As Take Your Pet to Work Week comes to an end, tomorrow is the official Take Your Dog to Work Day! Started in 1999 by Pet Sitters International, the group wanted to nudge employers to support shelters by introducing them to the joy of dogs.
Companies are increasingly making work environments pet-friendly, recognizing the health benefits of pets. Dogs are great icebreakers for employees, as well as stress-relievers and entertainment. Pet parents are also more active on average – pups need bathroom breaks – and research has shown that walking for two minutes every hour reduces risk of premature death by a third.
Take Your Pet to Work Week is a great opportunity for employers to test a pet-friendly office. Concerns about employee allergies, liability, distractions, and – of course – pet accidents keep many companies from participating. Of course, every office environment is different; ask your HR department about a pet-friendly workplace to get the ball rolling.
To make your pup’s Take Your Dog to Work Day run smoothly, check out these tips and tricks for bringing Fido to the office.
1. Accidents happen.
Even the most well-house trained dog can have an accident. Your workplace is a new area to explore for your pet, full of different sights, smells and sounds. Excitement can cause some dogs to urinate, while fear is another common reason.
If your dog has a history of accidents, consider leaving her at home. You don’t want to spend the day cleaning any more than she wants to spend it cowering in your cubicle – and no one wants to smell it. Keep some paper towels and pet smell deodorizer on hand just in case. If your dog does have an accident, ask your supervisor what the policy is; offer to pay for a carpet cleaner or bring in your own.
2. Do a meet and greet.
Depending on the size of your workplace, there could be up to a dozen dogs. Let the canines get acquainted first thing on Take Your Dog to Work Day, and make the rules clear – no dogs unsupervised, pick up after your pet. Arranging a formal butt-sniffing ceremony may seem unnecessary, but this way any frenemies are made clear early on. If some pooches are getting along, their pet parents should keep them under controlled and distracted.
3. Stock up on essentials.
Especially in pet-friendly offices, it’s a good idea to keep some essentials on hand. Lint rollers are great for removing pet hair and dander on the go; hand sanitizer cleanses post-belly rub hands. An aerosol or spray pet deodorizer keeps cubicles from getting that “wet dog” smell – especially in winter snow and spring showers. If your neighbors have sensitive noses, ask first before spraying any scents. Stash some emergency treats and your pup’s food of choice in airtight containers, too.
4. One for home and office.
Double up on pet necessities like food and water bowls, a bed, toys, treats and food. Lugging everything back and forth daily eats up time and makes mornings stressful. Keeping a bag of dog food handy means you’ll never feel guilty about forgetting Fido’s lunch; treats, rawhides or bones are perfect distractions when you’re crunching a deadline.
Don’t forget the doggie bags! In public your pet’s messes are your own, so pick up after your pup’s midmorning walk.
5. Get good distractions.
Hyperactive or attention-starved pups can be a major distraction at work. The key is to distract them before they distract you! Dog puzzle toys can keep Fido busy for hours, especially if the treat inside is tempting enough. Don’t reward begging behaviors with treats, but try to figure out what your dog wants. If the answer is a quick belly rub, lead him to his bed and spend a few minutes going to town. Afterwards, tell him to “stay,” and then dispense a treat. High-energy dogs can get restless; stick to your pet’s regular exercise schedule even at work.
6. Tucker your pup out over lunch.
Go for a brisk walk on your lunch break or hit the local dog park. Toss a ball or Frisbee for fifteen minutes – a tired pup is guaranteed. Coordinate doggie play dates at lunch; humans pack a picnic, while pups tucker themselves out. If there’s not a dog park near you, make do with a nearby field or lot. Even walking around the parking lot will provide some excitement for Fido, making him less likely to bother you later.
7. Pick a classy dog bed.
If you don’t believe such a thing exists, you’ve obviously never browsed the SkyMall catalog. From orthopedic foam to bean bags to chez lounges, there’s a great-looking bed for every dog’s style. While your pet may prefer to burrow in a smelly pile of blankets at home, that won’t fly at the workplace. Especially if you’re a supervisor or manager with a personal office, a luxurious dog bed speaks volumes about your personal taste.
A dog couch is one option, for pets who prefer to lounge; orthopedic dog beds are best for elderly pets or those with joint conditions. Whichever you choose, make sure its the right size and your dog is comfortable on it. Wash bedding regularly to avoid stinking up the cubicle and spray with a pet deodorizer.
8. Make it fun!
Keep things lively by hosting contests or competitions for dogs and pet parents, like competing in a dog-friendly 5k or a Halloween costume contest. In the summer, take turns bringing dog-friendly pup-sicles or ice treats. Celebrate office dogs’ birthdays with pupcakes, or share funny pet photos in a company chat group.
9. Brush up on manners.
Your pup may be an angel at home, but some pets have a mischievous streak. Others may forget their manners in the excitement of a new environment and need a little reminding. Practice basic commands with your dog like sit, stay, lay down, and come. Throw in a few tricks to entertain your coworkers and clients – your dog’s just in it for the treats.
If your pet has a bad habit of jumping on people or things, consider some dog training classes. Many pet stores and vet clinics hold obedience lessons, or check the world wide web for infinite options. Keep in mind that the old saying isn’t true – you can teach an old dog new tricks.
10. Be courteous.
Following our last point, the most important thing in any workplace, pet-friendly or not, is to be mindful of others. Establish clear, office-wide rules for pets – are they allowed to roam free, or are leashes required? Never show up with an uninvited four-legged friend; coworkers may have allergies or aversions to dogs they haven’t disclosed. If someone comes to you with a concern about your pet – for example, “He stole my sandwich” – apologize and work to resolve the issue amicably. In most cases of conflict, a simple misunderstanding escalates. While a pet-friendly workplace is a priority, a people-friendly one comes first.