3 steps to prevent your dog from getting underfoot when working remotely

Whether you work from home permanently or only during COVID-19, follow these simple steps to prevent your dog from getting underfoot during business hours!

We’re living in challenging times. Regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we do – our lives have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs are incredibly sensitive creatures, and although they may not show it outwardly, a change in the pattern of their life can create stress. If you’re working from home during this time, consider your dog when you set up your home office. It may be tempting to allow him to hang out at your feet or under your desk all day. But don’t forget that soon, you’ll be back to your normal schedule. If you condition your dog to be around you 24-7, there will be a pronounced void for him when you return to work.

Creating space

Separation anxiety is a very real syndrome. It happens when a dog doesn’t learn how to be alone. As much as it may feel like a luxury for you to be close to your dog all day, it could be detrimental to his ability to cope when you return to the office. You can keep this from happening by setting up a “place,” or a bed where your dog can hang out with you, but not be on top of you.

Here’s how to practice this exercise in three steps:

  1. Attach a 4’ to 6’ leash to your dog’s collar. Set up your dog’s bed or pillow a few feet from you, preferably with one side against a wall. Just before you get ready to start your work day, guide your dog towards his pillow using his leash. Avoid any chatty dialogue during this exercise. Just stay calm and quiet. When you’re about a foot away from your dog’s bed, say the word “Place” and guide him onto his bed. If he’s already conditioned to being on his bed, you won’t need to use any leash pressure. However, if this is a new bed for him, in a room he doesn’t frequent, he may need a light amount of leash pressure to go onto the bed.
  2. Once he’s on the bed, he will either stand, sit, lie down or try to get off again. If he tries to get off, patiently guide him back on the bed with his leash. Use only as much leash pressure as you need. Once he’s back on the bed, create slack with the leash. Position your body in such a way that you’re “squared off” with your dog. In other words, directly facing him. This is considered “spatial pressure” which is a powerful communication tool in the animal kingdom.
  3. Keep him on the bed for a minute or two and then, while holding the leash, calmly invite him off with the command “let’s go.” Walk him down your hallway for a bit, or just circle the room. Then repeat the exercise. Each time, take him back to his bed and use the command “place” again. Ask him to stay on the bed a little longer, and challenge him by walking away a little further each time. Eventually you’ll be able to drop the leash once he goes to his bed or place. If he then attempts to get off, step into his space again by squaring off. Most dogs will back up at that point and relax on their bed again. Now he’s getting the picture!

You don’t want to over-train with this exercise. Five to seven minute sessions, three times a day, is perfect. The idea is to teach your dog that when you’re working, he has his own place where he can be with you without invading your space. This is a dynamite exercise that has about a zillion different applications! It may take a little time, and lots of patience, but if you’re consistent your dog will get with the program and learn to relax on his place or bed. You’ll still be together, but you’ll be practicing a healthier, more respectful way to coexist!