• jo

Working From Home - How is it affecting your Dog?

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Working from home, how does it affect your dog?

So today I would like to invite you to look at how working from home may be impacting your dog’s behaviour and also how this will affect them when life gets back to normal.

Before we get into the details I’d like to talk to you about how easy it is to mis interpret our dogs’ interactions and in doing so putting undue stress onto them.

Dogs are very clear communicators, they are constantly asking questions about where they fit into our packs or family’s. For a dog to feel secure and comfortable it needs to know its position in the pack. Most of us are aware that we should be in charge but we don’t always know how to do it. It doesn’t have to be done with force or shouting, dogs respond really well to quiet consistency and calm leadership.

Dogs communicate with us by asking questions, they do this in the way they interact with us. It can be as simple as a dog staring at you from across the room or as direct as a dog jumping up at you. We tend to label these under the umbrella of bad behaviour but there is a little bit more to it. How we respond to these interactions from dogs gives them a clear picture on how they fit into the pack. Some dogs can cope being a pack leader but some don’t and that is when you get undesirable behaviour or stressed out dogs.

I like to imagine that every day a dog wakes up and starts its day by checking in with its humans – this may take the form of jumping on the bed, greeting you at the door or simply a calm tail wag. As humans we interpret this as a “Good Morning” or “Hello” – because that’s how we start the day.

In fact, your dog is asking you a question – they are saying will you give me some attention when I ask for it? If you respond to your dog then you are acknowledging them as pack leader. This can be quite confronting to hear for the first time but I feel it’s better to take the time to understand how your dog interacts so you can have a closer relationship with them.

Your dogs spend all day asking you these little questions, they take the form of, nudges under your arm for a pat, staring at you from across the room, jumping up at you, barking ,following you around to escorting you to the toilet. These may seem like normal dog behaviour (and they are) but they also have meaning, how you respond to these interactions gives your dog an idea of where it fits into the pack (family).

Here are a couple of things you can do to start showing calm leadership to your dogs.

1. When your dog is asking for some attention stay calm, avoid eye contact, don’t speak to them, gently push them down if they have jumped up at you.

2. Limit eye contact with your dog. This may seem a bit harsh but think about it. When you make eye contact with a person it means that you are interacting with them or starting a conversation. It is the same with a dog. If you keep looking at your dog they will think you need them and will keep coming over to you. I know they are cute and you adore them but I promise you they won’t be offended and will still want to spend time with you later. There is also a video on my website that goes into this in more depth.

3. When your dog is doing the right thing, leaving you alone and not being demanding, reward them by calling them over on your terms and making a big fuss of them. They will learn that by leaving you alone to work they will get more quality time with you later.

Now that we have touched on the hidden conversations your dogs are having with you how has working from home affected them?

It is a very stressful time for everyone at the moment and our dogs can pick up on our stress too. We take great comfort in our dogs when we are stressed and it is widely known that sharing your life with a dog helps to relieve stress but how does this affect your dog?

There has been a fascinating study into human stress and how it impacts companion dogs. It shows that when people have raised cortisol levels from stress their dog’s cortisol levels mirror their owners. Details below -


- Sundman, A., Van Poucke, E., Svensson Holm, A. et al. Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners. Sci Rep 9, 7391 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-43851-x

It may be tempting to bend the rules a little at this time and to have the dog sleeping on the bed or to use your dog as bit of an emotional crutch, just remember that this will impact your dog too. If your dog is starting to display some uncharacteristic behaviours then they are probably struggling with the extra stress in the home and the change in routine.

Dogs tend to thrive on routine and I’m guessing that like us you don’t have a clear routine at the moment. When we are at home our dogs will feel the need to ask more questions of us and this can be quite stressful for them – and slightly annoying for us when we are trying to work.

If you usually work full time and you dog spends the day at home on its own then it usually rests and sleeps a lot whilst you are out. Now you are home they will feel the need to keep checking on you. My advice is to keep your dog’s routine as close to normal as possible.

- Take Dog for walk first thing.

- Get ready for work as normal.

- Put your dog in an area away from you whilst you work – make sure they can’t’ see you.

- Wait for your dog to calm down before you greet them when you reunite with them.

- Invite them over for cuddles on your terms.

- Try not to use them as an emotional crutch.

Just because you are at home does not mean your dog needs to be with you all the time. If you have your dog with you all the time there is a higher chance it will develop separation anxiety when you go back to work.

What is separation anxiety? When a dog feels to is the leader and responsible for the pack, if pack members leave the home they then get distraught and can howl, bark, become destructive, self-mutilate, jump fences, they won’t eat or drink whilst you are away. They are so worried about you that they can’t cope.

It is one of the hardest things to correct once a dog has it.

So here are some things you can do to help them now and to transition back to normal life when that returns.

Humans greet its part of our social interaction you’re rude if you don’t say hello. Dogs are different, they are pleased that the pack is back together but that is only a small percentage of what’s going on.

How a leader would walk into a room is very different, they would not make eye contact or speak until the other dog has given them space and left them alone and was not interested in them. Once this had happened then they would make eye contact with the other dog and call them over to say hello. So, this is what you also need to do with your dog, I know it seems hard but try to remember that your dog is expecting this and he/she won’t have any hard feelings towards you. So, walk into the room, don’t look at the dog or speak to them until they have moved away from you, calmed down and left you alone and they’re not interested in you. If they are particularly excited wait 5 mins once they are calm so they can enjoy the feeling of calm.

When they have done this, you can look at them and call them over to you and go as silly as you like with your dog.

Another tip, don’t walk up to your dog, they must always come to you, if they look really cute on their bed and you find yourself walking up to them to rub their belly imagine that is their throne and you are bowing down to the King or Queen on it!

We’ve been through some new ways to interact with your dog’s whilst you are at home with them, these will help to alleviate any extra stress they are feeling with all the changes. Here are some points to remember.

- Keep to your dog’s routine as much as possible

- Spend time away from your dog every day.

- Take Dog for walk first thing.

- Get ready for work as normal.

- Put your dog in an area away from you whilst you work – make sure they can’t’ see you.

- Wait for your dog to calm down before you greet them when you reunite with them.

- Invite them over for cuddles on your terms.

- Limit eye contact with your dog.

- Spend time away from your dog every day.

- Try not to use them as an emotional crutch.

- Don’t bend the rules – letting the dog sleep on the bed.

By implementing these strategies, you can help your dogs through the current changes in their lives and also the future ones.

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All