Taking Your Dog To Work

An increasing number of employers are allowing flexible working and implementing dog-friendly policies as they recognise the benefits of having a contended workforce.

A survey of 1,122 employees in the UK by Purina Petcare in 2017 found that:

  • 27% of employers had implemented a dog-friendly policy in their organisation
  • 28% of employers would like to introduce a dog-friendly policy
  • 46% of employers feel that having a dog-friendly policy creates a friendlier atmosphere and 41% of those that have a dog-friendly policy in place believe it calms and de-stresses the office environment
  • 42% of employees aged between 18 and 34 would like a dog-friendly workplace and 24% think a dog-friendly workplace would make an organisation more attractive to them
  • 32% of employers believe that having dogs in the office would be a morale booster and 41% of employees agreed
  • 36% of young employees have no reservations about having dogs at work, or feel that any potential problems would be outweighed by the positives
  • 74% of young employees can envisage benefits of having dogs in the workplace
  • 29% of employers that allow dogs in the workplace say that this encourages social interactions between employees.

Canvass the opinion of your co-workers and, if you have support, check to see if your employer is willing to accommodate your dog. You may be expected to undertake a trial period or perhaps bring your dog in on a part-time basis. You may also be able to work from home for some or all of the week. You will need to accustom your dog to the specific environment so you could make arrangements to take your dog in briefly when you have a day off.

You must ensure that your work environment will be safe for your dog and that your dog is always supervised, even if not by yourself. You must ensure that your dog has sufficient stimulation and exercise to then rest quietly without disturbing anyone during working hours. You must also ensure, as you should anyway, that your dog is always clean and free from parasites. Check to see what local facilities exist for walking your dog during the day and provide a bed and water bowl in a quiet part of the office where your dog can rest and still be supervised. It is a good idea to place your dog somewhere other than by your desk if possible to prevent resource guarding and to make sure that your dog is happy to spend short periods without you should you need to be away from your desk. Don’t allow your dog on furniture, even if you do at home and don’t allow your dog to beg – or be fed – if people eat at their desk.

Although the number of dog-friendly workplaces is increasing, you are still likely to be seen as an ambassador for good dog behaviour so make sure that you can live up to expectations.

A study in April 2017 found that opposition to allowing dogs in workplaces included the questioning suitability of the working environment (44%) and health and safety concerns (31.3%). However, it also found that 63.8% of workplaces where dogs were permitted had no guidelines or formal policies in place. The same percetage of respondents believed that their colleagues had no concerns about having dogs at work. Potential problems that were identified included people with dislike of dogs (16.7%) and cleanliness concerns (6.7%). 43.1% of respondents were positive about having dogs at work, referring to increased social interactions and reduced stress and improved atmosphere of the office.

The study cited that allergies to dogs affect between 2.5% and 15% of the population whereas 39& of the population is sensitive to pollen – but plants are rarely banned from the workplace.

You could offer to undertake a specific risk assessment or ensure that a suitable capable person undertakes one for you to ensure that opposition is based in fact rather than prejudice or mistaken perceptions. Be prepared to answer concens fairly and honestly but expect the same of your employer too. Aside from a serious allergy for instance, you might reasonably expect that it would be fair for your employer to accept a majority decision, at least on a trial basis, to prevent one hostile person from vetoing the proposition. Even people well disposed towards dogs may not understand that as healthy adults, they have full control over their bodily functions for instance and can happily wait for designated breaks to be taken out. You might also suggest that an area is designated as a dog-free zone. Obviously, any policy, however unofficial, has to apply to all staff equally. You may have to discuss ways of enabling more than one dog to be present in the office or, if you have a partner for instance that could ask for dog-friendly facilities in their workplace, that you share the dog during the working week. The more options that you can provide, the more likely that you will overcome any misgivings.

Make sure that everyone who wants to approach your dog knows how to do so safely and in a way that will not be overwhelming or unpleasant for your dog or too arousing. Ensure that, as at home, your dog’s bed is his safe space, not resource guarded, and ask him to come out to greet visitors then lie quietly afterwards.

My own experience saw opposition, already in the minority, dissolve in the face of recognising that my dog was capable of being unobstrusive (aka can sleep for hours), only greeted people when given permission and frequently produced an astonishingly positive reaction in the vast majority of visitors and clients. It helped that he was a PAT dog and had passed his KCGS exams so had a proven track record of good behaviour and ability to cope with a variety of environments. It was in fact a couple of colleagues who asked, without my knowledge, if I could bring him in and it helped that I didn’t have to make the initial approach.

I was surprised that strong opposition came from one director who is himself a dog owner until I realised that his own dog had not been trained sufficiently well to cope in a work environment and he assumed the same would be true of my dog. From being very unhappy about it (he is based in an office 200 miles away which helps), he is usually the one to show my dog off to clients when he is in town. Another director, who has two dogs and is again based 200 miles away, wasn’t as supportive as I thought he might have been but then I discovered that, as much as he enjoys his dogs, he sees them as being his wife’s concern and has minimal involvement in their welfare and training. The third diorector, who sits opposite me, hates dogs – but he was out voted!

Working full time is not necessarily a barrier to having a dog as long as you undertake your research in advance of getting a dog and ensure that you and your dog can cope.

Friday, June 21st, 2019 is Bring Your Dog To Work Day. You could use this to kick start your own campaign.