The Office Dog | An Ultimate Guide To Dogs In The Workplace
According to the 2017 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 11% of pet owners now enjoy a pet friendly workplace, up from just 8% in 2014.
- What is driving this trend?
- What big name companies have dog friendly workplaces?
- What kinds of dog friendly policies make the most sense for employers considering allowing dogs at work?
This article will look at all that and more. Welcome to Wiley Pup’s Ultimate Guide to dogs in the workplace!
The Office Dog | Benefits of a Dog Friendly Office
With so many workplaces making the transition to allowing pets, there must be some real benefits, right?
Let’s take a closer look at what the research says about bringing our canine companions to work.
General Positive Health Benefits of Dogs
A vast wealth of scientific research has demonstrated that the human-canine bond gives people several boosts to our health including:
- Lower blood pressure and heart rates
- Lower stress levels
- Increased physical activity and decreased levels of obesity
- Reduction of allergic sensitivities and asthma in children
- Benefits to pain management
- Increased rehabilitation after surgery or coronary events
- Decrease feelings of social isolation, depression and anxiety
- Social support for special needs populations including the underserved at risk youth, autistic people, and the elderly
For a more comprehensive picture of the various researched backed health benefits of dogs, be sure to check out our informative article here.
It is important to note that improving the health of employees does not just benefit the workers, but also promotes wellbeing in the workplace by reducing absenteeism and healthcare costs.
Perhaps that is why leading healthcare giants such as Aetna are participating in pet therapy programs to boost the wellness of their own staff.
After their pilot study program, 99% of participants reported a mood boost, and 55% reported a significant uptick in their productivity.
In 2016, Banfield (the veterinary services associated with PetSmart) did a landmark study surveying 1,006 employees and 200 Human Resource professionals regarding pets in the workplace (hereby referred to as the Banfield report).
They found that 85% of employees and 91% of HR folks reported that working in a pet friendly workplace increased their work-life balance.
Boosted Moral At Work
The Banfield report also showed significant indicators that employees perceived moral boosting benefits, including:
- 79% reported improved work relationships
- 77% reported more personal satisfaction with their work
- 82% reported greater loyalty to their company
- 86% reported a greater sense of overall well being
- 88% reported increased morale
Higher Productivity Levels
Despite it being mentioned in almost every article related to dog friendly workplaces that we read in researching this article, the fact is that the relationship between bringing dogs to work and productivity levels has not been empirically confirmed.
The forefront scholars in this field are aware that it is an area that is ripe for study, but as of this comprehensive 2017 report, no actual scientific research has been done to validate this common claim.
However, we do know that PERCEPTIONS of increased productivity is a thing. The Banfield report confirms that 67% of employees and 81% of HR managers in pet friendly workplaces perceive productivity boosts thanks to pets at work.
In addition, we do know that factors such as morale, group cohesion, and job satisfaction, already well correlated to the human-canine bond, have been independently shown to boost productivity at work.
While it is not outside the realm of possibility that an office dog can boost our productivity at work, we think it is a little premature to be trotting that out as fact.
The truth is that pets can also be a distraction, and productivity gains would have to be significant enough to mitigate that effect, which has yet to be scientifically demonstrated.
Lower Stress Levels For Dog Owners At Work
In 2012, one of the first studies that quantitatively measuring perceived stress levels over the course of a day at work found significant positive impacts for those dog owners that shared their work day with their pets when compared to dog owners that did not have their pooches at work.
Social Interaction & Teamwork
Some emerging research is beginning to track the impact that dogs may have on human social interaction and cooperation. Preliminary studies suggest that dogs increase our ability to work together in small groups.
This has been supported by various anecdotal reports from those that work in dog friendly environments. It also builds on a variety of scholarship that has touted the value of canines in enhancing human interaction in other contexts.
Increased Customer Engagement
Depending on the nature of a brick and mortar business, a pet friendly environment may help a business stand out from the competition by associating the brand with animal friendly policies. Customers may appreciate that extra friendly greeting that a polite but gregarious dog has down pat.
In addition, allowing customers to bring their companions along has some perks for some service providers as well.
In fact, websites such as BringFido have developed a cottage industry around directing dog lovers to services such as hotels, restaurants, salons, and events that welcome pets.
Recruiting & Retention
Among the HR professionals at pet friendly companies surveyed in the landmark Banfield report:
- 2 out of 3 candidates asked about pet friendly policies during the hiring process.
- 79% directly mention their pet friendly policies as a benefit to lure top talent.
- 63% of HR professionals and 53% of employees in non-pet friendly workplaces say they would be more likely to stay at their company if they were pet friendly.
One of the drivers of the increasing numbers of workplaces that welcome pets is that many recruiters are scrambling to offer the kinds of perks that will specifically attract Millennials.
According to research done by marketing firm Mintel, Millennials make up an over represented portion of dog owners, with as many as 75% of 30-39 year old’s owning pet dogs.
The American Pet Products Association reports that Millennials are also more likely to spend more money on their pets and take advantage of pet friendly services such as dog friendly restaurants.
Likely a result of delayed marriage and childbearing, this trend seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future, and companies are taking note.
Reducing The Cost Of Pet Boarding
According to the 2017 annual survey done by American Pet Products, boarding costs are the number three expense of dog owners, coming after emergency room and surgical costs with an average expenditure of $322 annually.
Being able to take a pet to work potentially reduces the cost of pet sitting and walking services for working people.
Combatting Pet Overpopulation
One of the emerging narratives for promoting pet friendly work spaces is the potential positive impact it has on dealing with the serious pet overpopulation problem in the United States.
In fact, 22% of non-pet owners at non-pet friendly workplaces suggested they would consider adding a pet to their household if their workplace allowed pets, according to the Banfield study.
Moreover, the survey reveals that 60% of employees believe more pets would be adopted if workplaces were friendlier to pets.
By making it easier and less costly to adopt animals, pet friendly workplaces are just one way that we can promote a public culture that ultimately makes it easier for people to make room to adopt shelter dogs in need of loving homes.
Potential Downsides to a Dog Friendly Workplace
Much of the reporting in the news about workplaces with pet perks tends to be overwhelmingly positive, and at times bordering on panacea.
However, although we are generally supportive of making more dog friendly spaces here at Wiley Pup, we think it is also important to cover the potential downsides so that policies moving forward can be sensitive to those less excited about sharing their work space with canines.
5 Notable Companies that Allow Pets at Work
Pet perks at the office have been a major trend for top employers looking to attract the best talent. Here are just a few examples of some big-name companies with pet friendly workspaces.
A big Wiley Pup wag of the tail to:
An estimated 6,000 dogs go to work with their owners every day at this online retailing giant.
Rumor has it that a single dog, Rufus, a Welsh Corgi, was the first dog to be embraced by the company back in their start-up days.
Although he has passed on, his image is memorialized on one of the company’s 404 error pages, along with other favorite employee pets.
It should be no surprise that the company that is famous for taking employee perks to a whole new level is a dog friendly workplace. In fact, they even have a special name for these 9-5 pooches: “Doogles.”
Taking a stand on the age-old feud between dogs and cats, Google has declared that they are officially a dog company.
Don’t believe us? It is written in their code of conduct!
With pet friendly workplaces across the globe, Mars is a trailblazer in pet-friendly workplaces. Probably best known for their candy bars such as Snickers®, Milky Way®, and 3 Musketeers®, this company also makes pet food.
However, it is their “Better Cities for Pets” initiative that is probably making the biggest impact towards creating more pet welcoming public spaces.
Not only has this online marketplace for handmade goods made it possible for many artists to work from home with their pets, their corporate headquarters is a dog friendly workplace, and has been since their launch in 2005.
In addition, since many of the canines at the office are rescues, the corporate culture is reinforcing the importance of rescuing shelter dogs.
Known mostly for their delicious and quirky ice cream flavors, Ben & Jerry’s is also home to many K9-5ers. Many of these lucky dogs have active social media profiles showcasing the fun they are having at work while keeping up with their fans.
How to Train an Office Dog
If you are among those lucky enough to work at a pet friendly office, congratulations! Of course, you want to be sure that you are doing all you can to make the transition go smoothly, both for your pooch and for your coworkers.
Your dog should know basic commands such as Stay, Sit, Come, Leave it, and Down. Consider enrolling in a training course or learn the basics of clicker training to teach your dog these vital skills before attempting to bring them to work with you.
Train at work
Reinforcement based training methods are insanely easy to learn and can go anywhere you and your dog and bag of treats or kibble go.
Make sure to practice basic commands and tricks while you are at work to reinforce the idea that paying attention and following the rules at the office is going to be rewarded.
It is particularly important, especially the first few days at work, that you pay careful attention to how your pooch respects the boundaries of coworkers and their pets.
The best way to make sure this gets rewarded and reinforced is to make it a point to call her to you, and reward her for a successful recall, several times throughout the day.
Practice makes perfect and this vital skill goes a long way to making your pet a welcome addition to the work-space.
No one wants to sit next to a dog that barks all the time. Make sure to reward quiet behavior often and consider crating for a 5-minute “Time Out” every time your pooch uses her outside voice in the office space.
It is critical that any canine that joins a social group is able to be comfortable around other people and dogs.
The best way to prepare for this is to take your pet to other places to meet people of all ages, races, and ability as well as other dogs BEFORE you bring them to the office.
Reinforce positive interactions with small treats or kibble so that your pup will develop positive associations with new experiences.
Meet basic needs for mental and physical stimulation
Your dog can only be at her level best when her needs for physical and mental stimulation are met.
Make sure you are doing your part to be sure she is getting enough exercise and consider training and dog puzzle toys as a way to give her mind a work out.
Recognize warning signs
Look, the truth is that not all dogs have the personality to thrive in an office environment.
If you know your canine companion has trouble with territorial behavior, resource guarding (that is, being very possessive about his toys), fear or aggression issues, or just a generally anti-social disposition, chances are it is going to be a problem.
Please get some help from an animal behaviorist to address these issues BEFORE you attempt to bring your pooch to work.
Pet-iquette: Respecting Your Coworkers
In addition to following the training tips above, there are a few other considerations to keep in mind if you want to do all that you can to make the most of bringing your pet to work.
- Check with nearby co-workers – Even if you happen to work at a pet-friendly workplace, be sure to initiate a conversation with your coworkers before bringing your dog to work. Some may have allergies or a fear of dogs. Doing the front-end work of getting their buy-in first will make a big difference in the welcome your canine companion will receive on her first day!
- Supervise your dog – It is your responsibility to make sure your pet has his needs met and is not causing problems by distracting coworkers or getting into other trouble. Consider having a crate near your desk to house your dog when you have to step away for meetings or go out to lunch.
- Clean up after your pet – It should not be an additional burden on cleaning staff or fellow co-workers to accommodate your K9 at work. Make sure you clean up any messes made as soon as they happen, and keep toys picked up so that they don’t become a trip hazard.
- Vaccinations – Be sure that your canine companion is up to date on all vaccinations. In the event that he is involved in an altercation with another dog or person at work, this will give everyone valuable peace of mind that dangers such as rabies are ruled out.
- Flea and tick preventative – You don’t want to be the one that caused a flea infestation at work. This not only causes a major hassle for all of the other pet owners, it can create a major cost in terms of the bill from the
In addition, with dangerous tick-borne illness such as Lyme Disease on the rise, it poses an occupational hazard to expose your coworkers to these nasty critters.
- Regular baths – Let’s face it…we all get a little accustomed to the scent of our own pets and can sometimes let them get a little ripe before going through the hassle of a bath. However, if you are planning to take your furry friend to the office, make sure she stays fresh and clean. Your coworkers will appreciate it!
- Admit to yourself if it’s not working out – Don’t make it the responsibility of your coworkers to point out to you that your pooch just isn’t a good fit for the office. Some canines just do not do well with the hustle and bustle of a busy office, and others simply don’t get along with other dogs.
Sure, an adjustment period is to be expected, but if it isn’t working out, be the first to admit it.
Dogs in the Workplace: Policy
If you are considering pet friendly policies for your business, or want to raise the issue with your employer, it would be helpful to think through what kinds of policies can be put in place to minimize the potential risks and other downsides of having dogs at work.
One of the most interesting findings from the 2016 Banfield report was the disparity between perceptions of instituting pet friendly policies and actually instituting them.
56% of HR decision makers in non-pet friendly workplaces said they thought it would be difficult to institute pet friendly policies, while only 25% of HR decision makers at pet friendly companies perceived that it was difficult to actually institute such policies.
We can conclude from this data that the perception of the obstacles to pet friendly policy is a major hurdle to many businesses actually moving in that direction. And, such fears may be overblown.
Just to be clear, we here at Wiley Pup are NOT lawyers. Sure, we did lots of research to make sure the following information is up to date and as complete as possible, but this is no substitute for legal advice from a trained attorney when it comes to making decisions that could affect the liability exposure of your company.
In addition to considering the safety of your employees and liability issue with your business, it is important to consider policy that will protect the health and safety of dogs in the workplace.
Here are some tips to help you create effective policies:
Conclusion: Your Go-To Guide for Dogs in the Workplace
We set out with one goal in mind with this article – to give you the most informative and comprehensive article on office dog friendly workplaces on the internet.
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Do you have an experience working in a dog friendly workplace? Please feel free to leave a comment below to get a conversation started!
Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) - Professional Dog Trainer
Sharon is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is also a professional writer that received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech.
For more info on Sharon click here