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Summary:

Working from home allows me to be a more involved pet owner, since I get to be around my pets all day.  Right now, I have two dogs, two cats, and a rooster.  (I also have a snail but it hardly gets in the way of […]

Working from home allows me to be a more involved pet owner, since I get to be around my pets all day.  Right now, I have two dogs, two cats, and a rooster.  (I also have a snail but it hardly gets in the way of anything.)  But having pets around while you work leaves you open to several distractions throughout the day.  How can you find the middle ground of enjoying your pet’s company without letting them disturb your work?

Know your pet’s behavior. By understanding your pet’s behavior and what it means for you as a teleworker, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions that would benefit your pets without getting in the way of your work.  You’ll also know how they’ll react to different situations, and how much of a distraction they will be.

For example, I know that Toby, one of my cats, is very independent and doesn’t care what I do.  Because of this, I don’t mind that he’s around when I work.  However, my other cat, Sasha, is attention-hungry.  If she’s around, I know I’m not going to get any work done.  So if I know that I need to do a lot of work, I try to avoid encountering Sasha.

Train them. Before I got my dogs, I thought training them was just a way to be cute, since they can sit, stand, roll over, or play the xylophone at your beck and call.  This misconception didn’t make me take training seriously, until I realized that I needed my dogs to be more disciplined.

Training is a good way of facilitating a more balanced “give and take” relationship between you and your pet.  Instead of always doing things on their terms, they need to understand that some things need to be on your terms too.

Get them on a schedule. Since my dogs need walking, I make sure that they get used to being walked in the afternoon.  This is the perfect time for them to walk, because I’m done with work by then, and it’s not too dark.  Before I got them on this schedule they would bark at the most inconvenient times, wanting to walk.  Be consistent when it comes to their feeding, walking, and bathing times, so that their needs won’t conflict with yours.

Having my rooster was a bit difficult at first, because I’m not sure how you get it to follow a schedule.  Roosters can be very annoying if you just went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, and it starts a lengthy cock-a-doodle-doo routine near your bedroom window.  My solution?  To wake up before it does.  Of course,  this means that I get up earlier than my other pets as well, so I don’t get bothered by them while I work.

Give them something to do.
If they can tell that you’re in the house, they usually want to spend time with you. This is especially true of dogs.  Try to find toys that they don’t get tired of easily, such as those balls that allow you to hide a treat inside, or those tough rawhide bones that take a long time to be ripped apart.  The activity of choice will depend on your pet’s preferences.

Make your office off-limits.
This is still something I’m working on, since my office divider is made out of curtains.  When I get the chance, I’ll work on a more permanent divider because having pets in the office can be disastrous.  One of my cats once jumped on my scanner, which made it fall from its rack and land on the mouse (and broke it).  Of course, more minor accidents tend to occur, such as a broken ceramic coaster, or pens falling off my desk.  Attending to these accidents can be a hassle, so try to keep your office off-limits to pets.

If your pets are well-behaved or if they can be contained (ex. birds in a cage, fish in an aquarium), then it might not be such a problem to have them in the office.  But even if they can sit and stay perfectly, your keyboard and other computer equipment might still end up covered in fur.

I’ve also created “zones” in my home that keeps the dogs separate from the cats.  Giving them their own space will allow them to move freely without getting into fights.  You can’t afford to play referee to inter-species arguments when you have a deadline approaching.

Having pets in the home can be truly rewarding.  Once you establish a schedule and a system, your pets don’t have to be distractions to your work.  In fact, they might help enrich it.

Do you own any pets?  How do they affect your ability to work from home?

Image by user mn-que from sxc.hu

  1. Emily Williams Thursday, October 9, 2008

    My dog sometimes comes to the office with me. For the most part she’s content to lie in the sun, but sometimes she wants to cuddle on my lap – fine except when she tries to attack my fingers as I type. She seems to be learning, however, that if she does that it’s back to the floor for her, so she needs to stay calm if she wants to be on my lap.

    It’s also helpful that everyone likes her, so each person will have their moment playing with her throughout the day. She gets to play a bunch, and each person’s only taking one or two breaks rather than spending the whole day dog-sitting.

  2. I translate and work as a copywriter from home so I can breed basset hounds. I have four right now plus a 3 week old pup.
    Mum and pup are asleep next to my desk.

    I find having a strict routine helps me and the dogs.

    Usually, when I don’t have pups, I have four dogs sleeping under my feet. It’s heaven.

    You can see pics of them: http://www.bassethounds.nu

  3. I’ve been telecommuting full-time for 8 years now, so both of my dogs have never known me to “go to work”. They are part of my team, and are on a fairly regular schedule. Dogs sleep for most of the day anyway, so mine have beds right here in my office, and it’s nice to have their company!

    Mid-afternoon is usually outdoor play time, and by then, I’m way overdue for a break anyway :^}

    Sandy, Bella & Toot Sweet

  4. Karen Norteman Thursday, October 9, 2008

    Before I went to full-time telecommuting, my three dogs stayed home together and waited all day for me. The puppy went to day care, which got to be a bit expensive. Now that I’m home full-time, I can take care of them during the day — very important when I acquired the latest puppy (who is now 2).

    The dogs are attuned to my schedule, and we all welcome a break in the afternoon. I’ll go into the yard and throw a ball for a few minutes. Late afternoon can get hairy when the “middle dog” starts whining for his dinner, but we have a good routine.

  5. Scott Blitstein Thursday, October 9, 2008

    I often wish I could bring one of my cats to the office – I find them to be a very comforting presence. Sure, they can occasionally step on the keyboard, but it’s a small price to pay really.

    SB

  6. My dogs and cats, er the mail room team and security, all sleep most of the day, except when the UPS or Fedex guy shows up. That said, I let them come and go as they please and generally find them unobtrusive. They ONLY seem to bark or bother me when I have an important client on the phone.

  7. Most of the time my dog snoozes happily on the sofa in my office. I’ve not had any problems with her interacting inappropriately with my office equipment since she was a puppy. I certainly couldn’t ban her.

    Her afternoon walk is the ideal time for me to get my thoughts in order. I’ve lost count of the number of times the right words for an article have come into my head as we stroll briskly through the woods. She also stops me developing telecommuter’s belly.

    Incidentally, I notice none of the respondents take their pets for a walk in the morning. Hmmm.

  8. My work is my clients pets. I run a camp for pups. Today, I was able to sit outside doing paperwork while my happy campers sunbathed (when allowed)and chased each other around the yard, followed by a dip in what will probably be one our last pool days. Your post made me consider the possibilities of camp rooster. I have always wanted a rooster to accompany my 6am bark alarm. MMM–might put the neighbors over the edge, tho! I strongly recommend working with your pets its great fun,however never ever underestimate the value of a crate, and good pup manners–allowing them to jump on your visitors will never amuse.

  9. How I can relate with this post! My Sophie is like your Tasha. I have actually trained her to an alarm so she is constantly crying to be fed. Thanks for posting!

  10. @ Nick Clayton
    We go for a walk at 6 AM, a longish walk at lunchtime and a hike through the woods at the end of the afternoon. Without it the dogs and I would go spare.

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