The Truth About Dogs in the Office

by Susan Johnston on March 25, 2011
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Take Your Dog to Work Day occurs each June; however, some businesses operate dog-friendly offices and welcome these four-legged friends on a regular basis. “Happy employees work more productively,” explains Gary Cassera, owner of the South Jersey-based dog training and walking service Balanced Dogs. “It can make the people in your office get to know each other better, too, because they’re walking together. It gives employees something to talk about.”

But is a dog-friendly environment right for your business? We talked to Cassera about what small business owners need to know.

  1. Have employees train dogs at home first.
    Before a dog comes into the office, the owner needs to do some preliminary training at home. (This author once worked in an office where the president brought a puppy who didn’t know the difference between grass and carpet – don’t let that happen on your watch!) Also check the dog’s paperwork to ensure that he or she is up to date on shots and medication. However, Cassera points out that offices also offer a learning opportunity for dogs and their owners. “You have a lot of different challenges and distractions you can teach them to deal with,” he explains, adding that the owner should bring a blanket, sock, or other item that smells like the owner to create a sense of the familiar.
  2. Consider liability.
    Obviously, not all businesses are conducive to having dogs around. If you operate a bakery or a day care center, you may not want to add animals to the mix. But some book stores, B&Bs, and small offices enjoy having an animal as a mascot. If you rent office space, you’ll need to check with your management company’s pet policy. Cassera also suggests researching liability issues to see if you need to adjust your insurance policy in case (heaven forbid) the dog bites someone.
  3. Communicate expectations to coworkers.
    Whether you’re bringing your own dog or allowing employees to bring theirs, it’s important that everyone in the office understands how the dog has been trained. For instance, Cassera says, if your dog is prone to jumping and you’re trying to discourage that behavior, tell your coworkers you’ve been working on it. Also explain how you dispense treats or toys so the dog doesn’t get confused and act out.
  4. Build exercise into the day.
    Depending the breed and the individual, dogs may need walking a few times a day. Some breeds, like golden retrievers or greyhounds, are happy to rest for eight to ten hours at a time. Others, like Australian shepherds, are more excitable. Exercise is good for the dog and the employee, but you’ll need to factor it into scheduling actual work. For employees who are bringing dogs to the office, Cassera suggests arriving early to walk the dog before the workday starts. This is especially important if several employees are bringing dogs. “Get them in a pack mentality so they understand the have to collaborate,” Suggests Cassera. “The dogs that are closest together really need to be exercised together. Let them play together and understand that ‘we’re a family.’”

Susan Johnston is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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