How to Bring Your Dog to Work without Landing in the Doghouse
Get the benefits of petting and wags without the cold stares, sneezes or injuries
Bringing your dog to the office is a beloved perk of working at a cool start-up, and workplaces — from universities to “The Daily Show” offices — have followed suit. In a 2012 interview with The Bark magazine, host Jon Stewart pretended not to notice “The Daily Show” office’s free-roaming canines, telling the reporter he always thought “they were interns who were lying around on the floor.”
Joking aside, Stewart added that “dogs bring out the best in us,” and the show’s employees credited the canine camaraderie for helping them get through the stress of exciting but grueling days.
“Dogs can add a much needed element of warmth and humanity to the workplace,” says The Bark publisher and co-founder Cameron Woo. “When you work in a place that allows dogs, it grounds you in a way and it's harder to get lost in that workplace grind. Dogs keep people a little looser; there's more interaction among people who may not typically socialize. Dogs have a calming effect, a much needed antidote to the stress of business life.”
As for the lucky dog owners, “they have the great perk of having their canine companion by their side throughout the day — no doggy daycare worries, no latchkey dogs,” Woo says.
But not every office is the right place for your pooch. Some former employees of a San Francisco start-up remember their fear at having to tiptoe past a colleague’s snarling Rhodesian Ridgeback to get to their desk. A former university professor in Massachusetts recalls one elderly, ailing dog that regularly peed on the office carpet. And some employees with dog allergies have found their dog-friendly workplaces so torturous that they’ve considered looking for other jobs.
So before you haul off Fido to meet the boss and co-workers, take these precautions courtesy of the dog experts at The Bark magazine and Take Your Dog to Work Day, along with LegalZoom general counsel Chas Rampenthal.
Do an office check-in. You may think everyone loves dogs, but check with management to make sure you have permission, and with coworkers to see if anyone is allergic to dogs or afraid of them.
Ask yourself if your dog is right for the office. “It's wise to have each employee honestly evaluate how ready and adaptable their dog will be in a work environment,” says Woo. “Are they trained to obey basic commands? Do they have the calm nature that does well in busy spaces? Do they get along well with other dogs, people and the delivery man?” If you decide your dog makes the grade, make sure his vaccinations are current.
Dog-proof your workspace. Dogs love to chew, so stash away pooch hazards like permanent markers, get rid of any plants that are poisonous to dogs and hide electrical cords. Bring chew toys to keep your pooch occupied — but leave the squeaky ones at home.
Ease your dog in. Take him to the office for just a few hours at a time until he gets used to it. “It can be like that first day of school: nervous anxiety, new sights and sounds, a fresh routine,” says Woo. “All these things can add stress to a dog and to their humans initially. Some dogs can get overloaded with the stimuli and act out: bark, engage in a little tiff with a neighboring dog, have an accident. Try to ease them into it if possible.”
Related: Is Your Dog Stressed Out?
Bring a doggie bag. Include food treats, a leash, paper towels, wipes, cleanup bags and pet-safe disinfectant. If you come and go a lot at work, consider a portable kennel or baby gates for the doorway to keep your pooch safe in your cubicle.
Plan feeding and walk times. Suddenly having to leave an important presentation or sales meeting to take care of Rover is not a good idea. Make sure you have appropriate areas for feeding, and schedule time to take your dog for a walk to relieve himself. Don’t forget to keep the water bowl full.
Don’t force colleagues to interact with your dog. Coworkers might not be as thrilled as you are about how much Max loves belly rubs or playing fetch. And watch out: Some people who do like dogs may want to give yours food or treats he shouldn’t have. Keep an eye out for this — and make sure coworkers know not to give human foods that are poisonous to dogs, such as chocolate.
Have an exit strategy. Be prepared to take your dog home quickly should he become overly excited or scared.
Cover yourself. Consider getting insurance for your pooch to cover any “accidents” that might occur at work. In an article for Inc. magazine, Chas Rampenthal, general counsel for LegalZoom, said that employers at dog-friendly workplaces could find themselves liable for dog bites, property damage and lease violations. For managers, he advises getting landlords’ permission for dogs in the office and requiring employees to carry insurance that covers any injury their pooch might cause.
Be understanding to people with dog allergies. If a new employee with dog allergies arrives, be prepared to fire Fido or make other changes. Rampenthal advises that companies accommodate employees with dog allergies, both to be fair and to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which requires employers with 15 employees or more to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities (including allergies). Solutions might include pet-free zones or floors, or, as some experts have suggested, letting the employee with allergies work at home if she prefers to.
The bottom line: Dogs can bring a lot of joy to the office. Just make sure everyone can share it.