7 suggestions for safety and etiquette in the dog-friendly workplace.
Taking your dog to work is a win-win situation for both of you. He gets companionship and socialization rather than sitting at home alone, and you’re freed of the worry about what he’s getting up to by himself in the house. But it goes beyond that. Sharing office space with a pooch has been shown to reduce employee stress and even increase job satisfaction and productivity. However, it’s important to consider safety and etiquette – for both dogs and people — before taking your canine companion into the workplace. Here are seven tips for a successful experience.
1. Is your workplace dog-friendly? “Our building didn’t permit dogs, but we negotiated with management, says Jen Strauss, head of Training and Development at Kabbage. “Our dogs are only allowed on the service elevator, to ensure we don’t bother other building tenants, and we’re limited to ten dogs per day. We’ve had dogs in the office for over a year now. The only additional rule we created is a ‘no dogs on the furniture’ policy.”
2. Is your dog a social butterfly? Not all are. As with people, some dogs would rather “work from home”, watching for the mail carrier or serving as squirrel monitor. An office setting can cause a shy dog anxiety as he becomes overloaded with new sights, sounds, smells and expectations. Try a short visit on a quiet day before committing to an all-day schedule. If your dog isn’t happy, it’s better to leave him at home and arrange for someone to check in on him a couple of times during the day.
3. Is he trained and well-behaved? If he barks a lot, or doesn’t get along with other dogs or people, taking him to work could be problematic. “We encourage [dogs] to pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test,” says Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Found Animals Foundation, which shares its office space with between six and 12 dogs every day. “This includes meeting new people, new dogs, the ‘leave it’ command (handy for when food is around), walking nicely on a leash, ‘sit/stay/come’ and being apart from his person for short periods without stress.”
4. How do those you work with feel about dogs? “Talk to management and co-workers to see if anyone is allergic, afraid of or opposed to you bringing your dog to work,” says Beth Stultz, vice president at Pet Sitters International. “Be respectful of those you work with.”
5. Does your dog have allergies or other health issues? If so, you need to ensure your co-workers are aware of them. “Prepare a doggie bag,” says Beth. “Include his own food, treats, water, bowls, toys, a leash, paper towels, clean-up bags and pet-safe disinfectant.” Put a sign on your office door or cubical with a short bio of your dog – his name, breed, age, likes and dislikes, and any health concerns. “To avoid accidents, monitor the treats your dog gets from co-workers,” Beth cautions. And make absolutely sure they know that things like chocolate, grapes and raisins should never be given to dogs. “Not all non-dog owners will be aware that these items can be toxic to your pooch.”
6. What is your dog going to do while you’re working? Neither you nor your co-workers will be able to give him constant attention, and an eight-hour day is even longer for a dog than it may be for you. “Be sure he has a safe, quiet place to retreat for a nap or a snack,” says pet nutritionist Dr. Jennifer Adolphe. Toys are also important for helping to keep him occupied. Don’t forget regular bathroom breaks, and a lunchtime walk for exercise.
7. Can you dog-proof your work space? “Make sure your office is safe,” says Beth. “Remove poisonous plants, hide electrical cords and wires, and secure toxic items such as correction fluid and permanent markers. Any office items in question should be placed out of paw’s reach.” A sign on the entry door can warn clients or delivery people that dogs are in the office. “While we love dogs, not everyone does,” says Cindy Young Vanhoutte of Aquasana. “Our UPS person brings treats for them every day, while our FedEx person knocks and we meet him in front of the office.”
Taking your dog to work requires some planning, attention and training. “We provide a free tool kit and a downloadable door sign you can post to notify co-workers if your dog welcomes belly rubs or is a bit shy,” says Beth. But the benefits of dogs in the workplace far outweigh any problems. As Dr. Adolphe says: “Everyone benefits from a furry cuddle to break up the day.”
How dogs in the workplace got started
Bringing dogs to work was first promoted by Pet Sitters International, when they established an annual Take Your Dog to Work Day in 1999. Originally, the goal was to raise awareness of canine companionship and increase adoptions from shelters and rescues. It wasn’t until later that people realized how having dogs in the workplace is as beneficial to employees as it is to the dogs. Since then, many offices have become dog-friendly year-round, and not just on Take Your Dog to Work Day.