How to Balance a Dog and a Full-Time Job
Let’s face it: most of us would probably rather spend more time with our dogs outside, and less time working behind a computer while our dog sits at home alone. Balancing a dog and a full-time job isn’t easy!
It’s also true that there isn’t an easy option for many dogs. Let’s explore some of the common tactics for balancing your dog and your job.
One important thing to keep in mind is that this doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can certainly bring your dog to work one day per week if your boss allows it (say, on Fridays) and/or pay a dog walker one other day. Breaking up the week even a little bit will really help your dog get through until your next weekend adventure!
Bring Your Dog to Work
I love bringing Barley to work. He is perfectly content to fall asleep under my desk and get up for a few short walks around the block (which coincides nicely with when I’m getting bored or bleary-eyed). If your dog is well-behaved and your office is dog-friendly, this can be the perfect setup!
While a sizeable number of small businesses are now dog-friendly, that option is still only available to the best-behaved dogs (and owners with specific types of work). Many dogs aren’t trained well enough to spend a day at work – or they might be shy or easily excited, making them a poor fit for the #dogfriendly movement!
Take Your Dog to Doggie Daycare
If you can’t bring your dog to work, what are your other options? You might consider doggie daycare. But picking a doggie daycare isn’t easy! It’s also hard to know if your dog would enjoy doggie daycare. That off-leash, all-day style of play is good for some dogs (mostly young, highly social dogs), but isn’t great for most mature adult dogs.
My own dog, Barley, is perfectly polite with most dogs. His social skills for deffusing tense situations are amazing. But he’s not very playful. If he was a person at a bar, he’d politely nod and then look away while sipping his drink. He would not be the guy chest-slamming his friends, winking at women, and chatting up the bartender. So Barley isn’t a great daycare candidate – he’d much rather be at home (or ideally, with me or a single sitter). The “hooligans” at daycare just drive him crazy!
Finally, daycare can be really expensive. When I worked at the shelter, I constantly struggling financially – working at an animal shelter is not very lucrative! Most daycares in Denver charged $40 per day, which comes out to about $320 per month for just two days per week. If I wanted to do a 5-day package, I’d spend $800 per month on doggie daycare alone! That’s as much as my rent! Even if you have a bit more cash flow or live in a cheaper area, doggie daycare isn’t always affordable.
That said, if your dog does enjoy doggie daycare and you have a well-run doggie daycare nearby, just one day per week can really help break up your dog’s week! Just be sure to carefully select the doggie daycare and interview them to get a good fit. Make sure the staff seems knowledgeable about dog behavior, breaking up dogfights, and interrupting inappropriate dog play.
Get a Dogwalker or Sitter
Many dogs would be much happier with a single person that they know well than with a roomful of unknown dogs. Whether you pay your neighbor’s high schooler to walk the dog or ask your friend who works from home to swing by for the afternoons, your dog will appreciate the company.
Some apps even help match you with a free dogsitter. Louie’s Club helps match wannabe dog owners (who maybe can’t own a dog due to rent restrictions or lots of work travel) with working dog owners who need an extra hand.
I used to use Wag for Barley two days per week. Now I work from home, so I don’t need it. But I loved it while I had it! That said, there have been some upsetting stories in the news about poorly-trained Wag and Rover walkers losing or injuring dogs. You and your pup might be better served with a single, trusted sitter.
If you live near a college, find a responsible college student! They almost always are short on cash and usually can’t have a dog of their own. I used to walk a little chocolate lab named Mabel every day – I was her walker for two years before I graduated from college. Mabel was kind of my “practice dog” – I took her to campus for hours instead of a basic 20-minute walk, we went hiking, and sometimes I just did my homework at her house instead of at mine. The setup was perfect for a dog-crazy (and broke) student and for the anxious, loving lab!
Take a Long Lunch Break
If you live close enough to work, you might be able to just take a long lunch break to come home and break up your dog’s day. A midday visit and walk will do wonders for many dogs, even if it’s relatively short.
Leave Your Dog a Treasure Hunt
If all else fails, leave your dog a treasure hunt every day while you’re at work. Every day when I lived in Denver, I’d put Barley in the bathroom for a minute right before I left for work. I then locked up the trash and put away any food (he is a food and trash thief).
When I let him out of the bathroom, he didn’t even notice I was leaving because he was so excited for his treasure hunt! It generally took him at least an hour to find and eat all of his treasures. I also have a Furbo so I can check on him and shoot him treats intermittently throughout the day. We both really love that!
If you put your dogs in a crate, get some really challenging puzzle toys instead.
This is my absolute favorite way to help balance a dog and work, because it works for every dog. Shy dogs, energetic dogs, and aggressive dogs can all benefit from a treasure hunt.
If you can’t do anything for your dog during the day, make sure that you’re giving your dog lots of mental and physical exercise in the mornings, evenings, and weekends. It’s ok if you can’t do something amazing for our dog every day. Just try to do something (like the treasure hunts) and make sure you give your dog training, puzzle toys, and exercise whenever you can!