The day is coming when we’re all going to have to go back to work [is it though…?]. Half of us may even be back there already [yes… for my sanity]! Only problem? Our poor pets can’t come with us. Now, this is going to pain me more than you know. I have become used to playing with him between meetings, venting to him about everything that frustrated me that day, and going on relaxing walks with him during lunch. Honestly – I’ve never had a better co-worker. So, what am I going to do now that I will be away from him all day? I’ll be sad – but the better question is: what is he going to do without me all day?
Crate or no crate?
Here lies one of my biggest struggles. I relied heavily on the crate for raising this little guy. From potty training to nap time, I really wanted him to love his crate. I stuck it out for almost a year – and he loved it [good for you because that seems like a lifetime]. He walked right in and relaxed and I took advantage of those few hours of free time I had each day (which I so needed – single pup parents can relate).
However, my puppy was not a fan of the crate after he woke up from his naps… I tried it all, waiting for him to be calm, trying a quiet command, checking on him and ignoring him – he just wasn’t having it. “I’m awake ma, lemme out!” – this is what I imagine he was crying. So, I decided upon a few goals for him to attain – once that was achieved, I would start letting him be free in the apartment while I was away.
- No Accidents – I wanted him to go 2-3 months with no accidents in my apartment [hmm what about in mine? lol]. This gave me more motivation to stay diligent with the potty training to help him be successful.
- No Chewing – teething was rough on all of us… us being my hands and my cushion covers. I wasn’t going to leave him free until I could trust him to be free. This means, waiting for him to get his adult teeth and move on from teething.
- Stay Calm – last one was tough to gauge, but I wanted to give him some time to show me he could chill. This was important to make sure he was calm in the apartment when I left. So I really worked on impulse control exercises with him during training. This spanned from making him wait on treats, to bed stays, and to tethering.
Free – but not so much
With some time and patience, he hit all of those goals. So now it was my turn to put in the effort and trust him alone at home. Let’s take baby steps…
Week 1: I started by leaving him in my kitchen and gating off the rest of the apartment. This week the goal was one hour. I watched him like a hawk on my Nest camera.
Week 2: Another week, an additional hour. If he stayed calm and relaxed, I would allow him more space next week.
Week 3: As you probably know by now, I live in a studio apartment. So – this week he gets to stay in the main living area with access to the couch and bed but with the bathroom and kitchen off limits. Back to watching him on the camera to make sure he is relaxed. Sticking to 1-2 hrs this week with the new space.
Week 4: Upping the time to 3-4 hrs… I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…
Week 5: 5-6 hours now – longest I am choosing to leave him between potty breaks. If he can hack it we’re free.
Week 6: Practicing for a work day – 4 hours, come home to walk him, 4 more hours. This proved to be the hardest on my psyche. So, I outsourced some help here to my favorite dog walkers NYC Pooch. They are a local dog walking company who background checks their employees and never does group walks. So your pup gets solid one-on-one attention by the same walker every time. My little guy is now besties with his walker.
Spoiler alert: he did it! ALL of it! [woo hoo!] And much quicker than the month and a half I had planned for. He is more calm, I am more calm, and feel so much better knowing he is safe and relaxed at home when I’m away. We will keep practicing until I’m back in the office – but we can only get better, right?
It will be tough on all of us, but with patience and preparation, hopefully our little pups will enjoy their space as well! Who knows, they’re probably sick of our company anyways.
How are you all preparing to leave your pups when heading back to the office?