Millions of dogs accompany their owners to dog-friendly businesses every day. In North America, about 1.4 million owners take 2.3 million dogs to work. Employers and workers recognize the positive benefits of having pets at the workplace. Dogs are icebreakers, stress relievers and facilitators of happier and more efficient workers.
An increasing number of employers are allowing pets into the office and creating dog-friendly workplaces because pets help keep many employees happy and engaged.
Keep in mind that your employer needs to develop policies that respect all employees concerns, not just dog lovers. As much as bringing your dog to work can lower your stress, it may increase the stress in others. So even if your employer welcome pets, there are a few things you need to evaluate prior to showing up at your workplace with your dog.
1. Check if your employer / HR department has a dog-friendly policy and if there are rules that you need to respect and follow. These can include:
- Proof of a dog's health (e.g. your dog is current on vaccinations such as a rabies vaccination)
- Your dog has passed a formal training program (e.g. Association of Pet Dog Trainer's Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) program, American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizenship, or another approved local training program). Basically, your dog needs to be well behaved, well socialized and gets along with people and other dogs.
- Insurance coverage. You may need pet liability insurance covering any possible harm your dog may cause another person or damage to property.
- Dog free zones. Check where your dog is not allowed (e.g. restrooms, eating areas, corporate boardrooms). If your workplace does not have such rules, work with management and with co-workers to determine which areas your dog is allowed and not allowed.
- Resolving complaints. Know what you and management have for strategy to resolve any possible co-worker complaints about your dog.
Keep in mind companies may be located in buildings that ban dogs, so there's nothing they can do in such cases. It can be illegal for a food store, restaurant, hair salon (in some states) or medical office. A company's insurance coverage can also be an issue.
2. Do an office check. Check if any of your co-workers may be allergic to dogs, afraid of dogs or just don't want one around. Speak with them personally to see if they would be open to a test run, before dismissing the idea outright.
3. Evaluate your dog as to whether or not he/she is really suitable to bring to your workplace. Will your dog be relaxed and calm, or run around and chew on things and bark at every phone ringing? If your dog will be anxious, aggressive or noisy in the office, it will be too much of a distraction and it may not be the best place for him/her.
Once your dog is approved to come to work with you, make a few plans to ensure a good first impression.
1. Dog proof your work space. If you have space for portable kennel, bring one, as it will provide your dog his own "office" and a secure place for when you are away from your desk. Comb your office for harmful objects. Watch out for poisonous plants, electrical cords and items lying on the floor that can harm your dog (e.g. nails, paperclips, pens etc.). If you have a doorway in your office consider bringing a baby gate.
2. Keep your dog on a leash, unless you are in your office or cubicle. If your dog is well mannered off leash, and your co-workers do not mind him/her strolling around, then by all means, let your dog go leash free.
3. Regularly groom and bath your dog. You may be used to his/her smell, but others may not like it.
4. Come supplied. Include food, treats, bowls, toys, leash, paper towels, clean-up bags and pet-safe disinfectant as well as stain and odor remover for any potential accidents.
5. Be respectful of your co-workers time and space and don't force them to interact with your dog. Wait for them to approach you. For those that do want to interact with your dog, be watchful that they are not sharing food with him without your permission.
6. Have a back up plan/exit strategy. Should your dog become overly boisterous, stressed, agitated or withdrawn, have a plan in place for taking him or her home, or to a pet sitter or doggie day care. Leaving him/her in the car is never an alternative.
Done right, bringing your dog to work can be a great benefit not only to you and your dog, but for your co-workers as well.
Friday June 22 is Take Your Dog to Work Day.
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