How to balance having a dog and a full-time job

balancing having a dog and full time jobIt is a common dilemma. You really want a dog, but you work full time. Is it possible to make it work? Here we discuss the challenges of balancing a full-time job with having a dog and some advice on how to cope.

1. Take your dog to work
This is not a possibility for everyone, but in recent years it is becoming more popular. Even if it is just for one day a month, it can really help. Not only have studies shown that dogs at work can actually increase staff happiness and lower stress, your dog will appreciate the company. Some employees such as Facebook and Google are now promoting pets coming to work because of these studies.

2. Hire a dog walker
If it will never work taking your dog to work with you, then consider getting a dog walker. Although adult dogs can be left several hours indoors without them having to go to the toilet, it doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Dogs love company and they also need fresh air and exercise. If you can find a dog walker or friend that can come and take your dog for a walk, it will make all the difference. It gives them a chance to burn off excess energy as well as socialise with humans and other dogs. If you live close enough to work, you could always try and incorporate a visit home and a quick walk.

3. Keep them entertained
Being alone during the day and away from you can be extremely stressful for them. They can also get extremely bored. Alleviate this boredom by ensuring they always have something to do and play with. There are many options out there from simple chew toys to more complex food puzzles.

4. Keep an eye on them
You can now buy surveillance equipment for your home to keep an eye on your dog. Although a lot of the time they will be sleeping, some people find it comforting that they can keep an eye on their dog throughout the day. Some devices are motion censored as well-meaning they will only switch on if the dog is roaming around.

5. Prevent Separation Anxiety
When you go to work it can be stressful for both you and your dog. When you leave, try to not make it a big deal. Although you want to give them a big hug, this will only indicate to them that you are leaving and make the experience worse. Play with them first, give them a chew stick and then leave. They will associate you leaving as not a big deal because a) they have something to play with and b) it wasn’t a traumatic goodbye. Also, try and ensure you do have a morning goodbye routine. Putting your coat on, then your shoes, popping on the radio, then grabbing your keys will form a connection in the dog’s mind that you are about to leave. This is a good thing for most dogs as they like routine and knowing what is happening.

Some breeds can suffer from separation anxiety worse than others. Labradors, Border Collies and Toy Poodles are just some that are known for getting anxious. It can cause pooing in the house, obsessively licking, damaging furniture or even hurting themselves. This is something you should consider when choosing a breed if you know they are going to be alone for a large portion of the day. If you can, try and make them as sleepy as possible before you leave them. Take them for a long morning walk if possible as it will mean they are more likely to sleep the majority of the time they are alone.

6. Don’t feel guilty
Although it is natural that you will feel guilty leaving your dog, you need to try and not feel too bad. As long as you are not leaving them too long on their own, they will get used to it. At the end of the day, you need to work in order to afford dog food for your pet. Just make sure you do as much as possible to ensure they are ok during the day.

Questions to ask yourself if you work full time and want a dog

• How long will the dog be left alone? (Be careful when you calculate this. You may be at work for 7 hours but don’t forget commute time and extra allowance for traffic. The time soon adds up and you may be leaving them for a lot longer than you think)
• Can you ever work from home or take your dog to work?
• What breed of dog would you choose?
• Who can come and visit them during the day? (Dog walkers, friends, neighbours and family are all good options)
• Do you have a busy social life? (if you regularly go out for meals or drinks after work, who will be there for the dog?)
• Are you looking to get a puppy or an older dog?
• Are you looking to get a dog from a rescue centre? (If the answer is yes, then you will need to discuss your work arrangements with them. The vetting processes vary)

There is a growing number of people who have a dog but also work full time. Although it is difficult to get the balance right, it is achievable. Although not all of the tips discussed may be realistic for you, you need to decide which ones you can implement and really weigh up whether you think you will have the time necessary to dedicate to having a dog. If you create a lifestyle that works for both yourself and your dog, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

For advice on dog care, training, behaviour therapy and more, please visit our articles page which is full of free advice.

About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists