In the spirit of full transparency, this blog is being written as a result of personal experience.
I’m used to working from home, I have been having daily Zoom calls (like Skype) for years and have a tried and tested system so that Mr Bear doesn’t feel the need to offer his opinion during any of these calls.
Like many of you, I’m now living in a co-working space and while I accept it is absolutely necessary, I saw my tried and tested zooming-with-your-dog system disappearing before my eyes this morning. So, here are my top tips, as delivered to my new co-worker, which you can follow too if you wish.
As always, we’ll start from the dog’s perspective:
- The human is at home. (winning)
- The human is sitting at the kitchen table, where the food lives. (winning)
- or The human is on the sofa, where the cuddles happen. (winning)
- This human gives me lots of love and attention when she’s home. (winning)
- If I nudge her she’ll give me love and attention. *nudge* (winning)
- (human) “… ahh, hello, you can’t be doing this all day, I have to work” while giving love and attention. (winning)
- Repeat the last two points three or four times. (winning)
- an online call starts (human) “… hello, can you hear me, I’m here, can you hear me?”
- (dog) “ WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!” roughly translated to ‘she’s talking to me, I can hear voices, hello everybody, this is the best day ever!’ (winning)
- Muting the call (human says to me – also a human) “Can you take him somewhere else, I need to concentrate!” (no longer winning!)
Online calls are a bizarre concept for your dog. They can hear you, they can hear other the voices and that usually signals something fun. You’re talking, laughing and interacting in a space that’s often used for you to talk, laugh and interact as a family, which your dog is at the heart of.
In your home, a nudge for fuss will usually be rewarded with fuss and, just as during the social experiment I stumbled across, that is exactly what happened. What we reinforce, we will get more of. It’s simple. If, on the third nudge, there still isn’t any fuss it’s unlikely the pooch will think ‘oh, ok, she’s obviously busy I’ll go and lie down.’ Nope, they’ll probably work harder for the fuss. They’ll be a paw or a bark heading your way as you haven’t responded the way you did previously.
As another example, because this happened today too, I was on a Zoom call with someone that doesn’t usually work from home. Her dog appeared because she was laughing (I’m very entertaining on a zoom call!) and she encouraged him onto her lap to ‘say hello’. I hate to break it to you, but your dog doesn’t want to say ‘hello’. Treats and fuss will not appear through the screen so I am surplus to requirements! Then, the dog was put back onto the floor. Guess what happened?! Oh yes, the pooch repeatedly tried to jump back up because that’s where the fuss was happening even though by now, my work-buddy was trying to type and needed her arms. WE GET WHAT WE REINFORCE!
So, what do we do?
It’s simple, teach an ‘on your bed’ cue (everything you need is here) and make sure, especially in the early stages, that you have something like a frozen Kong to occupy your dog for the length of the call. If you can ask your dog to go to their bed, you’re communicating what you WOULD like them to do. If you still insist on your dog ‘saying hello’ then you can do that first, before asking them to go to their bed!
Don’t think that you can start training this on your next important zoom call. It doesn’t work like that. Start this evening, when you’re relaxing with your dog and spend some time teaching them the cue. Then, you can practice when you’re chatting online with a friend so that your dog can get used to the situation and before you know it, you’ll be winning at zooming with your dog.
Zooming with your dog is significantly different to zoomies with your dog!
Oh, and if we’re really going for full transparency, I have been known to both say hello to dogs & cats and invite my four-legged team to say hello to my human call buddy!