Working full time, whether you’re returning to work, or you’re getting a new job, it’s getting to the point where people are considering surrendering their dog.
We all know that puppy numbers have surged since we went into lockdown. This means that as we go back to work there’s a threat that puppy or their adopted dog is no longer convenient.
I’ve long since took the high road that these weren’t just short term Covid Companions, that this was just a whole bunch of people who wanted to be dog owners but knew they didn’t have the initial time investment to set them up for lifelong success – but Covid granted them an opportunity…
And for that? I can’t blame them.
So what I want to do in this post is to discuss with you how to make having a dog or puppy work for you (and them!) whilst you return to work without compromising their care level – so you don’t feel the guilt for leaving them home, and you don’t decide to give them up.
The “They Just Sleep” myth.
Whilst a large part of any dog’s day is sleeping? This is actually a myth. Dogs don’t just sleep all day when you’re not home. And if they do? It means they’re going to be incredibly active when you get home, and may not let you sleep all night. Or, they stay awake and literally eat a hole in your sofa or wall.
I know which I’d prefer.
As with everything, life or puppy training, there is a balance to be struck to find proper care – and you can totally achieve that and work full time.
This is what I’m here to help you get through, because it’s totally doable, you just have to find the right balance for you, your dog and your budget…
Set Up For Success aka: No Jumping Off The Diving Board!
Remember that for any dog during this pandemic, they’ve likely gotten very used to you being home with them, and its worse still for puppies as it’s likely all they’ve ever known.
Don’t expect them to be able to cope with it from the start. Expect them to need a gradual introduction.
The short version is work them up to this in stages, 1-5 mins, 10 mins, 30 mins and then into your hours.
The longer version I’ve covered here.
Break Up The Day
Knowing how long you can leave your dog is really important here. Most animal shelters advise that leaving your dog for up to 4 hours is acceptable. But remember this is down to the individual dog, and in some instances (particularly if you’re toilet training!) this may be different.
There are a few things you could consider to break up the day for your puppy or dog, I’ve used most of them, and actually? I’m a passionate believer that your dog should have a great and continued relationship with any of these elements, because a support network is such an important thing.
A quick pop in
Asking a friend or professional to pop into your home and give puppy some love, cuddles, a bathroom break and maybe some lunch, might be a great idea for you. This way you can schedule in 30 mins or an hour and make sure that your woof isn’t left cooped up for too long.
This one is ideal for shorter days away. For example, we went out for the evening and used this one to make sure our three woofs got their last bit of a run around in the yard and got their last toilet in before we got home late at night.
If you’re out for considerable amounts of time, for example a full working day with a commute — this may be perfect for you. This one means that your dog is grouped in with some other dogs, and they get a fun day of structured play and exercise – meaning that element is off your plate too.
Some doggy daycares even offer to pick up and drop off, so as to not add any extra journeys into your day because they truly understand what it is to be a working puppy parent.
I used to use this when Indie was young and I was working full time in London. My days were long, and he was too young to leave for that period. So, I found a fabulous daycare place (which he loved, and misses now he’s moved to the US!) that cared for him so very well. It was the priciest thing I could do? But it was worth it.
A note about daycare:
Daycare is great – but make sure that they have a structured day, and that your dog is not just on the go all day.
Whilst this sounds exactly like what your dog should be doing at daycare… Dogs – and particularly puppies – do not tend to know their own limits. And it can create problems with overtiredness, nervous energy and create something we trainers call “an Endurance Monster” aka, it doesn’t matter how far they walk, run, swim, the dog will keep going and they don’t learn to have an off switch.
So make sure your daycare has structure, nap time, play time, relaxation time… whatever they call it, they need structure. Structured daycare is what a puppy parent wants to see!
A Dog Walker
If they’re a little older, and you’re working full time, this could be a great solution. An hours walk is usually about 2hrs of out-of-the-house time (because there’s pick up, and drop off, and wiping paws, and leashing up, and loading-unloading and travel times to consider) which means that your dog is getting a solid break in the middle of your time out of the house.
Remember! A great professional will always give 5 extra mins to drop a kong from the freezer in with your dog to give them a little extra soothing and enrichment.
Now the question becomes, Friend or Professional?
I’m a big advocate of using professionals. Only because they tend to have a higher rate of reliability than ‘the neighbours kid’ – if you want to investigate a little more into which way you’d like to go, have a read of this.
Expect That They Will Take Up A Large Portion Of Your Morning And Evening
Now, unless they’ve been at daycare all day and had all of their pre-requisite enrichment and exercise, then generally you’re going to need to check some of these boxes for your dog.
You will have to walk, play and be engaged – even on the toughest days at work.
This, however, is a good thing. Please don’t look at this as a burden. Your dogs undying and enduring love and affection is one of the reasons you got a dog (I’m pretty certain), and you’d be shocked how much of a tonic your dog can be – especially when you’re feeling really grumpy because your boss is a butt.
Minimal Crate Time
Crates are great – but using them in moderation is the only way forwards with your relationship with your dog. They have to be taught how to be responsible in your home, and leaving them in a crate, all day, whilst you’re not in the house, is not a long term solution.
A puppy proofed room or space will always be a preferred solution when you’re talking about long periods of time. Giving them access to their crate (aka. Safe space) is what you need to do, but with a playpen or similar attached, with things in that are great for your dog, like a kong, or other enrichment toy.
Eventually, the goal should be to give your dog free run of the house. Un-crate training is almost as important as crate training!!
Lots of Sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep will really help you to succeed at paw-renting with a full time job. Why? Because an overtired dog or puppy is not one you’re going to want the stress of. Whilst your dog can bring you joy and laughter, a bitey terror that’s doing zoomies when all you’re trying to do is to cook your dinner is probably going to result in frustration and a very human blurt of emotions – that could result in shouting at your dog.
Now, we all know we want to avoid that where possible. So, what I want you to think about is making sure your woof gets appropriate amounts of sleep. More is always better than less, as well, so remember that!
Chews & Enrichment
I said earlier that a good dog walker can drop a kong that you’ve pre-prepared in for your dog. And I’m not kidding. Either way, availing of pigs ears, dried tracheas, kongs, stuffed buffalo horns, snuffle mats, licki-mats and even things like scatterfeeding can be phenomenal ways to make sure that your puppy’s brain is working to its fullest.
Why does this help a full-time parent? Because if you’re working from home, these are great stimulation for them that they can (and will) do alone, that keeps them quiet. Or if you’re in the office, or wherever you’re working, they keep your dog out of mischief, help work their brain and encourage a state of relaxation.
Win win, right?
Warning! Do Not Resort To Cupboard Love!
Treats and chews are great but they are not made to just shut your dog up and they’re (again) not a way to avoid training. Overfeeding will result in an overweight dog, and will not improve their manners! If you’re struggling with something, let me know and let’s fix it or find more constructive solutions.
More for your peace of mind than anything else, but I love puppy cameras.
These are great – I have to say. Even for those moments that you’re like “What on earth are they doing?” But you don’t want to go in there yet? Like in the early morning. If you grab one of these, pair it with your phone, and it becomes your visual? Without disturbing puppy, or what their up to? You can learn so much.
But, they’re even more effective when you’re not in the house. By using one of these, you can actually get totally ahead of the game. Which is pretty huge. You can see when they’re starting to get stressed and circumvent it. You know if they start barking (because some have that sensor on them) and then if all is well? That’s fantastic peace of mind.
You can of course set this up with a video call between your laptop and your phone if you don’t think it’s a good investment for now, but would really appreciate that visual. It’s just a lot less convenient.
For a full-time working parent, these can be used to check in on what’s going on, whether they’re relaxed or stressed, or if they’re eating your curtains.
We use these and love them. If your pet is an escape artist (looking at you fellow coonhound parents! Or husky parents… or a few others!), and you think they’re likely to take themselves on a wander, without any accompaniment, consider a tracking collar. Most of them work as activity trackers too, so you can see roughly sleep vs activity, and keep an eye on their fitness levels.
This can be super useful if you’re wondering why your dog is exhausted after a day at daycare (with collars like Fi’s you can allow the daycare facility access as a ‘walker’, or your dog walker!), or why they’re still perfectly fine, or even hyper if someone didn’t come in for their midday break.
I use them for the girls (even though they’re home with me all day) and I can entirely recommend the Fi collars.
Whilst it doesn’t have to be every weekend, consider hiking with your dog, or taking up a dog sport (such as agility, flyball, trick-dog, rally, or dock diving!) to make sure you focus some time with them that’s a special time for you both.
A Life Together With A Dog Is One Of Rewards
For both you and the dog.
Try and stay positive, try and keep on the up and up.
Dogs were build to work with humans, you just have to find a way to work together that works for you both. And remember, that’s what you signed up to when you brought home a dog. No matter how tough that may be? Find a way.
And if you can’t figure that out? Don’t beat yourself up, don’t think that you’ve got to give up your dog, just talk to a trainer. A Trainer can help take off those emotional blinkers of overwhelmedness, and find you a way forwards.
So, if you do need help? Come talk to me, book in a 1:1 and let’s fix this for you.
This article was first published in Rebarkable.