In the midst of the pandemic, you may have worked from your living room, curled up next to your Cocker Spaniel. Then the world returned to normal(-ish), and you started going back to the office (sometimes).
The question is: Should you let your pooch come with you?
It can be tempting, but not every doggo is suited for office life. Let’s take a look at some things to consider before you invite Fido to your open-plan start-up.
How can I tell if my dog is a good fit for an office setting?
Partly, this is a judgment call based on your experience as a pet parent. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Does your pup generally behave well when surrounded by groups of people, indoors?
- Are you bringing your dog to the office purely for your own enjoyment, or do you think your pet will be enriched by the experience as well?
- What are the logistics involved with getting them to the office? A crowded, rush-hour subway ride might be stressful for your pup.
- Are you at your desk for most of the day, or are you frequently leaving to attend meetings or calls in other rooms, or on other floors?
Overall, if your dog checks any of the following boxes, you might want to think twice before bringing them to your office.
- Aggressive behavior: Does your dog have a tendency toward growling, snarling, snapping, or biting? Do they get territorial when strangers are around?
- Excessive barking: Intermittent yelping, howling, and squealing can be a little distracting for co-workers, even if they’re all wearing headphones.
- Poor socialization: Offices are, generally, full of people. If your dog gets freaked out by being surrounded by too many humans, keep them home.
- Separation anxiety: If your dog is especially needy, they might be fine while you’re at your desk—but then anxious and distraught every time you duck into a meeting, or head to the restroom.
- Shedding: Dogs who shed a lot may bother colleagues with allergies (not to mention doing a number on that fancy office furniture).
Some dog breeds that may thrive in an office environment
Certain dog breeds might really do well at work! This is because they’re proactive, with excellent written and verbal communication skills, and a willingness to get their paws dirty.
Alright, alright, enough dad jokes. But the characteristics of certain breeds might make the transition to an office easier, either because of their size or their temperament, or both. These pups include:
- French Bulldog
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Shih Tzu
- Bichon Frise
Does your employer have to let you bring your dog to work?
Nope, generally your employer is not obligated to allow you to bring your dog to work. Workplace policies on pets vary by company, but not every brand prides itself on being pup-friendly. (If that’s your #1 goal, start applying at Etsy, Ben & Jerry’s, Salesforce, or Rover.)
Employers are allowed to write their own pet policies. The details on this are probably in that employee handbook you never read.
Regulations will likely differ if your pet is a service animal, and may differ if they’re an emotional support animal (ESA).
So your office currently has a “no pets” policy. How can you change your boss’s mind?
Management loves a good list. Try to itemize the selling points of a dog-friendly office. Keep it short. Feel free to steal and adapt what’s below.
Improved employee morale and well-being
A buoyant company culture creates a more enjoyable—and productive!—office environment. Having pets in the mix can reduce stress and anxiety, boost mental health, and simply make the office a more welcoming place.
“Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference. The differences in perceived stress between days the dog was present and absent were significant. The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.”—Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., professor of management in the VCU School of Business, and principal investigator of a study on dogs & stress at work.
A nice incentive for WFH workers to return-to-office
Anyone trying to get employees excited about the office again haven’t been very lucky. Offering the option to bring your dog along would be a tempting perk.
Dogs are ice breakers!
Everyone likes to gather around a dog and chat—they’re like a four-legged, furry water cooler. Office pups can break down social barriers between colleagues, and build a sense of community.
Your company has excellent benefits, free snacks, team outings, and a gorgeous office. But so does every other company you’re competing with talent for. Offering the ability to bring dogs to the office might be the deciding factor that convinces top talent to join your team, rather than someone else’s.
“People underestimate how much a belly-rub break can lift spirits after being head-down in laptops all day,” says Lemonade CRM Manager Lakshmi Ganne, who loves bringing Leo, her 7-year-old rescue Shih Tzu, to our New York office. “Maximize the de-stressing and comfort that office dogs can provide!”
But be transparent about the challenges
Having dogs in the office can present obstacles—possible allergies, cleanliness issues, and liability issues. Sketch out a plan for how you’ll address any problems.
To start, maybe suggest a trial period, certain canine-friendly days (Doggo Fridays), or a dog-friendly happy hour.
Acclimating your pup to the office
Maybe your dog is “the chillest” and will coast into office life with the laid-back ease of a canine Matthew McConaughey.
More likely, this process will require effort, training, and TLC on your part to make your Very Good Boy a Very Good Office Boy. (Or girl.)
- Gradually expose your dog to new people, animals, and environments whenever possible.
- Make sure your pet can follow barebones obedience commands (sit, stay, come).
- Introduce your dog to the office environment nice and slow, starting with quick visits during less busy times. Increase the duration and frequency of visits as they become more comfortable and confident.
- Set up a special spot for your dog in the office. This could be a crate, under-desk bed, or a gated space, where they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed— and a place where they can grab a bite to eat and have a nice drink of water.
- Bring lots of treats, and share them with your co-workers: Instant bonding!
- Have a trove of old toys for your pup to bring with—not precious ones, since they’re likely to get lost. Avoid any toys that squeak, for the sanity of your co-workers.
- Set expectations with colleagues in advance. Let them know if your dog is skittish, scared of men, afraid of loud noises, or anything else.
- Be aware of signs that your dog is stressed. They might start panting, drooling, shaking, or hiding. If this keeps happening, office life might not be in the cards.
Before we head into a meeting with our Labrador…
Having a well-behaved office dog at your side can make the workday zoom by. And dog-friendly policies can boost employee morale and build a stronger company culture, which translates into productivity gains that should make your boss happy.
Still not sure whether your doggo will do well in an office environment? Ask your vet.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to get your pup pet insurance ASAP. It’ll cover them against many of the illnesses and accidents they might encounter on a daily basis—like if they injure themselves on the morning commute, or if they eat a bunch of paper clips in your office’s supply closet.