Dogs at Work: Pros, Cons, & How to Do It Safely

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have brought many challenges, there is one silver lining: furry friends. Pet adoptions have risen so greatly throughout the pandemic that shelters are actually running out of animals. But the rise in pet adoptions coupled with the return to work may pose trouble for our canine companions. A sudden return back to the office may bring on separation anxiety in pets who have gotten so used to their pet parents being home.

Many companies are rewriting their work policies to include pets, especially dogs. Companies from PetSmart and Trupanion to Amazon and Airbnb allow their employees to bring their dogs to work. Since the pandemic, even more pet-friendly companies have understood the joys a dog can bring.

If your business is considering allowing dogs in the workplace, there are a few things you should know. Continue reading below to discover the benefits, potential drawbacks, and tips for implementing a dog-friendly work policy. Likewise, if you’re a dog parent  and want to take your dog to work, it’s important to understand the ins and outs, as well as how to get your dog ready for office life.

Benefits of Dogs at Work

The benefits of taking dogs to work are worth barking about. Multiple studies confirm furry friends’ ability to provide employees a greater sense of overall wellbeing. Whether it’s the head tilt they do when curious or the joy you feel when they wag their tail, dogs are our best friends—and for good reason.

Below are some of the benefits of having dogs at work, backed by actual data:

  • Lower stress levels: For pet parents especially, having a dog in the office can lower stress levels. One of the first studies conducted on the stress levels of employees who bring their dogs to work found that workers scored significantly higher on multiple job satisfaction subscales compared to employees who do not bring their dogs to work.
  • Increased levels of communication: Another study shows that dogs make great icebreakers. Dogs in the workplace increase levels of communication among employees, especially new employees, because they provide a topic of discussion. Their ability to facilitate social interaction can be great for shy or otherwise quiet employees.
  • Great for attracting new employees: One of the greatest benefits for businesses, a pet-friendly work policy can attract and retain new employees. This is a perk for both dog parents and people who simply enjoy dogs’ presence.

All in all, these benefits may help boost morale, increase productivity, and strengthen relations among employees.  

Drawbacks of Dogs in the Workplace

There can also be drawbacks to having dogs in the workplace. Health, wellbeing, and safety issues all must be addressed when considering whether to allow dogs. Not every employee may be on the same page, and for various reasons. Considering those reasons is vital to maintaining an inclusive work environment.

Below is a list of potential drawbacks to dogs in the workplace:

  • Allergies: Dog and cat allergies affect around 10-20% of the population worldwide. Having dogs in the workplace can pose a significant risk to employees with allergies. Though allergic reactions range in severity, the possibility of an employee having one may deter businesses from allowing dogs.
  • Distractions: Especially when they’re young, dogs may cause a lot of distractions at work, and some dogs never grow out of their habits. Dog distractions can include barking and whining. What’s more, they might need more attention, food, and exercise than they can get in the workplace.
  • Zoonotic diseases: Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are another potential reason businesses may hesitate to allow dogs. These are diseases that jump from a non-human animal to a human. They can be spread through direct contact, food, water, or the environment. When it comes to dogs, zoonoses include rabies, ringworm, and Lyme disease. However, canine zoonoses are rare, particularly when dogs are properly vaccinated and medicated to prevent parasites.
  • Slip, trip, and fall hazards: Dogs can also present environmental safety hazards in the workplace. Their low proximity to the ground, as well as their leashes and toys, may cause an employee to slip, trip, or fall. Workplaces with employees who are older or have a disability may be especially reluctant to allow dogs due to this drawback.
  • Dog bites, scratches, or roughhousing: Bites are among the most serious concerns of having dogs in the workplace. Bites range in severity, but it does not reflect well on a business if one of its employees is bitten. Scratching and roughhousing are other concerns that could result in injury to employees or property.
  • Fears and phobias: Some employees may have cynophobia—a fear of dogs. This can create an unsafe work environment for those employees. While dog parents can say their pet is gentle or well behaved, other employees may still be afraid. The dog also does not know the other employees like they know their pet parents. Protective dogs may be quick to react to a stranger, especially if they show fear.
  • Cultural differences and sensitivities: Not all societies and cultures view dogs the same way. While people born and raised in the U.S. generally view dogs as pets, some people from other countries view them as “outside” animals or potential rabies carriers. For these people, dogs in the office may be thought to cause an unsafe working environment.  

How Employers Can Implement a Dog-Friendly Work Policy

Dog-friendly work policies must be well thought out before they are fully implemented. The last thing a business wants is for its employees’ pets to disrupt operations, damage property, or pose a health risk to a fellow employee.

Below is a list of strategies for implementing a dog-friendly work policy:

  • Only allow one or two dogs at a time: It’s best to only allow one or two dogs at a time to avoid distractions, or in case the dogs do not get along.
  • Require wraps on male dogs: Disposable wraps for male dogs will help keep your workplace clean by preventing them from marking their territory while they’re indoors.
  • Let others know there are dogs on the premises: As stated in the drawbacks, not everyone loves having a dog in the workplace. Let others know that the company has a dog-friendly policy as a courtesy.
  • Create designated times to let pets eat or relieve themselves: Just like you must set aside breaks and lunchtimes for employees, you must do the same for dogs as well. Create dedicated times for them to eat, relieve themselves, or stretch out their legs.
  • Require dogs to be vaccinated and fixed: Another formal detail you need to include is proof of vaccinations and spaying or neutering. This is for the safety of your employees, as well as other dogs on the premises.
  • Dedicate areas for dogs: Dedicate an area where dogs can sit while their pet parents are working. This is typically at their desk. If possible, you should designate an area outside for them to play or relieve themselves.

Businesses should require all employees to read and respect the dog-friendly work policy. This policy is not just for dog parents, but also for the company as a whole. It is important for the company to keep everyone on the same page. 

Tips for Preparing Your Dog for the Workplace

If your workplace is dog friendly, the next step is getting your pooch ready. This includes exercising them, packing smart, and taking toys and treats, among other important considerations.

Below is a list of tips and tricks for preparing your dog for the workplace:

  • Exercise them beforehand: Younger and hyperactive dogs need lots of exercise. Before bringing your pet to work, it’s best to give them plenty of physical activity. This will tire them out before they sit for periods at work. Off-leash running is one good way to tire them out.
  • Exercise them during work: Your breaks during work should be used to exercise your dog. Take them outside to let them go potty and run around a little bit. You may also want to exercise your dog indoors.
  • Pack smart: Pack treats and toys to keep them occupied while you work. Make sure not to bring toys that distract other employees, such as squeak toys.
  • Make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations: Before taking your pet to work, make sure they’re up on their vaccinations. This is important for not only their health, but also your coworkers and their dogs.
  • Make sure they’re potty trained: The last place you want to potty train a puppy is at work. Make sure your dog is fully potty trained before taking them to your workplace.
  • Consider your pet’s personality: Not every dog is suitable for the workplace. Dogs who are rambunctious or timid may have trouble sitting still around new people. Make sure you thoroughly consider your dog’s personality before taking them to work.
    • If taking your dog to work is the only option for you, consider a dog calming supplement to soothe them when they feel tense or stressed in the workplace and free yourself to focus on work. 

What to Do If Your Office Is Not Dog Friendly

If your office is not dog friendly, there are other strategies to help keep your dog happy.

Start with crate training for when your dog needs to be home alone. If you prefer to let your dog roam throughout the house, put up a dog gate to block off any rooms you don’t want them in. Just remember never to leave your dog home alone for too long. Generally, an adult dog is okay by themselves for around 4 to 6 hours, but this can vary depending on your pet’s personality or medical concerns.

For dogs who need to be left longer than 4 to 6 hours at a time, we strongly recommend that you find a doggy daycare, a walker, or a pet sitter. Of course, you need to go to work and earn a salary, but your dog needs attention, too. Setting up these services ahead of time is the best way to ensure happiness and peace of mind. If you’re not able to get help with your pet, set up an indoor potty area where your dog can relieve themselves. This will help your dog stay comfortable and help increase your peace of mind.