By now, many of us have gotten used to the fact that we’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future. We’ve swapped suits for sweatpants, cubicles for couches, and in-person meetings for internet conference rooms.
One benefit of working from home is that we’re able to spend much more time with our pets — too much time in some cases. While having a cat jump on the computer keyboard or a dog announce the arrival of the mail carrier might have been endearing the first time it happened, our coworkers don’t need to hear input from our pets at every meeting. After all, Fido rarely has anything constructive to say about this week’s TPS Reports.
Dogs can be especially challenging because they seem to know exactly when you’re about to jump on a Zoom call. The moment you unmute is the exact moment your dog decides that they want all of your undivided love and attention.
What are pet parents to do? How do you distract your dog keep your new officemates quiet without them engaging in destructive or undesirable behavior?
The Key is Enrichment
Keeping your dog stimulated and busy can help ensure that meetings with your now-virtual team go smoothly.
But that’s not the only reason to get your dog’s brain working. According to the ASPCA, allowing your dog to engage in their instinctual behaviors is an important component of their overall health. Playing, chasing, smelling, chewing, and scavenging fulfill your dog’s physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Luckily, there are many enrichment tools that can stimulate and distract your dog during all-important work meetings without requiring constant and direct interaction from you.
Take a Trip to the Toy Store
One approach is to use puzzles or other interactive toys or chews. Many of these products will dispense food when your dog moves or plays with them in a certain way. They can be as simple as a rubber toy filled with treats or a labyrinthine ball that doles out rewards when rolled a certain way. Some can even be filled with peanut butter or yogurt and frozen so they last longer.
Traditional bully sticks, chews, rawhide, and bones also work. As always, be sure to read labels carefully and choose ones that are appropriate for your dog’s size, chewing habits, and nutritional needs. Don’t let your dog eat anything made of plastic or other synthetic materials.
Get Creative and Make Your Own
Maybe you’d like to try your hand at do-it-yourself puzzles instead of making another trip to the pet store. One idea is to put treats inside an empty paper towel roll, fold the ends in on themselves, and cut a small hole in the side. Another involves putting a high-odor reward inside a series of nested cardboard boxes, with the treat inside the innermost box.
Finally, there are snuffle mats. These feed-and-play areas look like high-pile carpets gone crazy! Snuffle mats usually have strips or loops of material that create a kind of indoor “grass” for your dog to forage around in. Since food and treats can be placed deep down in the mat, your dog really has to nose around to find the hidden snacks.
If you want to take the idea of a snuffle mat even further, you can prepare a whole house (or yard) scavenger hunt before you start working. This can be as simple as placing food around the home in plain or partial view. Or you can incorporate some of the puzzle toys we mentioned earlier so your dog really has to put in some extra work.
Keep Them Thinking
If you’d like to take a different approach to enrichment, you can practice some training exercises before or after work. There’s always the basics, like “sit,” “stay,” and “shake.” If your dog is ready for more advanced moves, there are plenty of resources online in the form of blogs, videos, and more. Some dog trainers are even doing virtual lessons with their clients.
Of course, the expectation is that we’ll be returning to our regular work routines at some point in the future. We’re not sure yet when this will happen, but it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll get your dog to adjust when you’re not home all the time anymore.
Make Transition a Breeze
The good news is that many of the enrichment tools you’re using to ensure worry free work from home can also be used when you’re transitioning back into the office. Puzzles, chews, and toys will ensure that your dog is occupied throughout the day when you’re not there. In the weeks and days leading up to your return to work, you can also start preparing your dog by taking short walks without them so they get used to being alone again.
Whatever method you prefer to take, enrichment opportunities distract your dog and can keep them healthy and happy — and keep you from going barking mad in your home office.
To learn how RCO Pet Care Care can help distract your dog while you work from home, check out our services, contact us or call us at (203) 641-2428. If you’re outside of our service area we’re happy to help you find a reputable, professional pet care provider. We’ve got your tail!