Hannah Richter (aka Mary Puppins) is a certified dog trainer and current instructor at Andrea Arden Dog Training in NYC. If you have something you want to ask Mary Puppins be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dear Mary Puppins,
Being able to work from home has been an absolute privilege. Dedicating time on what I love everyday alongside the company of my two pups is a dream come true. However, with my work, I have meetings scheduled every day from 9am – 5pm. Though I love and adore my pups, they can be a handful when in meetings, especially in the morning.
I typically wake up around 8am to walk and feed my pups, Nala and Elsa. I try to get 30 minutes of morning exercise before the day begins to relieve their energy. Elsa, my Golden Retriever, and Nala, my Shiba Inu both have boundless amounts of energy! Given my first meeting starts at 9am or 10am, those meetings are the most difficult to navigate with my fur-babies. Both crave my attention whenever I am on a phone or Zoom call and start acting up when the meeting begins. It’s almost like a trigger for them to begin the show! Sometimes I am able to calm them down with toys, petting them, or giving them a bit of attention during meetings. The problem is that it can be distracting for both myself and the person on the other side of the screen. Often, these strategies have failed and I have to mute myself during these morning meetings because she would be so disruptive.
I love both my dogs to pieces, but they can definitely be distracting while I am working. Toward the end of the day, as their energy dwindles down, they do become calmer. The morning is the real struggle. I wish there was a way that I could get them to relax during my morning meetings so I can provide all focus to those that have made appointments with me. Please help my home be a little quieter Mary Puppins!
Dear Working From Home Dog Mom,
I can totally relate to this, and it’s something I have experienced with my own dogs. Dogs are very good with remembering patterns and environmental cues. I think your dogs may have learned that if they ask for attention when you are at your computer/on a call that you will give them fun and exciting treats and toys if they act up. It is so easy to fall into this pattern because we need to continue on with our work calls at the moment and want to calm them down.
Going for a morning walk is a great start, but I think your dogs need to burn a bit more mental energy before you start your work day. One option would be going to a place they can really run like a fenced yard or a dog park. Playing fetch is another great option. If you go for a walk with them in the morning keep it to 20-30 minutes and then play or train for 20 minutes after you come in. Eventually, they will remember resting at this time which is when you want them to be quiet. I would add in another 15-30 minute walk or play mid-day and one more in the evening.
Food toys and puzzles can really help to keep your dogs busy while you work if they are still craving activity while you are busy. Try saving their meals for when you are on the calls and feed them out of food toys such as a puzzle bowl or kibble ball. I also recommend stuffing two or three food toys with something like freeze-dried treats, a bit of chicken or turkey, peanut butter, apples, etc. Try freezing them the night before so you have them ready to go the next day. When you give them their toys, ask them to do something for you before you give them the food toy.
In terms of training, I would recommend working on telling them to get down or stay in a certain spot. You could send them to their beds and give them a food toy to work on during your calls. To teach this you will need to work on the commands for getting down, going to their bed, and staying in their bed.
Reward them for moments of good behavior on your calls. Reinforcing moments of calm behavior incentivizes them to calm down in the future. Avoid interacting with them if they begin barking and instead walk away from them if they start to bark. Remember that giving them mental and physical exercise before you start your day will make a big difference.
Wishing you some peace and quiet on your calls,
Food toys and puzzles can really help to keep your dogs busy while you work if they are still craving activity while you are busy.