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How to create the perfect working-from-home routine for you and your dog

Vancouver vets share their advice for dog parents on how to create a WFH routine that keeps both you and your pup happy.

With many Vancouverites working remotely for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, there's been a huge change to our daily routines.

Although skipping the daily commute and spending your workday in sweatpants may be great, for dog parents working from home can definitely come with some serious challenges.

Whether it's begging for attention, barking during Zoom meetings or just distracting you with their cuteness, having your pet as a co-worker isn't always easy. But it's important to remember that having you at home from 9-5 is also a big change for your pup, so you need to take some steps to help them adjust to this new routine.

With the help of Vancouver vets Dr. Uri Burstyn, Medical Director at Arbutus West Animal Clinic, Vancouver East Veterinary Walk-in Clinic, and Acadia Veterinary Clinic, and Dr. Karley Seagrist from Yaletown Pet Hospital, we've compiled some helpful tips to create the perfect WFH routine for both you and your dog.

Try to maintain a routine

It may not be possible to stick to your pre-pandemic routine entirely, but it's important to develop a routine that works for both you and your dog, and stick to it as much as possible.

"Dogs thrive on routine, so try to maintain the same walk and feeding schedule that you would when you have to go into the office (yes, yes, it is nice to sleep in, but both your dog and your boss will be more impressed if you are up and about early on a weekday)," explains Dr. Burstyn.

Although routine is key, Dr. Burstyn insists that it's important to include times when you aren't together in your routine to avoid problems.

"Be aware of what you are communicating to your dog. If it is "We must always be together" it will lead to issues down the road," adds Dr. Burstyn. "If it is "I disappear at random times and it's not a big deal" then you are much more likely to avoid problems."

Dr. Seagrist offers some more advice, adding that "a successful routine means keeping meal and play times consistent and making sure to schedule some rest and relaxation time in with your dog as well - it is good for you both!"

Do give your dog some alone time

Of course, one of the best things about WFH is that extra time with your pup, but in order for them to adjust to this new normal, it's important that you give them some space.

Dr. Burstyn stresses that dog owners must watch out to avoid developing excess attachment that can lead to separation anxiety in your dog or exacerbate the anxiety that is already there.

"Make sure that you do give your dog some alone time, even if it means going out of the house by yourself. When leaving the house be do not make a bit deal of it and try to interact with the dog as little as possible. No big goodbyes, make it as much of a non-event as possible. Same goes for coming back.

"Avoid a big greeting at the door, take off your shoes, hang up your coat and then, once your dog is settled, you can start paying attention to them. If the dog doesn't get up off the rug when you walk in, that is a win! Minimal canine anxiety!"

"By leaving the house at random times and coming back without fanfare, you will communicate to your dog that the pack leader going out on solo missions is a standard part of your routine and it is nothing to get excited about."

Create a separate play-area for your pup and schedule designated play times

"If you have enough space in your home to separate play and rest spaces, this can be a great way to help your dog understand when is a good time to play," explains Dr. Seagrist.

"It is a huge change in our dog’s routines to have us home all the time and they are used to us being free to play and cuddle whenever we are home with them. While some of our WFH routines allow for plenty of dog interaction and play breaks, it can be hard to get away from an important Zoom meeting when our pets want to play and it can be quite distracting for us and our coworkers," adds Dr. Seagrist. "But by creating a comfortable and quiet place (such as in their bed or crate) for peaceful resting time, your dog will better understand when they are out of these areas that it is time to play!"

Dr. Burstyn agrees that while having your dog by your side while you work is nice, it would be better for you both to create a separate area for your pup. "I would recommend setting up the dog's crate, if they are crate trained, or a sleeping area if they are not somewhere out of site of your workspace. Preferable in another room. That way you can be more productive and your dog has less chances of developing separation anxiety," he explains.

Entertain your dog

9-5 is a long time for a pup who knows their favourite person is right there to play with them. So make sure they have enough physical and mental stimulation to keep them entertained during your work day.

"One of my favourite tricks is to fill a Kong or food puzzle with some high value treats and seal it with peanut butter or apple sauce before popping it in the freezer overnight," suggests Dr. Seagrist. "We can reward them with the food puzzle when they are having some alone time, which will provide some mental stimulation, help relieve boredom and positively reinforce their independence."

Don't overdo the treats

When they look up at you with those puppy dog eyes throughout the day, it can be hard to give in but Dr. Burstyn reminds pet owners to resist the temptation to overfeed.

"Try to resist feeding treats to your dog all day long. Or if you must, use veggies like cucumber or baby carrots that are low calorie," he suggests. "Just be aware, too many baby carrots may result in diarrhoea.

Find out what works for your dog

Remember that not every dog is the same, so to create a successful WFH experience long term, take the time to find out what works best for your own pup.

"I have found that most dogs are creatures of habit and prefer the same schedule every day, but there are some dogs that adapt well to change and do great with variability. It's important to figure out what works best for your dog and then keep it consistent," admits Dr. Seagrist.

"My own dogs must have built in alarm clocks because they let me know as soon as we are within 10 minutes of a meal time and they do best with a predictable routine!"


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