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How to keep pets from ruining your work-from-home meetings

Whether you regularly work from home or you’ve turned your kitchen into your office due to the pandemic, attending work meetings with pets can be tricky. While it often results in hilarity, not all workplaces are pet-friendly. And if you’re meeting with a client for the first time, you definitely want to keep Miss Mittens the kitten from running across your keyboard. Looking for work-from-home tips with pets? We’ve got the scoop on how to teach your pets to adhere to good petiquette during your WFH meetings. 

A Black and Tan dog looking up at the camera.
Lum3n from Pexels

Why pets go wild during meetings

Zoom time is not playtime, but our pets don’t know that. Before life spiraled into the great unknown, most of us went to work in an office every day. Our pets saw us to the door, sometimes meowing or whimpering mournfully as we cruelly abandoned them to their arduous day of lounging around, chasing their own tail, and sleeping. Nowadays, going to the office looks a lot like sitting down on your couch with a thermos of coffee, wearing a hurriedly ironed shirt and those sweatpants you’ve been meaning to throw out for the past five years, and trying to remain productive. 

While the lack of routine has definitely wreaked havoc with our sense of normalcy, our pets’ greatest wish has come true: Their humans are home with them nearly 24/7. They want in on all the action, and they don’t understand why they’re suddenly being scolded for barking, pawing at the screen … and occasionally showing all your co-workers their butt. Fortunately, there are solutions for pets when working from home. Let’s take a look at a few tips that can cut down on interruptions — and what you should do if they happen anyway. 

An overhead view of a man using his laptop with a beagle in his lap.
LightField Studios from Shutterstock

Preventing pet-related Zoom mishaps

It’s easy to become annoyed with your pet when they pace in front of your computer screen or zip across your keyboard. Try to remember that your pet is only misbehaving because they love you and want your attention. That doesn’t mean you should let them get away with it, but shouting doesn’t solve anything. Here’s what to do instead. 

  • Do practice runs. You can find videos of recorded Zoom calls online. Try playing a few videos and interacting with them to gauge your pet’s reaction. If they immediately start barking or run to investigate the screen, you know you’ll need to take steps to prevent this from happening during your real meetings. 
  • Insist on personal space. If your pet is used to you going to work every morning, try taking your laptop outside and working from the porch if that’s an option. Some pets have favorite spots. If you know your dog likes to sleep curled up at the foot of your sofa, work from the kitchen table instead. 
  • Maintain a routine. Sticking to a daily routine is good for all pets, but dogs are especially receptive to learning new routines. We usually know about meetings in advance. If you have a Zoom call next Wednesday at 11, try crating your pet or securing them in another room at 11 every day leading up to the call. This way, it won’t seem unusual when it happens on Wednesday.
  • Reward good behavior. If your pet remains calm and quiet during a personal phone call, give them lots of praise and a treat. This lets them know you value docile behavior while you’re talking to someone. 

Bird lovers, we did not forget you. If you have birds, we recommend keeping their cage covered and working in another room.  

Orange cat sitting in front of a laptop
Catherine Heath / Unsplash

What to do if your meeting is interrupted

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes things go awry. A previously well-behaved pet may decide to join your meeting without warning. It’s true that locking your pet in another room can help, but they may bark or meow loudly enough for your co-workers to hear them. Awkward. Here’s how to handle it. 

  • If you know your pet may cause a stink, give your co-workers a warning that you may have to mute your mic while your pet is being noisy. Most people are trying to work with pets and kids at home, too, so the majority will understand. 
  • Be ready in advance. Make sure your pet has access to pee pads or a litter box and has plenty of food and water to last until the end of the meeting. Minimize distractions as much as possible or try a white noise machine to drown out noise.
  • Use your headphones instead of your computer’s speakers. This will keep your pet from hearing strangers talking, so they’ll be less likely to want to talk back. 
  • Lastly, if you know your co-workers can hear your pet, apologize for the disruption and mute your mic until things quiet down. 

Work-from-home meetings have become a way of life for many people. No matter how Zoom-ready the rest of your home is, your pets’ unexpected antics can cause your reputation to take a hit. Luckily, you have ways to work around the chaos of working from home with a pet. Warn your co-workers they might hear your pet, take steps to reduce the risk of interruptions, and apologize if they happen. People are more understanding of the challenges working from home presents these days. If you follow our tips, you can minimize one of those challenges.

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Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
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