When Your Work-from-Home Colleague is a Dog

Photo credit: Mirjana Zidar/Shutterstock

As this pandemic drags on, many of us still fortunate to be employed are working from home and doing our best to juggle the chaos that can result when mixing professional obligations with life at home.  Add in a dog that wants to be a part of everything you do and this is what you get:

Or this:

And then there’s the one who insists on a front row seat:

Or maybe your dog prefers to get your attention by barking. If you’re using online meeting venues, that can be downright disruptive–especially if you’re online with your boss or a colleague who might not appreciate your pup’s “contributions” to the conversation.

My dog Sasha had a habit of barking whenever I was listening to recorded presentations or whenever she heard strangers’ voices during a Zoom or Microsoft Teams session. At first I tried shutting the doors separating my home office from the rest of the house, but that didn’t solve the problem. Eventually, I realized I needed to give Sasha more physical and mental stimulation. When I focused on giving her the attention she deserves, the result was a happy, quiet dog who now naps while I’m in online meetings. If this sounds like something you might need, read on for some simple ideas to help you and your dog.

Exercise. This is good for both of you! If you can go outside, walk briskly through the neighborhood. Have an enclosed yard or other area in which you can safely take your dog off-leash? Toss a ball or Frisbee–even a stick–to get your pup running. Sasha won’t chase after a ball (although she’ll watch Buddy The Wonder Cat chase after anything we throw). Challenge your dog to a “race”across the backyard, and reward with praise and a low-calorie treat. The 10-15 minutes spent exercising will make you both happy!

Indoors, use the stairs or a treadmill if available. You can also create your own obstacle course using chairs, tables, and anything that requires you to navigate your way around objects. Put on some lively music and with your dog on-leash, weave your way around the “course” you’ve created. Vary the route and pace. You might be surprised by the energy you expend with such simple activities.

One fun way to exercise body and mind is to practice Rally Obedience activities. This is a team sport that’s fun for people–and dogs!–of all ages. With kids at home right now, this could be a great way to help them focus while bonding with the family dog. To learn more, check out  https://www.akc.org/sports/rally/.

Training time.  I’ve adapted the format common in “learn a new language” CDs. I start with a two-minute refresher of the basics (sit, stay, etc.) and then focus our energies on something new and fun. We’ll toss a stuffed squeaky toy across the room; once Sasha pounces on it we encourage her to “Bring it!” and sweeten the deal with a bit of cheese or some other special savory treat. She’s good for a half-dozen rounds before she signals “that’s enough!” with a short bark. Since each round involves a lot of running back and forth, she’s getting plenty of exercise and earning those treats!

Whatever you choose to do, mix and match activities and vary the complexity of tasks, and train in short bursts of time. Ten minutes of fun can be a terrific stress-buster!

Search-and-Find games. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay. Make sure they can’t see you as you hide treats around the house, and then release them with “Find it!” (Get the kids involved and you can get work done while they’re all busy.)

Looking for something different? Hold off on the dog’s breakfast and instead let them “forage” for their meal. Use a snuffle mat to hide some/all of their morning kibble and watch them work for their meal. If you’re a crafty sort, see this site to learn how you can make a snuffle mat.  If you’d rather buy one ready-made, check out these recommendations from PetGuide and Amazon.

If you prefer something simpler, grab an old (washable) blanket and fold it multiple times to create layers in which to hide kibble or treats. Bits of cheese or hot dog work, too!

Puzzle toys are another great resource when you want your dog’s attention focused away from you and your keyboard. Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter seem to be perennial favorites, and they’re a quiet source of fun. The Dog People have a list of popular toys, and you can find more at Chewy.com or your favorite pet shop.

Need more ideas to keep your dog’s attention away from your keyboard? Check out the AKC’s Trick Dog program. Sasha earned her novice certificate after just one day’s focused training session. Give it a try–it’s fun for people and pets alike!

A closing thought: we’re living in stressful times. Take care of yourself and those you love!

“Life’s short. Let’s play!” Photo ©S. A. Holmes

 

 

 

 

The Value of Purpose-Bred Dogs

While researching information for my Waterside Kennels series, I’ve learned a lot about dogs in general and about the people associated with breeding and training dogs. Sadly, some of these people are all too often motivated by profit. This has given rise to a veritable cottage industry populated by backyard breeders, puppy mills, and stores who may sell puppies (for hundreds of dollars–or more) from people who have limited or no knowledge of bloodlines, standards, or even breed-specific temperament.

In contrast, responsible breeders work diligently to maintain clean, well-managed facilities, follow industry standards for healthy breeding stock, and work hard to preserve breed characteristics. If you’re interested in finding a responsible breeder, the American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a list of breeders as well as tips to help you make an informed decision.

If you’re not sure which breed might be best for you, you can compare breeds, talk to breeders and owners, and watch the dog in action.

For an example of a purpose-bred dog, check out this story of a coon hound that demonstrated her ability to apply tracking skills in a totally unexpected situation.

Coon Hound tracking

Read more about Billie in an article authored by Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz and published online at akc.org.

Give thanks and be safe!

Find this photo and details about food safety at akc.org

Whatever holidays or special events you celebrate as the year draws to a close, take time to remind yourself what’s safe–and what’s not–for your dogs. Here’s “must know” info straight from writer Mary Keal, whose articles have appeared on the American Kennel Club’s website.

It’s not just humans that overeat at the holidays. Some of us may also be a bit indulgent with our dogs. But it doesn’t have to be the turkey bones or other not-so-great items from the Thanksgiving or Christmas menu. There are healthier choices to share with your dog. From green beans to sweet potatoes, plenty of fall favorites can be tasty (and safe) options for your dog to share in small portions during holiday festivities.

It may be tempting to offer up the turkey bones to include your dog in your family’s celebratory feast. But, because they can potentially cause damage to your pet’s digestive tract, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends keeping them out of reach. However, though turkey bones are off the table, there’s no need for your pet to feel left out.

Safe and satisfying foods that you can share with your dog this holiday season are discussed by Gary Richter, MS, DVM author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats and Veterinary Health Expert with Rover, Sara Ochoa, DVM and small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas, and the American Kennel Club’s Jerry Klein, CVO and emergency and critical care veterinarian who has been a valued member of the Chicago veterinary community for over 35 years.

Here’s a quick look at “safe” foods your dog can enjoy. Note: read details and disclaimers in the full article online.

      • Sweet potatoes
      • Potatoes
      • Applies
      • Turkey meat (no bones & no skin)
      • Green beans
      • Peas (plain, not creamed)
      • Pumpkin (plain, not pre-spiced)

Photo courtesy of akc.org

Continuing from the article, Dr. Richter, Dr. Ochoa, Dr. Klein, and the AVMA caution the following foods should NOT be served to dogs:

                  • Turkey bones, skin, and gravy
                  • Stuffing
                  • Casseroles
                  • Mashed potatoes
                  • Creamed peas
                  • Chocolate, cookies, pies, and sweets (especially anything containing xylitol)
                  • Alcoholic beverages
                  • Raisins and grapes
                  • Onions, scallions, and garlic
                  • Ham
                  • Yeast dough
                  • Fatty foods
                  • Foods containing spices

Read the entire article online at https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/thanksgiving-foods-to-share-with-your-dog-or-avoid/

To read more dog-related articles authored by Mary Kearl, see the list at https://www.akc.org/author/mary-kearl/

As Seasons Change

Source: Sandra/Fotolia

Today we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox (known as the Fall Festival to some and Mabon to others). I’ve been wondering if/how the season’s change might affect the four-legged family members, and found some answers while wandering through the Internet.

Writing for Romper.com in 2018, Beagle owner Abi Berwager Schreier had apparently wondered much the same. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

So am I a crazy dog lady? Perhaps. But I asked Russell Hartstein, a Los Angeles-based certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer if the fall equinox affects your dog, secretly hoping I’m really not the crazy dog lady who imagines things about her pups. And it turns out, I’m not super wacky. “Dogs are affected by light cycles more than the position of the sun in the sky. Being crepuscular animals (most active during dusk and dawn), the times of a dog’s increased activities somewhat fluctuate with the amount of daylight,” he explains in an email interview with Romper. So that makes sense why they seem so much more active even at 5 a.m. once the equinox has occurred.

Now, what to do with all that energy? Author Leah Ingram suggests five ways to enjoy the season with your dogs. While you’re online, check out this slideshow of happy dogs compiled by dogtime.com. And finally, keep these Fall grooming tips (courtesy of AKC) in mind.

Happy Fall, everyone!

Pet-Friendly Travels

Alix The Great Traveler © Susan Holmes

Years ago, I was traveling with a group and we’d checked into a pet-friendly hotel. I left my spaniel, Alix, in the room while I retrieved the rest of the luggage. One member of the group–one of the few traveling without dogs of her own–wasn’t paying attention and left the door open. My dog decided she didn’t want to stay in a strange place unless I was with her so she slipped out of the open door and set off to find me. By the time I tracked her down, she’d charmed everyone she’d met and the front desk clerk was sharing her lunch. “She looked hungry,” the clerk explained. Fortunately, both staff and guests were amused by my dog’s antics and quick to accept my profuse apologies for an unleashed, unsupervised dog in the hotel.

I learned a lot from that experience, and I’m happy to report that Alix went on to become a wonderful travel companion. Far better, in fact, than I suspect my Sheltie will ever be. If Sasha ever got loose in a strange place, I seriously doubt I could catch her. Beyond our yard and whatever the destination might be, Sasha is always leashed and properly secured.

If you’re traveling this summer by vehicle or planes or even on foot, there are some basic practices that can make the adventure an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone.

© American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club staff present some great suggestions that can help you plan for your trip. You’ll find excellent information about health, safety, crates, and best practices in the article titled The Complete Guide to Travelling With Your Dog.

Jenna Stregowski, RVT has a thoughtful article titled How to Travel With Your Dog that addresses different types of travel accommodations. The article also includes a handy “what to pack” checklist.

Lisa Bernier at Barkpost offers 18 Ridiculously Easy Travel Hacks That Will Change How You Travel With Your Pup. Some of these might surprise you, so be sure to check them out!

And for a totally different perspective, check out How I Bring My Dog With Me While Traveling The World and Working Remotely

If you’re planning to travel on foot with your dog, The American Hiking Society has great information online at the site Places to Hike With Your Dog.

Although fractured bones have kept me off the trail for the past several months, reading about a hike with a dog is almost as good as the real thing–especially when the writer is as gifted as Jim Warnock. If you’ve never hiked with a canine partner, check out the 12 qualities of a good trail partner.  And for more great reading, check out his blog post Just Perfect

Hiker-Dog Photo © Jim Warnock

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Wherever your travels take you, I hope the information included in the links above will help you enjoy a peaceful–and safe–adventure!

p.s. If you’re looking for a pet-friendly hotel, these resources might help:

https://hotels.petswelcome.com/

https://www.bringfido.com/lodging/

http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha © S. Holmes