Taking dogs to work isn’t something that’s common in Australia, except perhaps in some small privately-owned businesses like the local service station or hardware store. Some restaurants and cafes now cater for patrons to brings their dogs, but they’re still somewhat of a rarity, and the “no-dogs allowed” policy is still fairly strictly adhered-to in most businesses. There are businesses where, for reasons of hygiene, it’s logical that pets shouldn’t be allowed, but is Australia behind the times when it comes to allowing companion animals to accompany their owners to work and other public places?
It’s not uncommon to see dogs in restaurants in some of the most sophisticated and large European cities, and surprisingly some very large dogs can be found in some of the tiniest and cramped cafes. Most are so well behaved that you don’t realise they’re there, until a Great Dane rises to its feet and accompanies its owner past your table when leaving. So, why is it less common in South Australian workplaces? It’s often to do with the absence of a clearly articulated policy so that both pet owners’ and other workers’ interests are protected. It also relies on the dog-owners being respectful of the impact their animal has on others – regardless of policy - and in making sure that co-workers are comfortable sharing their space with a canine colleague.
There is evidence to suggest that having dogs in the workplace can help to lower stress and in some cases an even lead to increased productivity, but if you’re thinking of bringing your pooch to work there are some things you need to bear in mind. Following are some do’s and don’ts of dogs in the workplace.
1. Employer approval: You can’t assume that because you love dogs that your office will be pet-friendly. Get approval from your manager and check with the HR team or those responsible for policy, whether there are any rules regarding dogs.
2. Co-worker approval: You should really get the okay from your co-workers too, as some people will be uncomfortable with it. They may be scared of dogs, or they could be allergic to them. Even if the person in the next cubicle can’t see your dog, they could still be uncomfortable about his presence.
3. Customer approval: It’s also important to check whether clients are okay with your dog being with you. If your bosses and co-workers don’t mind but your customers do, you’ll need to ensure there’s somewhere appropriate for your dog to stay while you’re with customers.
4. Animal health and cleanliness: Your dog should be up-to-date with vaccinations, and preventatives such as worm and flea treatments. If you expect your co-workers and their pets to accept your dog, then you need to respect their hygiene and wellbeing. Your dog should also be clean always. No one wants to work in an environment with doggy smells, and co-workers shouldn’t end up with dirty hands if they pat your dog.
5. Distraction: Prevent your dog from becoming a disturbance. They shouldn’t be allowed to routinely wander from work station to workstation looking for attention, or prod co-workers with a wet nose. Puppies should not be allowed to run around either. Potentially the greatest disturbance of all however, is a barking dog. If your dog can’t remain silent while at work with you, then it probably shouldn’t be there at all.
6. Behaviour: If your dog is going to accompany you to work, it must be well trained. It should understand basic commands such as “sit” and “stay”. Dogs in workplaces need to be comfortable around people, placid and non-reactive. If your dog is overly territorial, skittish, or neurotic, then he’ll likely be an unpopular addition to the office. Pet dogs should be appropriately socialised anyway, and it’s essential if they’re to spend time in workplaces.
7. Exercise: Dogs that are properly exercised are more likely to remain calm and polite while at work. Ensure that your dog has had some appropriate exercise, such as a 20 – 40 minute energetic walk, before spending the day in the office. Stimulation is important as well in ensuring your dog won’t be bored and troublesome at work, and the stimulation – be it some strenuous exercise or a game – should occur before they join you in the office.
8. Other dogs: The place your dog should meet other co-workers’ dogs for the first time is outside the office. They should be given the opportunity to conduct their doggy greetings, which normally include a sniff here and there, before they join each other at work. This will help to ensure they can be pals at the office and not aggressive rivals. Your annual appraisal may not go too well if your dog caused your boss’s dog a trip to the emergency department.
9. Supplies: You should have everything you need for the day when you and your dog arrive at work. Your dog needs to be comfortable as well as your co-workers. A comfortable bed, fresh water, food, toys, and a harness will be necessary, even if you don’t use all of them. A KONG or a treat-dispensing toy can be a good distraction if they become restless. Running out to get things for your dog during the day might be fine, but frequent unplanned absences could soon become a problem for employers and co-workers.
10. Safety: Your dog should have a safe and dedicated space in which they can stay, whether it’s under your desk or in a nearby corner. Also check for food hazards (chocolate, raisins, and artificially sweetened lollies, for example), choking hazards such as paper clips, and anything else that could put your dog at risk. So that you can manage your dog’s diet it’s safest to politely ask co-workers not to feed you dog. Alternatively, ensure they know what he can’t have. It’s also important to ensure that your dog and their belongings do not become trip hazards in the office.
11: Cleaning up: If your dog makes a mess at work, it is your responsibility to clean it up immediately. Keep a close eye on him and look for signs that he may need to go outside. If you need to serve a customer or attend a meeting and your dog can’t join you, make sure there is someone you can ask to mind your dog, who is willing and prepared to do so. It will help to have some pre-arranged responsible “dog minders”, and don’t expect people to willingly mind your dog.
Be ready to clean up after your dog if they accidentally soil in the office and never punish them if they do. A new and unfamiliar environment can be confronting and confusing. Frequent toilet breaks should minimise the chances of it occurring but don’t react if it does, and clean the area thoroughly with a non-ammonia based product.
12: Socialising: Do not force people, or their pets, to interact with your dog. If your co-workers are prepared to accept your dog at work but don’t want to socialise with him, respect their wishes. Also, don’t let your dog go to other people’s belongings, whether they’re personal belongings such as bags, or their workstations or equipment. This is important out of respect for your co-workers’ comfort, and your dog’s safety. If your colleagues are comfortable with it, allow your dog some time to greet them upon arrival, which is often a positive experience for both your dog and them.
13: Changing circumstances: Keep an eye on your pet to make sure that everything’s okay and they’re coping well in the workplace. They also need to be comfortable with the journey to and from work. If your dog starts to appear uncomfortable or stressed it may be time to give them a break or take them home.
Allowing dogs in the workplace can be a rewarding experience for both people and the pooches. Sticking to the rules, being mindful of the impact on your dog and colleagues, and employing common sense, will ensure that the experience is positive for all. If you need to get supplies for your dog’s visit to work, our online store can deliver conveniently to your home or office, and if you need a pre-work health check, please get in touch with any of the Vets4Pets hospitals.