Working From Home: Helping Your Dog Stay Busy (and Quiet)

Author: Cathy Madson, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Published: March 24, 2020

Updated: December 6, 2021

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woman working on bed with laptop and beagle sitting staring at her 600 shutterstockMany people are finding themselves working from home and dogs everywhere are reveling in having their humans around all the time.

But working with your pets around can be tough — just try being on a conference call with a barking dog in the background, or a puppy who wants your constant attention and keeps crawling onto your keyboard.

It can be hard to stay on-task and feel like you're getting work done from your home office. While including your pet in your work video chats is often appreciated by your coworkers, when you need to be productive and stay distraction-free, we've got you covered.

Below are our favorite ways to keep our dogs occupied, as well as how to set yourself up for success while working from home with your pet.

Give Your Dog Interactive Toys and Long-Lasting Chews

Prep some food-stuffed toys before the work week begins and store them in your refrigerator or freezer. Give one to your dog to work on while you call into a meeting. Depending on the dog, these types of toys can take your pooch anywhere from five to 30 minutes or longer to de-stuff. Freezing them or packing the toy with food and treats will make them last longer, as it's harder to get the stuffing out.

Make sure you use the right size of interactive toy for your dog. Make sure it's too large for them to fit inside of their mouth as you don't want it to become a choking hazard. For more info, check out "3 Simple Steps to Choose the Best Chews for Your Dog."

You can stuff interactive toys with a variety of filling. Use your dog's regular dry or wet food. You can even throw in some veggies or fruits to mix it up. Just remember to avoid ingredients that your dog is sensitive or allergic to or ingredients that are toxic to dogs (like xylitol). For some KONG stuffing inspiration, watch Cathy and Marissa show you four different recipes:

Feeding your dog from toys and puzzles works their brain and slows down their eating (which can help prevent GDV and bloat). I usually feed my dog her regular meals from a puzzle ball rather than a regular food bowl. This way she's burning off some extra energy and stays busy while I sign on for our morning video team meeting.

Our Top Picks for the Best Long-Lasting Interactive Dog Chews and Toys

The KONG Classic

Probably the most well-known interactive dog toy, the KONG comes in a variety of sizes and types. One of the easier treat puzzles, the KONG is a great option for dogs new to interactive toys.

Start easy by just filling it with a small amount of dry food or treats so your dog is successful and doesn't give up. As your dog gets the hang of it, pack it tighter and add in wet food or peanut butter and freeze to make it harder and last longer.

Kong Classic
Kong stuffable dog toy

The West Paw Toppl

The West Paw company makes a variety of eco-friendly dog toys, and their Toppl is an awesome choice for stuffing and freezing. In fact, it's my favorite for dogs just beginning to use food puzzles or those that get frustrated with stuffed Kongs.

You can make the puzzle more difficult by connecting a small Toppl to a large one. Smear some greek yogurt in the bottom, top with blueberries, and freeze for a refreshing and healthy snack.

West Paw Toppl Interactive Feeder
West Paw Toppl Interactive Feeder

Barkworthies Odor-Free Bully Sticks

Quiet in our office can be mostly credited to these bully sticks. They last a long time and, most importantly, they don't smell! Keep an eye on your pup as they work on their bully stick chew, and take it away before it gets short enough for them to swallow.

I highly recommend investing in a bully stick holder, such as the Bully Grip, to provide safer bully stick time. This holds the bully stick in place and helps prevent the small nub from getting swallowed as the dog chews it down.

Barkworthies Odor-Free 12" Bully Sticks (5-pack)
barkworthies odor free bully sticks
Bully Grip Bully Stick Holder
bully grip bully stick holder

Our Pets IQ Treat Ball

This treat ball has an adjustable opening so you can change the difficulty of the puzzle for your pooch, or make it easier to dispense larger treats.

IQ Treat Ball Interactive Slow Feeder
IQ Treat Ball Interactive Slow Feeder

JW Hol-ee Treat Ball

I love this treat dispensing ball because my dog can roll it around without making a racket. The rubber webbing on the outside adds some bounce and gives her a way to carry it around if she wants.

JW Pets Holee Roller Treat Ball
jw holee roller treat ball

Earth Animal No-Hide Chews

Available in a variety of flavors and sizes, these chews are the perfect alternative to rawhide. My dog loves to carry this chew around the house with her and it lasts her a day or two before all the protein has been licked off.

Earth Animal No-Hide Chews
Earth Animal No Hide Chews

Scatter Food and Treats in Your Dog's Snuffle Mat

Snuffle mats are one of my favorite ways to feed my dog her meals, especially when I don't want her bouncing around her food ball. I can put the mat right by my desk and scatter her food throughout the fabric "grass." There's something about the sound of her sniffing that puts me into a zen mood. Watch her go to town eating her breakfast from her snuffle mat:

 

Her current snuffle mat is this Difflife Snuffle Mat that has one traditional side and one side with more puzzle-like qualities, but I'm also a fan of this version by Paw5 that has longer rolled fabric that makes it a bit harder to sniff out the food.

Difflife Snuffle Mat
difflife snuffle mat for dogs

This snuffle mat provides a variety of hiding spots for dry food or treats, encouraging your dog to use their nose to find their meal and helping to slow down eating.

PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat

Set Up a Quiet Space for Your Dog to Relax

Create an area for your dog where they can settle while you work. For some dogs, this can be as simple as placing a dog bed near your desk, but for other pups, this close proximity to you might mean they are constantly seeking interaction. To encourage staying in their separate area, randomly toss a treat there. Your dog will learn that bits of turkey just fall from the sky in that one spot, and will be more likely to hang out there in anticipation.

Create a safe space for adult dogs to retreat to while you close the door to your office, or set up a Puppy Zone for your young puppy where they can entertain themselves for a while. This time apart will do wonders in preventing separation anxiety for puppies whose people work from home. It's important for all dogs to have some relaxation time during the day, away from the hustle and bustle.

Learn more about Creating a Safe Space for Your Dog here, or, if you have a puppy, read about how to set up their Puppy Zone.

Close the Blinds or Curtains to Help Your Dog Stay Quiet

dog barking out the window

If your dog likes to let you know about every squirrel that mocks them through the window, make sure the blinds or curtains are drawn so their alert barking doesn't interrupt your work. It's normal for dogs to bark to let you know that someone or something is passing by, but it doesn't make conference calls very productive.

If your dog barks when they hear noises outside, like car doors slamming or other dogs barking, turn on some calming music or a fan to block out the noise. This is called noise masking. Learn how to teach your dog not to alert bark and other tips for barking in our article "Alert Barking: The Dog Equivalent to 'Get Off My Lawn!'"

Make Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Exercise Before and After Work

Physical exercise is important for both you and your dog right now. Not only does exercise relieve stress, but it also helps to burn off excess energy for your dog. It is more likely that they'll settle down for a nice snooze while you're working if they've had a long walk or run in the morning.

If you have an older dog that can't handle as much physical exercise as they used to, a more relaxed, but equally energy-burning activity is going on a Sniffari. Watch Sookie, a 10-year-old Cardigan Corgi show you how it's done in this video.

 

Take advantage of your lunch break and get outside during the day. It's tempting to eat in front of your computer, but it's important for your own mental health to step away for a break and eat your meal away from your desk. Take a quick jaunt around the block with your dog or play a quick game of fetch. This midday break will boost your productivity and give your dog a chance to burn off their lunchtime zoomies. If the weather just isn't cooperating with exercise outdoors, check out these ideas for how to exercise your dog indoors.

Play Training and Brain Games

Tiring out your dog doesn't have to be all about physical exercise — their brains need a workout too! Play a fun two to five-minute training game with your dog a few times throughout the day.

Not only is it easier to fit quick training sessions into your schedule, but short and sweet training practice prevents frustration and speeds up the learning process. Watch PV pup, Mary Berry, the Goldendoodle show off her skills in this training video:

 

Brain games and puzzles will also put your dog's noggin' to work, and it's easy to make your own from supplies around the house! Find some toilet paper or paper towel roll tubes and a shoebox and you're ready to make this Food Tube Puzzle Game:

 

Need more ideas for brain games and other ways to keep your dog from getting bored? Check out these Top 10 Boredom Busters for Your Dog.

Get Your Family Involved

We all need a little help sometimes, and if you have children at home they can help with taking care of the dog. This can be as simple as being in charge of pouring your dog's regular meals into the puzzle toy and giving it to them to enjoy. Make sure their duties are age-appropriate, and always supervise children when around dogs.

Some fun options include having them practice some basic training games with your dog, or they can toss toys around for your dog to chase. Hide-and-seek is a great game for kids and dogs to play together. Puppy Ping Pong can be played inside or outside and is one of my favorite training games.

Watch this video to learn how to play Puppy Ping Pong:

Keep a Routine

Having a predictable schedule throughout the day will help reduce stress and anxiety for both you and your dog. Stick to their regular feeding times and take them out for some exercise at the same times you used to. This doesn't mean you can't go on extra walks or outside for a game of fetch, but you don't want to switch up their schedule too much, as this can trigger anxiety and stress. Learn about how daily structure helps dogs stay stress-free in "Do Dogs Need a Daily Routine?"

Dog-Proof Your Home

While you're busy working, it's important to make sure your dog isn't getting into dangerous situations while your back is turned. Environmental management is the best way to keep your dog safe at home. It's hard for them to not follow their nose and search out crumbs in the kitchen trash or try to find an errant toy left behind from children's playtime.

Take some time to dog-proof your home and set up gates to block access to certain rooms as needed. Keep your kitchen counters clean to prevent counter surfing and ingestion of toxic foods. Have your kids clean up any arts and crafts projects, and make sure cleaning products are stored out of reach.

Use this handy checklist as you walk through each room of your home: "10 Point Checklist for Dog Proofing."

We hope these tips help make your day-to-day easier as you work from home. Let us know your favorite way to keep your dog occupied while you get some work done in the comments below!

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