on the weekend, I needed to differentiate from my weekly routine and exploring somewhere new definitely helps. Pack up the pooch in the car on the weekends and head down to the beach or to a nature reserve. It’ll be good therapy for you and an exciting change of pace for your dog.
8. Socialise in the evenings
As well as getting back into the business networking for motivation and human contact, it’s important to socialise with friends and family when you can. At least once a week is essential for me to get out of the office, out of the house and away from the dog. A bit of a break will make sure your day to day work/dog balance isn’t taking over your social life. Get our for a meal with your other half or go for a drink with some friends. It will also help your furry friend understand that sometimes you will be away from them, but that you will come back. Separation anxiety can be a very serious issue in dogs so train your dog to deal with this from the very beginning.
9. Socialise your dog
As much as we need to socialise, our pooches do too. They learn how to behave from other dogs as much as our training so it’s always a good idea to get them together with some other doggy friends for a play date. There are lots of options nowadays and there’s bound to be some event locally that you can attend. It might be in the day but try and do that maybe once every week instead of a walk. Or, if you have friends that have dogs, get them together while you socialise at the same time. Again, it all boils down to the fact that a happy, tired dog is an obedient dog so put in the time and you’ll get some decent hours to get your work done without any doggy distractions. You can combine this with training and head to a group training session like I did in Cardiff, Rockwood Training School!
10. Love them
That’s why we have dogs, right? To love them and be part of our family so just embrace and enjoy it. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling coming home after your meeting to a wagging tale and a sloppy kiss. They love you too so look after them well and enjoy it. Don’t focus on the negatives. The amount of time you put in to training and excising can seem never ending but you will, with all this effort end up with a well trained lovable pooch who sleeps under your desk in the office and waits for you to start play time. (That’s exactly what my Ruby bear is doing now!)
All in all it’s been quite a life changing decision getting a dog. For all the things I’ve lost; working in a shared office, not having to go out in the rain, spontaneous trips away, I’ve gained some great things too. For one, my boring gym sessions have been replaced with super fun walks everyday and playtime with the most adorable Labrador ever. It’s made our household more adventurous too! On weekends we head out to explore some new trails and now we’ve trained her to sit quietly we can enjoy a country pub pint on the way back too. Working from home has been great, the flexibility and freedom is fantastic. It has also (scarily) given us an insight into how our lives would change with a family. It’s been training for us and a good taster session for being responsible for another being. I’d highly recommend adopting an animal before anyone goes down the baby route! I have to stress though, adopting a doggy is a real commitment and you need to be prepared to put the work in as well as accept them as a member of your family so don’t make the decision lightly. Do your research too, don’t jump in head first! Good luck!