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  • Should I Bring My Dog to Work?
  • March 21, 2021
  • Posted by Claude
  • Category Blog
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Author: Mark Webster

Not so surprisingly, more and more offices–like Google, for instance–are allowing their workers and staff to bring their dog (or other pet) with them to work. We’ve known for years now that companion animals reduce stress and tension in the home, improve our overall health and quality of life, and provide more happy, calming, loving times in a household; but how does this translate into a work environment?

Recent studies[1] have shown that pets in the office actually increase productivity and reduce stress, which is great news for anybody who feels badly that they have to leave their beloved dog at home all day while they are working. It turns out that the Netherlands has been doing this for years, and it really works as far as increased job satisfaction, reduced tension, and improved productivity. It also improves your bond with your pooch and both of your overall qualities of life.

Obviously, there are several factors to consider before joining the lower-stress, super-productive crowd that has found that having a dog at work beneficial, which we’ll discuss here.

The first thing to consider is:

  • How Well-Trained is My Dog?
    • Ask yourself these key questions before considering bringing your pet into the office:
      • Does my dog come when she is called?
      • Does my dog know that going potty indoors is a definite no-no all of the time?
      • Will my dog lie down and be content for most of the day with a chew toy (or other favorite keeping-busy bone, toy, bed, or blanket) if I ask her to?
      • Is my dog comfortable and calm while walking or being tied to a leash?
    • If your answer to these questions is yes, then you are well on your way to having a happier, less stressful workplace. For ideas about healthy and safe toys and treats that will keep your dog happy and content for hours, try our kong-stuffing recipes.
    • If your answer to these questions is no, then you may want to focus on more training (or allowing her to age into a calmer stage of life) for your dog before she will be safe and not disruptive to you or others in the office.
  • How Nice is My Dog to Others?
    • This is a very important question, for the safety of your dog, other dogs, and other people.
      • Does my dog generally like other dogs and doesn’t fight with them?
      • Does my dog generally like other people and doesn’t posture aggressively (crouching, growling, hair standing up) at them?
      • If, for instance, a stranger comes into the office–like a delivery person–will my dog greet them nicely and calmly without barking or causing a scene?
    • Again, if your answer to these questions is yes, then you are well on your way to having a happier, less stressful workplace.
    • However, if your answer to these questions is no, then your dog needs some more socialization. To do this, purposefully expose your dog to unusual, but common, circumstances. This includes people riding by on a bicycle or skateboard, people holding an umbrella, people wearing different types of hats, and people of different skin colors.
      • If your dog reacts appropriately to these circumstances, by simply being aware of them and curious about them, then good. Reward and positively reinforce this behavior with a treat that your dog loves, so that she will associate these unusual happenings with a surprise treat (for foods that are safe and healthy for your dog, see our list of What Can Dogs Eat?)–so that they are good in her mind, and not scary.
      • If your dog bristles and barks when these things happen, simply say quietly in a low tone, “Nooooooooo….” and look at her to convey that you don’t like her behavior.
      • You don’t want to startle your dog by yelling at her in quick, sharp, negative words, like, “NO!!” If you do, it will actually reinforce the bad behavior. This is because our dogs think of us as part of their pack, and so, if you are barking (yelling) at somebody or something, then she will too, because she wants to protect you and be behind you and support you in every way she can. She’ll think you are barking with her at the person, and that this is a bad, scary experience that she wants to avoid in the future, in essence.
      • We have to be able to think like a dog in order to understand their negative behavior, and so that we can then effectively train them out of it.
      • You may even want to go stand by and touch the person on the shoulder who your dog is afraid of, and speak in pleasant, calm, higher pitched tones (something like, “See, we like Tom, he’s our delivery guy. He brings us the things that we need in order to do our work.”) to let your dog know that these people may look or act differently than what she is used to, but that they are not a threat.
      • When your dog calms down, and stops the negative behavior (barking, hair standing up, staring), give her a treat so that she associates the different person (and her calm behavior) with good things.
      • It may seem strange, or even silly, to talk to your dog as if she were a person, but even though you know she doesn’t understand what you are saying, I promise–positive reinforcement is the way to go! Many studies[2] have shown that it is much more effective than negative reinforcement (yelling, hitting), and that it builds up your dog’s trust in you and your relationship, instead of tearing it down.
  • Is anybody in my office afraid of or allergic to my dog?
    • Another couple situations to consider are dog allergies and dog phobias. You may need to go person-to-person in your office and discuss with everyone individually whether or not they are comfortable with or have any health issues related to your specific dog.
    • It’s not common, but some people have terrifying phobias to dogs (usually related to a childhood trauma involving a dog), or to a certain breed of dogs, and these people would not be able to function or concentrate if there were a dog in the office.
    • Also not common are severe dog allergies, but they do happen. Some people were not raised with dogs, and their bodies don’t recognize dog dander as a normal, everyday thing, and so their immune systems overreact and they have an allergic response if they are around (breathing in dog dander) or are touching a dog. Most people will be fine with just popping a non-drowsy antihistamine in the morning if they know your dog is going to be at work, but discussing it beforehand so that everyone is in the know is a must.

To Sum it Up

The bottom line is that most of us dearly love our dogs, and we want to be around them as much as possible. The absolutely wonderful news is: Most dogs feel the same way!

So, if you have a workplace that is usually calm, quiet, and conducive to building your relationship with your dog, you might want to bring it up with your Human Resources department that multiple studies have shown that integrating dogs into the workplace is usually beneficial to both the people in the workplace and the business itself.

I mean, who couldn’t use a boost in their quality of life, right?

  • So, my advice to you is to consider first a “Take Your Dog to Work” day (when it is cleared with HR) when your office is empty and quiet, like at night time or on the weekend, so that your dog can explore and get used to the new sights and smells of your workplace. Be sure to bring her favorite treats, so that when she checks in with you, you can reward her and reinforce that your office is a fun, safe place to be.
  • Then, start bringing her to work slowly and gradually, one or two days per week at first, and you’ll be well on your way to a happier, more productive workplace for everyone.
  • My last tip for a dog-friendly office is for everyone in the office to walk their dogs separately on a leash at the same time (or a couple of times) every day, so that there is no one left in the office.
  • This gives workers a break to reset their minds and eat and/or use the bathroom, and it gives the dogs the same thing. This way, you’ll all get into a comfortable, happy routine that works for everyone, and your workplace won’t be chaotic, with people coming and going disruptively all of the time.

Happy dog-friendly working!

References:

  1. Barker, R., Knisely, J., Barker, S., Cobb, R. and Schubert, C., 2021. Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions | Emerald Insight. [online] Emerald.com. Available at: <https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/17538351211215366/full/html> [Accessed 11 March 2021].
  2. Elsevier, 2017. The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review. [online] ScienceDirect. Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787817300357> [Accessed 11 March 2021].

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