1. Create a routine
Routines help your puppy learn what to expect as the day goes on. As your puppy settles into their new home, they’re constantly learning and intaking information on how the world works.
For best results, your daily routine should include:
- Exercise or play sessions before, during, and after your work day
- Regular meals (for both you and your pup)
- Naps (for your pup, but maybe also you)
If you can, schedule 10 to 15 minutes every hour to check on your pup, give them a little attention, and reward them for being calm.
💡 Build flexibility into your routine from the get-go. For example: nap or crate time may always follow a play session, but it can last anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes depending on your schedule and your puppy’s needs.
2. Prepare Kongs, food puzzles, and other toys in advance
What’s one of the biggest rules in dog training?
Set your puppy up for success.
Sometimes this takes some advance preparation. The night before, stuff your kongs, pre-load your snuffle mats, and get your lickmats ready.
When you’re working, anything that wears your puppy out without your direct involvement is a godsend. And the sooner your puppy can learn to entertain themselves with their own toys, the more you can relax.
💡 Reserve your puppy’s favorite and longest-lasting chews or puzzles for meetings.
3. Set reasonable expectations
As a very popular article once put it, your puppy is a baby that’s been kidnapped from another planet.
This is especially important if you’ve just brought them home. Up until now, your puppy has had the benefit of their littermates and their mother around 24/7. They’ve spent eight weeks being cheerful, roly-poly puppies with all that that entails: barking, biting, playing, sniffing, jumping, and chewing. And, most importantly, they’ve never been alone.
So, keeping this in mind, expect:
- Productivity to suffer. Working from home with a new puppy does not allow for the same level of energy as working in an office. This is temporary!
- Distractions to rise. Your puppy needs a lot of attention and care—and, remember, up until recently they got everything they needed on demand. And, even when they’re being quiet and calm, you might find that you prefer staring goofily at them over staring at your computer screen.
- Exhaustion to set in. You may not be sleeping through the night, or your puppy may need to get up earlier than you’re used to. On top of that, you now spend your free time monitoring your puppy like a hawk. Give yourself a break when you can.
💡 Don’t try to get everything done in the first few weeks. Focus on just one or two early training priorities before adding more onto your plate.
4. Embrace crate training and puppy playpens
Set your puppy’s rest station up near you, preferably in the same room.
Eventually, if you want, you can work up to keeping your puppy in another room so that they get used to being away from you. However, when your puppy is very young, they may find this unnecessarily stressful.
Plus, if your puppy is still working on their house training, allowing them to remain in the same room as you during the day lets you keep a eye on them and get them outside in time.
An alternative to crates and puppy playpens is tethering. Sometimes referred to as umbilical cord training, it just means that you keep your puppy on leash near you at all times so that you can watch them.
💡 Build your puppy playpen around your desk so that you can play with them and they can be near you while you work. Attach the crate to the side and cover it with a blanket when it’s naptime.
5. Ask for help from friends, family, and professionals
It doesn’t take a village to raise a dog, but it definitely helps.
Not only is it important for your puppy to meet new people and get used to strangers entering your home, but it’s a great way to tire your puppy out without having to lift a finger. Who doesn’t love playing with puppies?
Once your puppy is vaccinated, they can start going outside for short walks. Or, if you’ve got weekend plans, see if anyone around you is willing to puppysit for a few hours in exchange for cash, food, or a favor.
💡 Schedule playdates with friendly dogs. Let your puppy burn up their energy with their new friend while you sit back and watch. Enjoy the peace and quiet while your puppy conks out after.
6. Lean into mental stimulation
Mental stimulation wears your puppy out more than physical stimulation alone.
Think of it this way: pay attention to how you feel after reading a good book or watching a movie. Even though your body hasn’t moved in an hour or so, you still feel tired after.
Easy ways to provide your puppy with mental stimulation include:
- Short training sessions, especially if you’re teaching something new
- Puzzle toys
- Nosework games
- Long-lasting chew toys
- Puppy Push-Ups: Sit, Down, Stand
💡 The most classic and time-honored way of combining mental and physical stimulation in one activity: a sniff walk. Let your puppy really sniff and circle in a small area, and allow them to follow their nose. Don’t get too caught up in trying to cover a lot of distance!
7. Reserve a portion of your puppy’s meals to capture calmness
Keep a small bowl of kibble on your desk. Whenever you see your puppy doing something you want, drop the kibble in front of them. Do this very calmly, without making a big fuss. The first few times this happens, your puppy might get excited, but if you quietly go back to your work, your puppy will resume their own activity.
You specifically want to look for instances where your puppy is calm, entertaining themselves, or lying down. Capturing Calmness was popularized by certified trainer Emily Larlham. Its goal is to reward any calm behavior that your puppy offers unpromoted. Over time, your puppy learns to behave calmly indoors and while you’re working.
Use kibble instead of treats to avoid switching your puppy’s focus to getting more food.
💡 Look for physical signs of relaxation: slow breathing, sleepy eyes, floppy posture or legs out to the side.
8. Be proactive in your communication
Talk to your manager and coworkers in advance. Let people know that you have an additional element in your life that you need to schedule around, that it won’t last forever, and that you appreciate their patience.
70 percent of American households own a pet. Chances are that people will empathize.
This tip depends on your office’s work culture, but in general, being proactive is more useful than not.
💡 Talk to your neighbors too. If your puppy enjoys barking indoors, they may appreciate the heads up and the confirmation that you’re working on training.
9. Start training early
Start training your puppy young. They can start learning new things as soon as they come home!
Of course, keep it age-appropriate. Your 8-week old puppy has a short attention span and needs patience and encouragement. One of the biggest benefits of training early is that it teaches your puppy that their behavior can influence their environment.
💡 Gentle Beast is a mobile dog training app with video workshops led by certified trainer and behavior consultant Alex Sessa. We can help you with house training, crate training, foundational skills, leash walking, and puppy problem behaviors. And, if you have a question outside of the scope of our workshops, you can text a certified trainer to receive personalized assistance.