If You Want To Take Your Dog To Work, Here’s How To Train Them To Be In An Office
Who doesn't want to bring their dog to work? When there is a truly good pup in the office, there is no doubt that it boosts morale in a big way. So if you happen to be blessed to work at an office where pets are a thumbs up, you might be thinking that it's time to have your own beloved Rover tag along. But learning how to train your dog for a pet-friendly office must always precede your pup's first official office clock-in.
"Clearly a lot relies upon having a dog that is safe and appropriate for a work environment, but part of that comes with some pretty diligent training," jme, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, who has been training and rescuing animals for over ten years, tells Bustle. "The key is to be consistent [with dogs.]"
They need black and white cues, jme says. If you aren't clear about what you want, and exactly how they can act and where they can go in the office, the dog will fill in the gaps with what works for them and what gets them the results they want. This is not so great in a work environment where they need to be calm and on their best behavior.
But training your pooch to mind their p's and q's at work doesn't have to be so hard! Take a look at some of the best ways to train a great office dog.
1. Start With The Basics
It's the basics that are the building blocks for all training. First, jme says, you want to make sure you have "sit" and "wait" down pretty well.
"Practice this in all aspects of life with your dog, such as sit and wait before the food bowl is put down and before they can reach for it; sit and wait before going out the door," jme says.
You might think it's a waste of time to be so "strict" with your dog, jme says, but really mastering this first exercise can keep them from being impulsive or acting out in an environment where they need to keep cool, calm, and collected.
2. Teach Them That They Have A Designated Spot
Like you have a desk, your dog needs a spot to "work," too!
"To bring a dog to work, they need to be able to settle and hang out on command, and to do this you should work on teaching them 'place,'" jme says. "This involves teaching a dog there is a certain spot they should go when asked."
Now, the dog's special place should be something that distinguishes itself from the floor and other surroundings. It could be a dog bed, or a throw rug. Something that they know is a certain color or shape and is a definitive spot they can go to. It should also be something you can easily move and bring with you to work, jme says.
"It is probably easiest to start at home when your dog is comfortable and not overstimulated by their surroundings," jme says.
How do you do this? First, use a leash, and start by leading your dog over to sit on the "place," jme says.
"As they investigate or sit on it, you should repeat the phrase 'good place, good place.' Then walk them away on the leash to the place, then back again, then ask them to get on it and sit and wait, reaffirming with 'good place,'" jme says.
After this is repeated a few times, let your pup "free" and repeat. Next, you just have to work on having them stay when you walk away. Then point to the place and ask them to go there, sit, and wait.
Once you practice a few times at home, then you can try bringing your dog to work and get them to do "place" there, jme says.
3. Make Sure They Are Well Socialized
"A dog owner will also definitely want to adopt a good socialization training plan that exposes their dog to as many people and dogs as possible while ensuring the experience remains positive," trainer Alexandra Bassett CPDT-KA, an LA-based dog behavioral specialist, tells Bustle.
Bassett says that the "critical socialization period" occurs between the age of 3-16 weeks, when a puppy's brain is rapidly forming. So if you have a new pup, this is a great time to get them used to people and other dogs.
"This means that a puppy will readily accept anything new or unfamiliar as non-threatening, so it's imperative for dog guardians to introduce their puppy to as many dog breeds, ethnicities, and ages of people, and places as possible while ensuring the experience remains positive," Bassett says.
It's true that after the age of four months, dog guardians may have to work harder to socialize their dog or puppy, but it can totally be done.
"The best way to do this is to keep exposure to new stimulus brief while pairing the experience with high-value food rewards to create positive associations with whomever or whatever they are encountering,"
This means that you might want to bring your pup in for a variety of office visits — doggy meet n' greets if you will _ before they come in for a full time position.
4. Teach Your Pup Some Basic Manners
From not staring at Karen in accounts payable while she eats her lunch, to making sure your pooch doesn't jump up on the UPS person, manners are key for an office dog.
"Teaching a dog to be polite is all about developing their impulse control and their understanding of cues in a variety of settings and circumstances," Bassett says.
Bassett says to try positive reinforcement. "A dog learns the positive value of certain behaviors by being presented with something that it wants like treats or a toy, and then must figure out through trial and error how to win the treat or the toy from the handler," Bassett says.
One such impulse control exercise? All you need is a chair and a fistful of dog treats.
First, Bassett says, sit in a comfortable chair resting your wrist on your knee in such a way to give it support so it won’t move when your dog investigates the treats you are holding tightly in your hand.
Normally, if your dog is presented with a handful of cookies, its first impulse is to try and steal them, Bassett says.
"But you can counter-condition your pup's response so he will show great self control when presented with the treats," Bassett says, "because eventually your dog will move away from the cookies and wait."
Now, the dog may start by sniffing, then licking, possibly pawing, and even nibbling on your hands to get at the treats. But all of these responses are "out-of-bounds." So offer nothing, say nothing, do nothing, Bassett says. But if every undesirable response from your dog is met with a non-response from you, he will eventually back away from the hand.
"When he does — provided the dog isn’t barking at you — open your hand," Bassett says. "By opening your hand, you have reinforced the first appropriate choice your dog has made."
5. Teach Your Dog To Decompress
The same way we have to teach ourselves to de-stress, so we must train our pooches. Training a dog to calm down, Bassett says, can start with confining them or putting them on a tether when they are acting out.
"Doggie decompression initially teaches a dog or puppy that the quicker they calm down, the sooner they will be let out from behind a gate or let off of a tether, so the release from confinement/regaining their freedom becomes the environmental reinforcer for settling down," Bassett says.
The ultimate goal of helping a dog learn to respond to the stress of restricted movement by relaxing helps them learn to settle down when they may need to lay down by their guardians feet for longer time periods at work, Bassett says.
"Once your dog or puppy is behind a gate or on a tether, it's important to stay nearby but withdraw all engagement from them including eye contact, talking, and touching," Bassett says. "Any interaction during this process feels like a 'lifeline' to your dog or puppy and will only prolong how long it takes for them to settle down, so stay strong and don't engage! It's your presence close-by that gives them the comfort they need to eventually settle down, and it's this process that you are looking to target with this exercise."
Practicing these basics are a great way to start getting your dog to behave and prepare for office living. They will be getting employee of the month in no time at all.