How to Work From Home With a Puppy
How to take care of your puppy, meet your work deadlines, and stay sane.16 minute read
Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people working from home tripled in the United States. The percentage of jobs posted on Hacker News with remote work as an option has reached 80%. Distributed teams, hybrid work environments, and working from home aren't going anywhere.
It can be a dream come true for many dog parents. Who actually wants to leave their dog? But what if we told you that being home all day with your puppy can actually create significant challenges you might not be expecting?
Here’s everything you need to know about successfully managing remote work and a puppy all at once.
- Remote work can make it difficult to stay on a consistent routine. Puppies who don’t spend time away from their families might be at higher risk for separation anxiety. It’s easy to fall behind on socialization when everything you need is in your house.
- A WFH dog parent schedule will keep you on track. It provides consistency for your puppy, organization for you, and makes sure your household is on the same page. You can relax your routine over time once you get into a groove.
- You can help your puppy avoid separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a complicated behavioral problem. Teaching your dog to develop independence and feel safe in a crate can increase his comfort when he needs to be alone.
- Meet your dog’s needs before asking him to relax while you work. Provide food, water, bathroom breaks, and enrichment. Remember that young puppies need nearly 20 hours of sleep each day to function at their best.
- Teach your dog to self regulate. Show him how to channel his energy into appropriate outlets while you work. Gentle puppy chews coupled with a place command or settle cue can help him learn to be calm over time.
- Restrict your puppy’s access to the house when you need to focus on work. This way he can’t get into trouble without your supervision. Tethering, baby gates, and crate training are good options.
- Use your puppy’s schedule to your advantage during your work day. Having a puppy in the house can be chaotic—but it can also be the perfect opportunity to optimize your own exercise and screen time breaks.
- Plan ahead for video calls. There are many ways to manage your puppy when you need to hop on a meeting. Long-lasting chews, puzzle toys, and crating with white noise are a few.
- You can do some “human training” to be more productive too. Stack tasks together to make things feel more manageable, batch related activities to maximize efficiency, and pay attention to your body’s natural rhythms.
Why can working from home be hard with a puppy?
Working remotely is a great option for many dog parents, but being at home can make it difficult to stay on a consistent routine. Puppies who don’t spend time away from their families might be at higher risk for separation anxiety. It’s easy to fall behind on socialization when everything you need is in your house. And dogs can affect job productivity by distracting you from work.
Remote work flexibility is great—but your puppy needs a routine
Counterintuitively, a dog parent schedule becomes more important when you work from home. Dogs thrive on routine! They're most comfortable when things are consistent and predictable—but tasks can quickly slip through the cracks when all you have to do to get ready for the day is walk across your house.
Working from home can encourage separation anxiety
Many remote workers love spending every day with their dogs. It’s still important to help your puppy develop his independence, though.
While separation anxiety isn’t a straightforward behavioral problem—many factors contribute, and it’s not a dog parent’s “fault” if their pup struggles to be left alone—the issue can be exacerbated if you’re always with your puppy. Just like kids, dogs need to learn it’s okay to do things on their own sometimes.
Staying in familiar territory can limit socialization opportunities
Working remotely can make it easy to spend all week inside on your home turf. But early socialization is one of the most important things you can do for your puppy’s long-term wellbeing and confidence! Even adult dogs need regular exposure to the outside world to stay mentally healthy. (It’s good for you as a dog parent, too.)
Puppies can distract from your work
There’s nothing like snuggling a puppy to destress from a particularly hectic day—but caring for your dog can prevent you from fully focusing on your job. It’s important to strike a balance of thoughtful breaks and dedicated work time.
How can you create a schedule to work from home with your dog?
A puppy-raising schedule provides you and your dog with a few key things. It gives your puppy the consistency he needs to feel secure and develop foundational skills like potty training. It makes sure you stay organized as a dog parent, which is especially important as you work remotely. And it keeps your household on the same page so nothing slips through the cracks.
Consistency for your puppy
Your puppy needs you to be consistent. Young dogs aren’t mature enough to express their needs and make good decisions alone. They rely on us dog parents for everything from basic sustenance to social fulfillment and activity!
Getting in a comfortable routine will make sure you both know what to expect in your relationship.
Organization and guidance for you
While life as a new dog parent is full of excitement, it can also be difficult to manage so many responsibilities. Some people experience “puppy blues” after bringing home their dog: feelings of regret, disappointment, or even dismay at what they’ve gotten themselves into. This is often worse when you work from home. You’re always within earshot of your puppy’s cries.
Thankfully, preparing a schedule can help you avoid those negative emotions in the first place and work through them if they do come up. The same way puppies thrive with consistency, so do dog parents!
Framework to keep your household on the same page
Schedules also serve a practical purpose to keep your family on the same page. If you live alone with your new dog, you might not need to keep track of his meals and bathroom breaks so closely—but if two or more people share puppy tasks, you want to be sure you don’t accidentally double up (or miss something entirely).
Having your schedule written down somewhere is especially great if your partner or kids have a question for you while you’re on a work meeting.
Healthy habits now enable more flexibility later
In the beginning, defined structure helps you be a steady presence for your dog. As your puppy grows into a young adult and you grow into a confident dog parent, you can embrace greater flexibility over time.
Following a schedule doesn’t mean you’re stuck with strict rules forever. It does prepare you and your puppy for more harmony later on.
Puppy raising schedule deep dive
You can read more about creating a schedule for your puppy in this article, including example routines for inspiration.
How can I prevent my dog from developing separation anxiety when I work from home?
It’s often unclear exactly what causes separation anxiety, but certain experiences make your puppy more likely to struggle when left alone. Building your dog’s independence and properly crate training can help him feel comfortable without you around. This is important because even if your schedule is flexible, there will inevitably come a time where you can’t be with your dog.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is distress associated with being separated from a preferred companion or group. Dogs are naturally social, far more than their other canine relatives. (That’s probably a big reason why you have one!)
But the dark side of being a social animal means dogs are sensitive to the absence of their favorite people. Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavior problems in our pets. 20 to 40 percent of dogs referred to animal behavior practices in North America are diagnosed with the condition.
Separation anxiety and related issues have also been seen in cats, goats, sheep, pigs, horses, cattle, and primates (that includes you!). Humans, most commonly young children, can be diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder for "excessive distress with separated from home or major attachment figures."
Signs of separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a broad label for a number of different reactions. They can vary in form and intensity between dogs and even day-to-day for the same dog. Common symptoms include:
- Agitation: Pacing, panting, jumping, excessive licking, or restlessness
- Improper bathroom action: Eliminating in unapproved places, at unapproved times, despite good health and prior house training
- Vocalization: Whining, barking, whimpering, or howling
- Destructive tendencies: Chewing, digging, scratching, or attempting to escape a crate or pen
Signs of particularly severe anxiety are:
- Drooling or vomiting
- Lethargy (might look like your dog “shutting down”)
- Aggression such as mouthing, nipping, growling at, or biting the person leaving
Separation anxiety symptoms are most common when you’re fully out of the house during the first fifteen minutes after your departure. They’re also often seen right as you’re getting ready to leave.
Sometimes it seems like our dogs are Nostradamus and can predict when we're about to head out—really, it's that dogs pick up on little cues incredibly well. Dogs with separation anxiety notice small things like you angling towards the shoe rack or grabbing sunglasses. The anticipation of you leaving stresses them out.
While these reactions usually happen at the beginning of your dog’s alone time, separation-related behaviors can show themselves all throughout your absence. Some dogs struggle simply being in a different room from their favorite people.
Causes of separation anxiety
No one knows exactly what causes each case of separation anxiety. It’s not directly your “fault” if your dog struggles when left alone! Many different variables are at play, including genetics and your puppy’s individual personality.
That said, some experiences can make your dog more likely to develop separation anxiety. These risk factors include:
- A past history of traumatic separation
- A lack of experience being left alone (this is the big ticket for dog parents who work from home)
- Changes in routine
- Relocation into a new environment
- Addition of a new pack member or pet sitter
- A death or removal of a member of the family
Why is it important to avoid separation anxiety?
Chances are you can’t (and let’s be honest, probably don’t want to) take your puppy absolutely everywhere you go. Even if your schedule is flexible, there will inevitably come a time where you won’t be with your dog. It’s important that he can handle your absence—whether you’re all the way out of the house or simply taking a work call in another room—without disturbing your neighbors, destroying your belongings, or feeling overly stressed.
It’s also important to plan for the future. You might work remotely forever. Or you might not! If you go from being home every minute to being gone 9-10 hours a day without preparing your dog ahead of time, you could wind up doing real harm to your relationship.
Ways to prevent separation anxiety
Aim for a healthy balance of social connection and independent experience.
Separation success might look like being able to confidently leave your dog alone after providing some fulfillment without worrying that he’ll be unable to relax. Maybe he sleeps most of the time you’re gone or simply stays quiet without anxious behavior. Maybe he is confined in a crate or eventually left to roam. Everyone will have different long-term goals.
Help your dog learn to be independent
You can develop your puppy’s independence by:
- Practicing his ability to settle in the same room as you without being right at your feet
- Teaching a place command or out-of-sight down-stay
- Gradually building to him relaxing in a separate area of the house
- Desensitizing him to the cues that you’re about to leave by performing them at different times without actually walking out the door
- Providing problem-solving activities he can learn to do on his own without needing your help
- Ensuring you do get plenty of social time so his trust battery is full
Crate training can provide your puppy with a safe, calm space
Proper crate training can prepare your dog to relax by himself without constant input from you. You might phase out the crate over time depending on how long you’ll be focused on work or away from home—but you can always fall back on it as a safe, secure option.
You can read more about the ins and outs of crate training in this piece.
How can I teach my puppy to be calm while I work?
Before asking your dog to settle during your work day, you need to meet his basic needs. Puppies require healthy food, water, and regular bathroom breaks. Plenty of sleep, biological fulfillment, and exposure to the world is also key to help their brains develop. When your dog is satisfied, you can reinforce calm behaviors to help him learn to self regulate. Restrict your puppy’s access to your home when you’re focused on work tasks so he can’t get into trouble.
First things first: Meet your puppy’s basic needs
It’s not fair to ask your puppy to settle while you work without meeting his basic needs first. Here’s what you need to know to do right by him.
Depending on your puppy’s age, he needs to eat two to four times a day. The exact amount will vary based on his breed, predicted adult size, and your chosen brand of puppy food. A trusted veterinarian will be able to help you find a regimen that works for you.
Your puppy should always have access to fresh water unless you’re about to leave him alone for an extended period (like crating him for a lengthy work meeting). In those situations, you can consider removing his water bowl 30 minutes to a couple of hours beforehand.
Puppies can typically hold their bladders and bowels one hour for every month of age, sometimes plus one. If your puppy is eight weeks old, he can only hold it for two to three hours. As he ages, you can extend the time between bathroom breaks slowly as long as potty training continues to go well.
You can read more about potty training your puppy in this article.
Puppies need more sleep than you might think. Most experts agree that growing dogs should get between 18 and 20 hours of sleep a day. (Think about it—that means your new family member might only be awake for four to six hours.)
Scheduling designated two to three hour nap times can be a great way to make sure your puppy gets enough rest. It will also give you a break from his cute-but-tiring antics and enable you to focus on your work tasks.
Crate training can be a huge asset here. While some pets have no problem napping in a range of situations, others struggle if exciting things are going on around them. And with senses of smell and hearing that far surpass ours, what’s interesting to a puppy might not even be on your radar.
Crates can create the perfect environment for deep rest:
- Dogs are diurnal mammals like us. The darker their sleeping spots, the better. You can simply drape a blanket on top of a crate for this (or invest in a custom-sized crate cover that matches your home decor).
- Puppies are easily distracted and overstimulated. It’s easier for them to stay asleep in a calm area without much noise. This is especially true for pups who like to keep tabs on their humans throughout the day, which is common when dog parents work from home. A comfortable crate can act as a sensory deprivation zone to enable your pup to slow down.
- Animals relax best in familiar territory. Your dog’s crate can be a constant safe place no matter what else is going on (like the sounds of a Zoom call, loud weather, or maintenance projects).
Putting your dog in his crate as part of meeting his needs might sound counterintuitive at first. But think about toddlers throwing temper tantrums because they’re overtired. Without sleep, your puppy (and you) will eventually lose it.
Exercise and fulfillment
While sustained running is not recommended for young dogs whose bones haven’t finished growing, puppies still need daily exercise. Regularly moving his body will help your puppy develop coordination and build stronger muscles.
It’s also important to give your dog opportunities to fulfill his natural instincts by sniffing on neighborhood walks, playing games like tug, or searching for treats in puzzle toys.
Some easy ideas to give your pup mental stimulation while working from home:
- Food enrichment like a snuffle mat, puzzle toy, or simple nosework search around your house or yard
- Cognitive enrichment like eye contact, name recognition, and impulse control games
- Fun tricks like rolling over, spinning, and waving that double as light physical activity
You can read more about puppy exercise and fulfillment in this piece.
Exposure to a variety of sights, sounds, surfaces, and objects will help your puppy’s brain develop. Try to do at least one novel thing with your dog each day, even if it’s just taking a new walking route or bringing him with you to run a few errands.
You can read more about proper puppy socialization in this article.
Reinforce rest to help your dog self regulate
Teach your dog to channel energy into appropriate outlets
It’s a good idea to leave some simple chews out for your dog during your work day. Think things that aren’t edible, aren’t a choking hazard, and will last a long time. Rubbery teething toys designed for growing puppies are a great option.
When your dog starts to get excited and ask you to play, redirect his attention to the toys he can chew on his own. With lots of repetitions (and plenty of patience) he’ll learn to channel his energy into these outlets when you aren’t able to directly interact with him.
You can also provide your puppy with an edible chew off and on, especially if you’re about to buckle down for a long stretch of work. Just be sure not to overdo the extra treats so you don’t run into any stomach problems.
Train a place or settle cue
A place command or settle cue can be a great way to help your dog learn how to relax in the same room as you. It comes in handy if you ever want to bring your puppy out to restaurants, too!
A Harper coach, your in-person dog trainer, or plenty of other training materials out there can show you the tactics of teaching place.
Remember to keep sessions short while your dog is growing. Young puppies don’t have the mental energy and focus ability to work for too long! Place and other obedience commands should be used alongside appropriate fulfillment and exercise.
You can also reinforce natural settling when your dog offers it:
- Keep some treats near your office desk.
- Whenever you catch your puppy lying down on his own (or making another good decision like choosing one of his chews over the legs of your deck) praise and reward him.
- Over time he’ll realize that good things happen when he’s quietly out of the way.
Restrict your puppy’s access to your house so he can’t cause trouble
An unsupervised puppy is a recipe for disaster—but so is trying to keep tabs on an energetic dog while meeting a deadline. You can use tethers, baby gates, and crates to create a safe area for your puppy to hang out as you work.
These setups prevent your puppy from:
- Getting into anything he’s not supposed to, from food to cleaning supplies to your brand-new shoes. Of course we should help teach our dogs what is and isn’t theirs over time—but it’s not possible to watch them 24/7, especially when you have a job to do.
- Practicing unhealthy behaviors like barking out the windows or pacing anxiously.
- Getting into squabbles with other pets. Even dogs who have coexisted for years can have disagreements. It’s best to err on the side of caution in a multi-animal household.
How can I stay productive at work with my dog in the house?
Use your puppy’s schedule to your advantage to make sure you’re getting enough exercise and screen time breaks. Plan ahead for video calls so that your dog is occupied with a chew or safely tucked in his crate in another room. And consider doing some “human training” to build habits that will make you more productive too.
Use your puppy’s schedule to your advantage
You do the best work when you’re physically and mentally healthy. Having a puppy in the house can be chaotic—but it can also be the perfect opportunity to optimize your own exercise and screen time breaks.
Get steps, sunlight, and fresh air alongside your dog
A puppy bathroom break can double as a short stint of exercise. Watching the world go by from your front yard can boost your vitamin D levels. Quick training games are perfect blood flow. Working from an outdoor cafe can be an ideal socialization plus fresh air combination for both you and your puppy. The examples are endless!
Caring for your puppy can be a built-in Pomodoro timer
You can also use your dog’s necessary schedule breaks as a built-in Pomodoro timer for your work. The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo to maximize his productivity. You use a timer to divide work into intervals (traditionally 25 minutes in length, but you can vary based on what works best for you) separated by short breaks.
How can you do this with your dog? Spend each break playing or training your puppy, then practice crate or settle time during the working stretch. Rinse and repeat.
Plan ahead for videos calls
There are many ways to manage your puppy when you need to hop on a meeting. In the minutes before you’re supposed to hop on a call, consider providing your dog with a long-lasting chew, offering him a new puzzle toy, or putting him in his crate with white noise in another room.
Remember it’s okay to crate your dog responsibly
As mentioned in the above section, puppies need a lot of sleep. It’s easy to feel guilty about crating your dog when you’re still in the house—but keep in mind that encouraging deep rest is one of the most important things you can do for him. And if you worked in a traditional office environment, your puppy would be left alone anyway.
Stack tasks together to make things feel more manageable
Stacking your activities can make things feel more attainable. Instead of treating each responsibility like a completely separate to-do item, consider lumping them together. This way your list doesn’t look so overwhelming.
Stacking tasks is a great strategy beyond the office, too—like when it comes to training goals with your dog.
Batch related activities to maximize your efficiency
Task batching is another productivity strategy where you “batch” multiple tasks and complete them all at once. One of the best everyday examples of task batching is laundry. You don’t run the washer every single time a sock gets dirty—you wait until you’ve collected enough clothes to make a full load. That way you can tackle the chore all at once.
This approach works well for non-urgent administrative tasks like email responses and file organization. Batching helps you avoid multitasking throughout the day to maximize your focus.
Embrace your calendar over your to-do list
To-do lists can cause us to be overly optimistic about what we’ll be able to accomplish. Consider blocking off time on your calendar for each task instead. That way you can get an immediate look at how much capacity you have—and avoid overscheduling yourself. You’ll get better at estimating just how long everything takes over time.
Don’t fight your mind and body’s natural rhythms
Speaking of focus, it’s normal to have periods of sustained attention interspersed with periods of feeling sluggish. This is an example of an ultradian rhythm. While we sometimes have to power through to get things done, working from home offers many people the opportunity to better organize their schedule.
Pay attention to the times of day you usually feel alert and try to plan your most difficult tasks for those windows. Schedule favorite activities with your puppy (like playing or learning new tricks) for the moments you know you’ll be in a slump.