I love my dog Coco. She’s a super-cute miniature schnauzer with floppy ears, racoon eyes, and an incredibly sweet personality. Since I work from home, she’s not stuck in the house all day like other dogs. We go for long walks at 11AM and 2PM—right at the heart of the average workday. If I worked at an office that didn’t allow dogs, I’d either be forced to leave her alone for hours at a time or pay some stranger from a dog-walking service to spend time with her.

Not optimal.

 

Dogs at Work

 

Many dog owners aren’t as lucky as me. They work in offices with strict “no dogs” policies. It’s not hard to understand why. People are allergic to dogs. People are afraid of dogs. Some dogs get territorial. Others relieve themselves on the carpet.

But a growing number of employers aren’t just allowing dogs, they’re touting it as a valuable perk meant to attract top talent and brighten up the workplace. A quick search on LinkedIn found that there are currently 681 available jobs at “dog friendly” workplaces in San Francisco. Trend-setting giants like Google and Amazon aren’t shy about promoting their dog-friendly policies and companies of all types are following suit.

The benefits of a dog-friendly office are hard to ignore. One study found that employees with dogs at work had significantly lower stress levels than those without dogs.

“Dogs in the workplace provide a calming presence that helps you destress when things are getting hectic,” said Alyson C. Brown, an employment lawyer and partner at Clouse Brown in Dallas (and a dog lover herself).

 

Bone Up on Behavior

Office dogs are only calming if they’re well-behaved—and behave well together.

“You don’t want dogs running up and down the hallway,” said Brown. “You don’t want too many dogs together. You don’t want it to turn into the dog park. Some can be reactive with other dogs. Some can resource guard if there’s food around. Think about what behaviors trigger aggression in dogs and try to mitigate them.”

Employers need to be cognizant that some workplaces are much better suited for dogs than others.

“It’s one thing to have a 10-person company in a one-story, suburban office building with a grassy yard versus the 60th floor of a downtown high-rise with 250 employees,” said Brown.

On a very, very practical note, you’ve got to make sure they’re housebroken.

“You need a place for the dog to relieve itself that isn’t the $12,000 Persian rug in your lobby,” said Brown.

There’s plenty of onus on an employee as well. They’ve got to be cognizant of their dog’s training and temperment.

“Some dogs are friendly, outgoing, confident and can handle the stress of being in new places,” said Brown. “Other dogs are more timid, more aggressive, more fearful of new situations. Getting on an elevator, for example, could be just too overwhelming.”

 

Stay Out of the Doghouse

If you want to implement a dog policy, follow these five simple rules:

 

Create a pet policy: Clearly state that employees who bring dogs to work are responsible for showing proof of vaccinations, have no history of violence and have been through basic obedience training. Employees should agree that they’re responsible for any medical bills resulting from a dog bite, and they’re responsible for cleaning up any “accidents.” If the dog shows any signs of stress or aggression they’ll agree to remove the dog from the premises immediately.

 

Create a pet zone: A terrific compromise is to designate specific places where dogs and their owners can work. Salesforce allows six employees to reserve a special room equipped with doggy beds, water bowls, toys — and of course workstations. It lets dog lovers come visit and allows employees who are afraid or allergic to steer clear.

 

No puppies: This one may be hard to implement because they’re so incredibly cute. But puppies have a far higher chance of not being housebroken, acting erratically and being hyper. So keep them out of the office until they’ve grown up a bit.

 

Vet it with key employees: You don’t need unanimous support, but asking some key employees for their opinions can go a long way. Are people freaked out by dogs at work? Do they have health concerns? Or is everyone excited to have some furry friends hanging around?  

 

Ease into it: Try letting dogs into the office on a casual Friday or maybe the day before a long holiday. If employees seem on board, try making it more frequent. If people are complaining, perhaps you need to abandon the idea.