These days, it seems like companies are constantly trying to one-up each other by offering employees work perks, from piles of free snacks to in-office happy hours. Arguably one of the best benefits touted by some places is the ability for people to take their pets with them to the office. But while bringing your dog into work may sound amazing (and it can be!), there are some strict rules to go by if you don't want to cause in-office issues.
It's not that most of your coworkers won't want your dog there. When someone brings their pet into the office, “employees who don’t have puppy friends of their own are able to enjoy the benefits of being around animals all day," says Kristie Khoury, director of marketing at dog-friendly tech company The Control Group. And having your dog nearby as you work can be good for you, too — according to data shared by the American Heart Association, pets in the workplace “may help reduce stress, increase productivity and improve employee satisfaction, teamwork and collaboration.”
Not to mention, dogs that come into offices tend to get plenty of attention, which is helpful for both pets and owners. “Our employees who are dog owners appreciate not having to worry about their furry friends being lonely or needing a bathroom break while they’re at the office,” says Khoury.
That said, dogs aren’t exactly native to the office environment, and bringing them in can create problems with your colleagues or disrupt your productivity. So if you're thinking about bringing your pup into work anytime soon, keep these tips in mind.
Check out the company and building's policies
Even if your company's environment is pretty lax, it’s crucial you check that you’re actually allowed to bring your dog in before doing so. Once you get permission, ask about any specific rules you need to abide by in terms of preparing your dog for the workday and being in the office with them. Khoury says that at The Control Group, for instance, there's a "very firm dog policy" that outlines the owner’s responsibilities (like keeping the dog on a leash in common areas) and medical requirements (like only bringing a dog that's spayed or neutered), as well as the dog's behavior (like getting three “strikes” for things like aggression, urination and other disturbances before having to leave).
“The option to bring your dog into work is something that we want to continue, and that means that we need to make sure everyone is being respectful of others," explains Khoury.
Be realistic about your dog’s behavior
As much as you might want to bring your pet into the office, not all dogs are going to do well in that environment. “It’s important to consider if your pet will be comfortable and calm around so many employees and other dogs in the workplace,” says Rena Lafaille, director of administration at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Adoption Center.
Typically, Lafaille explains, the dogs that do well in offices are social, calm, quiet, and well-trained. "If your dog is not housebroken or does not respond to basic commands, it might be best to hold off on an office visit," she says. Beth Stultz-Hairston, national spokesperson for Take Your Dog To Work Day and vice president of Pet Sitters International, adds that if your pet struggles with fear, anxiety, or stress, you may want to work with a professional dog trainer before bringing them into the office. And if your dog isn't totally healthy or fully vaccinated, you should definitely hold off on bringing them into the workplace.
Even dogs that seem up for the task, though, might still be triggered by things like interacting with too many other animals or people at once, so keep a close eye on them if you do decide they're up for workplace. And to avoid any unnecessary stress on you or your pet, inform your colleagues of "any limitations, such as the amount of treats your dog can receive or if he has any allergies,” says Stultz-Hairston.
Be respectful of your colleagues
Even if bringing dogs in is allowed, Stultz-Hairston says to keep in mind that “if any coworkers have severe allergies or phobias, [taking your dog to work] would not be a good idea."
Lafaille adds it’s important to ask your coworkers about any allergies, fears, or other issues relating to dogs. “Some fellow employees may be genuinely scared of animals and feel stressed out around them,” she explains. “Ask your desk neighbors about their comfort level in advance to avoid any potential issues."
She suggests putting a sign near your work area that indicates there’s a dog inside, so that anyone who doesn't want to come near the pet won't have to. And don't get insulted if that's what some colleagues choose; Stultz-Hairston says to remember that while many people love dogs, not everyone does. “Do not force coworkers to interact with your dog — pet lovers will make themselves known," she advises.
Give your dog a safe space
Set your pet up for office success by making sure their environment is as cozy and safe as can be. “Your dog should have a comfortable area to go to if they become overwhelmed or are less social than expected, such as an under-the-desk blanket or crate,” Lafaille says. “For those with offices, keeping the door closed generally creates a relaxed environment.”
She adds that you should bring all of the necessary supplies — like bowls, food, and a leash — as well as things like treats, a blanket, and some favorite toys, to make sure your dog stays content while you work. Additionally, make sure you do a thorough sweep of the office space before allowing your dog in. “Hide loose electrical cords and wires that your dog could be tempted to chew, and put away potentially toxic substances like plants, markers and other office supplies,” advises Lafaille.
Keep things clean
Even if your dog is potty trained, make sure you head outside frequently enough for bathroom breaks and watch for potential accidents in the office. “If one dog does it, they all will follow suit,” Khoury says. “If you know there is a hot spot in the office where dogs love, try to keep yours away from it and clean it thoroughly.”
Make sure your dog is freshly bathed and groomed, so your colleagues don't have to deal with intense smells or other less-than-ideal situations. “Having dogs in the office doesn’t mean that we’ve let the office go to the dogs," Khoury explains. "We want to keep everything clean for the entire staff. Accommodating dogs doesn’t mean inconveniencing others.”
Take full responsibility for your dog
Bringing your dog into work doesn’t mean you'll get free pet-sitting, courtesy of your coworkers. “Supervise your dog to make sure he or she follows good office etiquette and is not distracting to your fellow employees,” Lafaille says, adding that if you think you'll need someone to keep an eye on your dog briefly when you step away, talk to that person in advance to make sure it's OK.
But, in general, you should do your best to keep an eye on your pet at all times. “Review your day’s schedule to ensure that your dog will not be with you on a day that meetings or other obligations will result in your dog being left unattended for long periods of time,” says Stultz-Hairston.
And when you're with the dog in a common area, it's your job to keep them entertained and on their best behavior at all times.
Have a back-up plan
Even the most well-trained dogs can run into issues occasionally — after all, there are a lot of variables in an office that can impact their comfort level and behavior, from last-minute meetings to fire drills. As such, plan accordingly. “While most dogs enjoy being at work with their owners, you should always have a plan B,” Stultz-Hairston says.
She recommends having a pet sitter on call, and checking beforehand with your boss that you can take your dog home midday if they're acting out or need a break.
Remember you’re still at work
It’s crucial to keep an eye on and care for your dog while they’re in the office with you, but if that gets in the way of the job you and your coworkers need to do, it’s probably best to leave your four-legged friend at home.
“We’ve got a lot of dog lovers in the office, but some puppies are prone to taking advantage of that soft spot we all hold for them,” Khoury says, noting that some dogs will go up to people asking for treats. If having your pet nearby is so distracting to your colleagues that it's slowing down everyone's productivity, give your coworkers a break. Says Khoury, "It’s always best to take the dog away from the situation and let your colleague request that they come back or let you know that it’s OK for your furry friend to hang out." That way, everyone's happy.