Is it possible to have a dog if you work full-time? The simple answer is yes. But, it does require some careful planning and preparation. Justine Williams, the founder of Our Family Dog, a website for first-time dog owners, shares her advice on having a dog and working 9-5.
If you were expecting a baby, you would be entitled to parental leave from work. This would give you time off to spend with and bond with your new arrival, and adjust to the responsibility of having a baby in your life.
Just like babies, puppies don’t sleep through the night; there will be endless pee and poo accidents and, in the early days, they will want to be by your side 24/7. Unfortunately, unlike with babies, there’s no statutory right to time off to care for your new four-legged family member.
The great news is that there’s a growing trend in businesses introducing dog-friendly policies. Some even offer paw-ternity leave to support new dog owners. Paw-ternity leave is yet to become mainstream (and it tends to be for just a week) but it shows that employers are now recognising dogs as part of the family. There’s also a growing number of dog-friendly workspaces, including co-working spaces in London such as WeWork, which allow well-behaved dogs to join their owners in the office.
Nestle Purina introduced a pet-friendly policy in 2015. It was so successful that the company went a step further to help other businesses become pet friendly. Read this guide for employees on how to convince your boss to become pet-friendly. They may be persuaded when they hear that being able to take your pet to work scores higher than parking as a desirable employee benefit.
That said, whilst taking your puppy to work may seem like a good arrangement, it may not be suitable for all dogs. And it may not work for all of your work colleagues. Having back-up dog care is a good idea. This will allow you and your colleagues to do some work without being distracted by puppy cuddles (as lovely as they are). Working from home with your dog, it’s great if you work for a dog-friendly employer but what if you don’t?
Maybe you’re one of the 1.7 million people who works from home – a figure that has almost doubled in the last decade, and may increase further in a post-Covid world. At present, around 5% of Londoners regularly work from home. Homeworking is a great solution for juggling work and caring for a new puppy. However, it’s not always that simple. Dogs and Zoom conference calls or Google Hangouts don’t always go that well together. Some careful planning of your day to give your dog the attention they need but also enough quiet time for you to be able to do your job will be required.
Here’s some tips for dog-owning home workers:
Anticipate when toilet breaks will be needed - a quick five minutes round the garden usually does it in between walks.
Get your dog used to being in another room, even if it’s for half an hour, for when you need to make a call.
Frozen Kongs are great for keeping dogs entertained.
Don’t forget to remove squeaky toys when you’re about to join a conference call.
Stay on mute when possible, as your dog will be guaranteed to bark at the most inopportune moment.
What to do with a puppy while at work
The responsibility of caring for a puppy can come as a bit of a surprise for first-time dog owners. Particularly with how clingy they are. Wherever you go – be it the toilet or the kitchen – your puppy will be there. Leave the room, just momentarily, and your puppy may whine until you come back. Over time, this dependency on you will lessen but, just like babies, they do need someone around all the time in the early months; something that new dog owners often don’t realise and then try to leave their puppy alone too soon. This can be really distressing for a young puppy who is too young to be separated from their carer.
If you can’t work from home or take your dog to work with you, what do you do with your puppy while at work?
Until your puppy is old enough to be left alone, here’s some options for puppy care while you’re at work:
Ask a family member - a willing grand pup-parent perhaps – or a friend to puppy sit while you’re at work.
Employ a professional pet sitter. They can come to your house during the day and keep your puppy company.
Find good doggy day care. After your puppy’s vaccinations (usually around 12 weeks old), they can go and have fun with other pups at doggy day care. How long can you leave a dog alone at home?
Dog experts advise that dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours at a time. However, getting to the point where you dog is happy to be left alone takes time and it needs to be built up gradually.
Here’s some steps recommended by the RSPCA for teaching your dog to be left alone:
Encourage your puppy or dog to go to their bed, with you close by, and stay there for a short while. Reward them for remaining quiet.
Ask your dog to stay while you move away. Reward them when you return.
Start to move further away and leave them alone for a little longer each time. Reward them when you return. If they move away from their bed or bark, don’t reward, but don’t punish either. Simply go back a step and slowly build up the time again.
Start to leave the room before returning, eventually progressing to closing the door when you leave; increasing the amount of time you stay outside and varying the time before you return.
Once your dog has reached the point of being happy to be left alone for an hour, they should be happy being left for longer periods of time.
Support for working dog owners
Even when your dog is happy to be left alone at home, you’ll need to find a way to make sure that they are not left alone for more than four hours at a time. If you can’t get home for a lunchtime walk, there are plenty of dog walkers in London who can help you out and give your dog some exercise and company during the day. Make sure they are insured and you are happy to leave your dog in their care.
The best place to start your search for a dog walker is the
MyPetPeople website. The dog walkers listed on MyPetPeople will meet industry standards set out by the Pet Industry Federation.
Alternatively, your dog may enjoy going to doggy day care while you’re at work. Think of it as day nursery – but for dogs instead of children. Look for a facility that is a member of the Pet Industry Federation.
Outside of work, the great news is that London is increasingly becoming dog friendly, with no shortage of cafes, restaurants, parks and cinemas where dogs are welcome too!
Our Family Dog is a website for first time dog owners.
Visit their website for great tips and advice to support you as you start out life with your new dog.