So you want to get a dog, but you’re concerned about how much work they take. You already have one job; can you take on the work of being a full-time dog parent, too?
In a perfect world, flexible schedules and pet-friendly work places would allow us to be with our dogs most of the day. But in real life, being a working dog owner often means leaving your dog at home while you work the 9-5.
Don’t worry: you can have it all. In this field guide for working dog owners, we’ll cover how to care for a dog and keep your day job.
Make home comfortable & fun
You may have to leave your dog home while you go to work, but that doesn’t mean they have to be lonely. Start by preparing a dog-safe zone filled with comforts and distractions to keep your dog busy while you’re out of the house.
First, choose a secure area of your home, whether it’s a spare bedroom, laundry room, or a sectioned-off part of the kitchen. Then, deck it out with some or all of the following:
- A crate if you’re crate training.
- Baby gates to section off space. This pet gate is a fun, freestanding choice if your dog isn’t a jumper. If she is, you’ll need something higher.
- Cozy items like blankets or your old shirts.
- At least one bed like this comfy orthopedic pet mattress. Note: You may need a chew-proof bed (we like the K9 Ballistics line). This is a good list of more options.
Prepping a secure space for your dog will keep them comfortable and safe while you’re gone.
Fit in a morning workout
A tired dog is a happy dog, and exercise is good for you, too! If you’ll be sitting at a desk all day and your dog will be snoozing at home, make the most of the morning by fitting in a quick workout.
Here are a few ideas for dog & person exercise you can do in 30 minutes or less.
- Take a brisk walk or jog (note: puppies under 18 months old and senior dogs should not run)
- Play tug or fetch; for an extra boost, you can do jumping jacks while your dog retrieves the ball!
- Take a training walk (brain exercise + physical exercise all in one)
- Go for a swim
- Kick around a soccer ball
An active morning will make for a calmer day.
Give your dog stuff to do
For busy or anxious dogs, time home alone can lead to destructive behaviors. Nip bad habits in the bud by leaving your dog with plenty of stuff to do while you’re out:
- KONG toys are a classic choice. You can fill them with breakfast kibble, treats, or for a challenge, put one in the freezer.
- Puzzle toys provide mental stimulation and built-in rewards. This cool shuffle bone dog puzzle takes a little training for some pups, but it’s a lot of fun once they get it down.
- Try a food-dispensing ball toy, which will keep your dog entertained and fed.
- Some pet parents love wireless cameras like the Nest Cam for checking on their pets. A pet-specific option is the Petcube. It lets you watch and communicate with your dog from afar with camera and 2-way audio. You may be at work, but you don’t have to be apart!
For safety’s sake, don’t leave your dog alone with any toys or household items they might break apart and/or choke on.
Schedule a daytime visit
If your commute and schedule allow, go home for lunch to give your dog some midday company and a potty break. You may even be able to squeeze in a walk or game of fetch, bringing some much-needed activity to the day.
If your schedule won’t allow for a visit home during the day, consider booking a trusted pet care provider. You can opt for a full doggy daycare experience, or simply have someone swing by for a walk. Rover offers the nation’s largest network of pet sitters and dog walkers.
Working Pet Parenting 101: Further reading
Being a working pet parent means preparing for all possible outcomes. Check out some of our resources for a variety of dog-owning situations:
- Soothing Separation Anxiety in Dogs
- How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?
- Dogs 101: Your Starter Guide for Getting a Dog
- Help Your Dog Adjust to Apartment Living
- 15 Accessories for People Who Need to Have Their Dog by Their Side at All Times (Who, Me?)
Don’t feel bad about going to work. After all, your job is what allows you to buy dog food! Dogs are perfectly fine staying home alone for a while. Just be sure to set them up for success with a comfortable room, treats, toys, and things to occupy their time.
Featured image via flickr/dczwick