The Proven Benefits of Having a Dog-Friendly Office
There is no better way to celebrate the joy of canine companionship than being able to take your dog to work. Whilst we all enjoy the cheery, goofy smiles of your colleagues, a sweet pup’s wagging tail brightens everyone's day and may make you even more productive at your work. According to research we become much happier and less stressed. As companies evolve with a changing workforce that values job satisfaction higher than previous generations, one way companies are showing appreciation for work and life balance is to open their office doors to four-legged friends.
Since many pet owners adore their ‘kids’, the ability to take them into the office provides more flexibility and has the added perks of improving the overall well-being of the workplace.
Dogs in the workplace provide significant improvement in mental health
Given the long hours we spend working, the demands of work places and an increased pressure to perform, many of us feel stressed. In fact, according to data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, nearly half of all workers feel overworked. Having your favourite canine at the office can ease workplace stress.
A study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia found that simply patting a dog for a few minutes helps your body release happy hormones like serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, the mere presence of a dog could make a difference to our stress, increase our ability to relax, and overall, improve our mood. Whilst the novelty of an office dog (or dogs) is sure to cause some initial distraction, very often there increased productivity when there are dogs in the workplace. When you consider that multiple studies have shown that taking short breaks throughout the workday — whether it’s for a game of fetch during lunch or to stop and give a pooch a good scratch behind the ear — helps employees regain their focus and energy, preventing that common mid-afternoon slump. Taking your pet to work also benefits them by having the interaction with people rather than being left at home all day being lonely, bored, destructive or sleeping.
June 26th is Take Your Dog to Work Day so here is some tips to make the experience run smoothly or how to approach your work place about having your dog at work.
Before taking your dog to work:
Check with your office to see if bringing your dog to work is appropriate and allowed. Some work environments may not be appropriate or safe for dogs.
Check if anyone at your workplace is allergic to dogs, and discuss with them if bringing your dog to work would adversely impact their health.
Consult with your workplace about associated policies and requirements.
Ensure your dog is currently healthy so they don’t potentially spread any infections.
Ensure your dog is identified (including by microchip and that your contact details are up to date on the microchip register) and up to date with their vaccinations.
Dogs should be socialised with other dogs and people.
Dogs should be trained using reward-based positive reinforcement.
Ensure the office environment is safe for pets. Cables, cords and rubbish bins can be hazardous for pets, so ensure dogs in the office can’t access these.
Supervise your dog and make sure they won’t be able to escape and get lost by accident.
In the Workplace:
Bring your pet’s favourite blanket, dog bed, food (plus food treats) and food and water bowls. Also bring some toys with them so they feel comfortable in the new environment. Having their favourite toys (e.g. safe chew toys and food dispensing toys) will also help keep them stay preoccupied while you’re working.
If there are already other existing dogs in the office it is best to introduce the dogs outside the office if they haven’t met before, rather than having their first encounter in the office space. Ideally if a new dog is coming into the office, it should be arranged so that the new dog meets the other existing office dogs in the car park and then for them to go for a short walk together. They are then more likely to accept the new dog in the office ‘territory’.
Place their bed beside your desk. Dogs should stay at the desk of their owner with their owner, or the desk of another designated responsible person with that person, in the owner’s absence, so the dog is directly supervised. This is to ensure your dog doesn’t wander as they may get hurt. Some workplaces set up temporary penned areas, for example, by using baby gates around the owner’s work desk area. These can work well as they allow the dog space to move around but in a secure and safe way.
If appropriate, dogs can also accompany their owner to other areas in the office such as meeting rooms etc.
Before arriving at the office, try taking your dog for exercise so they are not too excited when they get to the office and are more likely to settle and be calmer. When you arrive in the morning, let your dog have some free time to meet any other dogs and say hello to your co-workers.
Set aside time for sufficient toilet breaks and to take your dog for a good walk or walks throughout the day. Walking your dog during your lunch break is not only great exercise for them, but a great opportunity to leave the office and get some fresh air. Avoid feeding your dog immediately before or after exercising as this can lead to bloating.
Be ready to clean up after your dog if they accidentally urinate or defaecate in the office. Frequent toilet breaks should minimise any risk of this occurring but if it does occur, never punish the dog. New environments can be exciting and confusing so accidents may occur. If your dog toilets in the office, it is always best to display no reaction. Clean the area thoroughly with a non-ammonia based cleaning product (found at your local vet clinic or pet supplies store) to take away the scent and reduce the likelihood of the dog using the same spot again.
Simultaneously increase the frequency of toilet breaks outside and continue to reward your dog whenever they do toilet in the correct place. The reward can be a tasty dog food treat to be given immediately after they finish toileting in the correct spot (i.e. within a few seconds). This will reinforce toileting outside and reduce the likelihood of toileting indoors.
Dogs should not have access to the kitchen area. If they accidentally do enter the kitchen area, call them towards you (using a food treat is helpful) and reward them when they come to you. Prevent access to the area or other areas where pets shouldn’t go by closing doors etc
Ensure your dog and their belongings do not become trip hazards in the office and be sure to clean up any debris associated with your dog.
Remember to reward your dog’s calm behaviour in the office. Rewarding calm behaviour reinforces calmness and makes the dog more likely to be calm again in the future.