If you were playing a game of conference call bingo, you’d probably be thrilled to see a box marked “dog barking in the background” on your card. As more and more employees work remotely, hearing (and seeing) pets invade meetings has become a common occurrence. That's not always a bad thing; seeing a furry face on screen or hearing dogs attempt to contribute to the discussion can add levity to a meeting. And research proves that having furry friends around the office can even lower stress and boost productivity. But while the joys of having pets around far outweigh the downsides, keeping the furry ones quiet during meetings is sometimes challenging and even downright embarrassing for pet owners. What happens when your beloved dog starts barking while the CEO is talking? Or your curious cat decides to walk across your keyboard and make a cameo during that client pitch? 🤦‍♀️😬 For remote employees who rely on video meetings to stay connected with their teams and customers, this is a valid concern.

What are some potential solutions? Keep reading! We’ve identified five ways to keep your beloved cat or dog from crashing your next conference call.

Tip #1: Make Sure Your Dogs Get Plenty of Pre-Conference Call Exercise

How does that saying go? A tired dog is a happy dog. As the owner of Quinn, a precocious two-year-old lab mix, I can attest that this is true! And when I asked my network of friends on Twitter to share their best advice for keeping dogs calm during meetings, this was by far the most popular tip.

The hidden benefit of this tip is that it can help you as a remote worker boost productivity, too. When I started working from home full-time about seven years ago, I was shocked to find how little I moved from my desk throughout the day. In an office, I would frequently get up to chat with a coworker, grab a water from the breakroom, or head out with colleagues for lunch. Now there are plenty of days when I find myself glued to my laptop for hours on end, unaware of my surroundings or the hours on the clock. The problem? Sitting at a desk all day doesn’t always lead to the most creativity. Enter: dog walks!

I try to schedule one or two fifteen minutes breaks into my calendar each day, preferably before meetings, to get outside and walk Quinn around the neighborhood. The result? I get a burst of energy and the chance to clear my mind, while she gets to explore her surroundings, fight boredom, and burn off some energy. Once we get back, she’s usually content to nap at my feet and less likely to cause interruptions or distractions on my next call. Strapped for time or just unmotivated to get outside in the heat of summer or the cold of winter? Thanks to apps like Wag, you can schedule an on-demand walk for your dog, helping them get the exercise they need when your schedule doesn’t permit outside time.

Tip #2: Set Up a Dedicated Pet Space that’s Separate from Your Home Office

I know this tip may ruffle a few feathers. After all, pet owners love spending time with their animals. And honestly, when you work from home all day every day, it’s nice to have the company. But sometimes it’s best to set boundaries. If you’re going to be presenting in a meeting or live training, it’s critical to keep your workspace free of distractions so that you can perform at your best and respect other participants. The good news is that most pets love having a space they can call their own. The trick here is to set up a cozy, safe place that serves as an inviting retreat. It might be a comfortably-appointed crate, a bed under a staircase, or a doghouse in your backyard.

Keeping your pets out of your workspace during important meetings can help you avoid being that pet owner who’s responsible for setting off a virtual dog fight. Remote workers, you know what I mean. ;-)

Tip #3: Tap Into Noise-Canceling Technology

From noise-canceling headsets to in-office soundproof booths and desktop software that masks background noise, there’s no shortage of products you can use to cut down on background noises like barking, running, or playing. One such product that’s new to the market is a technology called Krisp.

For just a few bucks per month, you can download and use their software which integrates with most UCaaS platforms--including 8x8 Video Meetings. The download process is quick and easy! Once you have the desktop application on your laptop, you can enable the “mute noise” button on your microphone, which significantly reduces distracting background noises while you’re speaking. You can test it out for free here: https://krisp.ai/technology/

Another option? Invest in a reliable noise-canceling headset. Here are several of the top-rated options, with user reviews included.

Tip #4: Turn to Treats & Training

Does your dog like to bark every time UPS rings the doorbell? If you receive as many Amazon Prime packages as I do (😬), this can quickly become a problem! With a little training, you can teach your dog that good things happen when the doorbell rings! Try this: keep some treats handy at your desk, and the next time someone rings that bell, immediately give your dog a treat. Repeat this process several times, and you’ll likely find the doorbell-induced barking will cease pretty quickly. As with any training technique, consistency is key.

Another popular technique? Train your dog to go to their bed anytime the doorbell rings. In essence, by redirecting their attention, you’re teaching them to remain calm when someone comes to the door and to trust you to take care of the situation. It may sound complicated, but with a bit of practice, this technique is quite useful. If you’re a novice trainer, head to YouTube for quick instruction. I found this video especially helpful.

Tip #5: Keep Them Busy! Give Your Pets a Job to Do

Anxiety and protective instincts aside, boredom is one of the top reasons why pets are sometimes prone to interrupt their owners’ workdays. Giving them a job to do while you’re working can curb this impulse. For cats, that might mean offering up a perch or a climbing toy near a window so they can stand guard and bird watch. For dogs, that might mean providing them with puzzle toys, a Kong filled with treats, or an extra big bone to chew.

Dog whisperer, Cesar Milan, offers up this advice in a recent post on his blog:

“Purchase a doggie board game or a canine puzzle to challenge your pup. Engage your dog in a game of Dog Memory or Dog Dominos. Give your dog one of the many toys that allow you to hide treats and objects inside and engage your dog to figure out how to work them out."

Bringing it All Together

With consistency, it’s possible to help your pets excel in their role as coworkers. By following these tips, you’ll be prepared to tackle your next video meeting with poise and confidence, free from distractions. And with the right technology, you’ll have one less reason to stress. With one click and no downloads, 8x8 Video Meetings is the new way people meet. It's easy, limitless, and free. Come and see for yourself. Start a video meeting at https://8x8.vc/