< Return to Blog Archive

Office Paw-litics: Running a pet-friendly Office

Lauren Dagworthy

Dog owners & enthusiasts everywhere dream of having pets at work, and canine co-workers have practical benefits, too. But how do you create a pro-pet office that works for everyone?

I have a co-worker who comes in to work everyday wearing nothing except a bandana around his neck. For a snack, he slurps peanut butter out of a rubber tube; and when he’s excited, he has a habit of yodelling.

Fortunately for me and everyone else in the office, this co-worker is not a human; he’s a dog.

Who Let the Dogs In?  

While service and therapy dogs have been working alongside us for a while, allowing non-working dogs into the workplace is a relatively new phenomenon. The popularity of bringing our family pets into the workplace has only occurred over the last decade or so. This comprehensive report on dogs in the workplace states that the frequency of canine co-workers has been increasing steadily, with 8% of offices reporting the presence of a canine colleague in 2015. In the last four years since the study was released, I am sure that more companies have joined the trend.

There are many benefits to implementing pet-friendly policies in the workplace. 82% of employees working in pro-dog businesses agree that being able to bring their animals to work increased their loyalty to the company; and in addition to decreased stress levels and blood pressure in their employees, 81% of Human Resource managers reported increased productivity [source].

Companies with pet-friendly work-spaces are especially finding success in attracting and retaining young professionals. Over half of workers under the age of 30 own a dog [source] and providing owners with the opportunity to bring their pets to the office allows them to work longer hours without having to stress about getting home.

Why Keep the Dogs Out?

So, with many measurable improvements in morale, productivity, and well-being, why aren’t more offices implementing dog-friendly policies? What’s so hard about sending out a mass email welcoming every canine to the company? All dogs are the same, right??

The truth is that a lot of dogs are just not cut out for corporate life (as someone who worked in a pet store for three years, I've met my fair share of them). Pet allowance should not be a free-for-all. Companies that open their doors with no protocol or framework to protect their employees and their canine counterparts are almost guaranteed to experience more headaches than benefits. Setting rules and regulations is the only way to fully reap the benefits of a pet-friendly office. Otherwise, you’re just inviting chaos.

Leading the Pack

Before implementing a pet-friendly policy, companies need to familiarize themselves with local by-laws. It is generally going to be easier to create a pet-friendly workplace if you build it form scratch and make it an integral part of your corporate culture. This is the route my company's founders took when they started their company. They were able to set expectations at the outset and slowly build a framework as the organization grew.

Bootstrapping a policy into an existing workplace comes with unique challenges. Clearly these have the potential to become increasingly complex depending on the size of your company. Luckily there are a few basic things you can do to ease your company in a pet-friendly direction.

Establish temperament requirements.

One of the biggest concerns among employees when transitioning to a dog-friendly space is the risk of introducing poorly-trained or aggressive dogs. It is essential to ensure all workplace dogs pass the Canine Good Citizen Test; which is a baseline behaviour requirement for most service and therapy dogs. Establishing this pre-requisite (and any others you deem necessary), can greatly reduce the chance of negative behaviours. At Devlos Software for example, 25% of employees have dogs but only 8% of them are qualified to 'work' at the office.

Give new dogs a probation period.

Dogs can be sweethearts to humans, but rude or aggressive in the company of other pets. Before introducing a new dog to the office ecosystem, allow them to meet their other animal co-workers in a controlled environment. Any dogs who display aggressive or “unsocialized” behaviour should not be allowed to enter the workplace. Set a clear time period when both the dog and the owner will be assessed before making the change permanent.

Establish dog-friendly and dog-free zones.

Creating areas where dogs are welcomed and others that are canine-free will help to accommodate employee preferences and any office allergies.

Be sensitive to employees with pet allergies.

While Fluffy's owner may love her long fur and be desensitized to their shedding, the presence of dog hair and dander can have hazardous effects on employees who suffer from allergies. Despite establishing dog-free spaces, dog dander can still travel throughout the office. Investing in HEPA filters in your workplace and requiring owners to regularly bathe their dogs can help minimize dander.

Create a group of su-paw-visors.

Pun aside, this idea has merit. Form a team of co-workers that is responsible for listening to employees' ideas, concerns, and questions related to office pets. This will ensure that all groups have their thoughts heard and changes can be made to the policy if necessary.

Cater to non-owners.

It should not be the job of non-dog people to “just deal” with the presence of dogs at work. It is the responsibility of the leadership to create a respectful environment for everyone. Non-service dogs at the office should be a privilege which must be earned by employees and dogs by doing their due diligence as pet parents and good canine coworkers.

Ensuring that your office has a robust policy that takes all parties into account is the foundation to a successful pro-pet workplace. Your company’s individual needs will undoubtedly require additional parameters to enhance and improve the experience, however these basics are a good place to start. If you’re willing to put in the work to responsibly integrate dogs into your office environment, there are numerous benefits that you can see as an outcome.


About Soluno

Soluno is user-friendly, cloud-based billing, accounting and time tracking software made for law firms of all sizes.
Confidently manage your firm’s business all in one place; with matter management, time/expense entry, billing, accounting, trust banking, and reporting that’s accessible from anywhere. Soluno empowers law firms to be more efficient and profitable than ever; combining the advanced features and customizable workflows of on-premise software with the freedom, security, and convenience of a cloud solution.

Don't miss out on these other posts!