What to Do if Your Dog Won’t Let You Work: A Practical Guide

Working from home can be pretty awesome. But it’s also ridiculously distracting. And most of the time, my dogs are part of the problem.

When your dog needs your attention, nothing matters. Not schedules. Nor deadlines. Nor client calls. Your dog has decided that she needs your attention right now. And she’s let you know by strange high-pitched bark-whines, sharp swats to your leg, or jumping up and down repeatedly.

So when your dog won’t let you work, what do you do?

Fear not, as an experienced work-from-home dog parent, I have developed several tried and true strategies for working with a needy pet.

dog won't let you work cinnamon looking up

Strategy #1: Lap time.

If your dog is under 20 pounds, the best option may some low-maintenance cuddling. That’s basically what sitting in your lap is like. Continue to type away while reaching down to give your dog the occasional stroke. Your dog will also function as a living, breathing heat pack, which is excellent for cold and rainy days.

Side effects of this strategy may include an inability to use the restroom, get up to find snacks, general muscle stiffness in the legs, or pins and needles. In severe cases, sit your dog down to have a serious conversation about limits.

Since my dog is a cuddler, most of the time this works best. But if your dog doesn’t get as much enjoyment from being in your mere presence – and absorbing your body heat – as mine does, read on.

dog won't let you work cinnamon in lap

Strategy #2: Break time.

Sometimes your dog bothering you can be a good thing. Because instead of brushing them off, you might stop and realize that you’ve been sitting in the same spot for quite a while, and maybe it’s time for a break.

So follow your dog’s lead and run around. Fake chase them around the house. Play tag. Stretch your own legs while making it seem like your sole purpose in getting up was to give them attention. They’ll love it.

Although this strategy is excellent, I caution you against using it too often, which can lead to chronic unproductiveness and where-did-the-time-go-itis.

Strategy #3: Food break.

Your dog’s attention-seeking antics might also remind you that you’re hungry. In that case, how much work did you think you were going to get done anyway? You can only be so productive on an empty stomach. And usually that means not very productive.

Instead, take your dog to the kitchen where both of you can enjoy a well-deserved snack (at least on one party’s end, anyway). If for whatever reason you have reservations about giving your dog a treat at the moment, give them a “healthy” treat like a vitamin or one of those teeth brushing bones. They’ll love it just the same.

Excessive use of food breaks may result in canine chubbiness.

Strategy #4: Work laying down.

Okay, here me out. I realize this may sound like a bizarre, not-very-useful strategy, but in my dog’s case, it works. Whenever I’m laying on my stomach, my dog likes to come over and lay on my butt. Apparently I’m pretty comfy. I’m not going to question it.

So occasionally, when I need a change of pace, I’ll grab my laptop or a notebook or a book and lay down to work. It’s only a matter of minutes before my dog follows suit.

dog won't let you work cinnamon laying down close up

Strategy #5: Mild threats.

So far these strategies have all been nice. Go along with whatever your dog wants, I seem to be saying. What a pushover parent, you might be thinking, but you’d be wrong. Sometimes I threaten my dog. Mildly. It’s important to note that these threats are mild.

Of course, you can tell your dog no, or keep them in a separate room, but those are pretty boring suggestions in my book. You can figure out the boring strategies on your own. What I’m suggesting, if you’re fed up with your dog and not in the mood to cuddle, is to be a little passive aggressive.

Sometimes, while my dog is sitting in my lap and my legs have gotten tired, I’ll run my fingers through Lhasa Apso hair and note that I should probably comb her soon. Suddenly, she’s perfectly willing to leave. You might also mention baths, cutting toenails or other necessary activities that your dog finds distasteful.


dog won't let you work cinnamon in lap photobomb

So don’t let your dog prevent you from getting your work done. From cuddling to breaks to cautionary words, you can find a strategy that works for you.

Disclaimer: Of course, some dogs seek attention excessively because of issues like separation anxiety. You should definitely consult a professional, or at least a more reputable source if your dog’s behavior is serious.

Here are a couple resources that make me question my dog parenting legitimacy, but are also useful:

Separation Anxiety in Dogs


Attention-Seeking Dogs