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Bring Your Dog to Work!

Some doggone good reasons to go pet-friendly at work

By: Noa Nichol

Last Updated:


Dottie, Sadie, Milo, Pierre: these are just a few of the friendly faces who will greet you at Etsy’s corporate headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. No, they’re not data analysts, digital marketing specialists, or support representatives; they’re valued members of what the e-commerce website—which helps 30 million users around the world buy and sell handmade and vintage wares online—calls its “canine operations team.”

That’s right, they’re dogs.

“The dog-friendly office policy has been in place since Etsy began operations in 2005. It’s one of the ways we strive to maintain a casual, creative, and inspiring work environment,” says Aleksa Brown, associate editor of the company’s blog.

Etsy’s employee experience manager, Sarah Starpoi, confirms that her employer’s decision to allow staff members to bring their pets to work is in line with its policies on eating meals as a team, composting office waste, and encouraging employees to volunteer for worthy causes throughout the year.

“Bringing our dogs to work helps keep spirits high and fosters a sense of community and connection that’s paramount to what Etsy’s all about,” Starpoi explains. “It’s funny because I notoriously dislike dogs, but I love having them here. They make people smile almost universally, and I think they allow anxiety to diffuse when they suddenly skitter by.”

Etsy isn’t the only business that thinks it’s a good idea to open up the boardroom to dogs. In Vancouver, BC, international social media management system provider Hootsuite is dog friendly, too—and has been since the very start.

“Our dogs are a big part of Hootsuite’s company culture,” confirms vice-president of talent Ambrosia Humphrey. “We believe that, in many ways, we can learn a lot from our four-legged friends.”
With about 65 #HootDogs—the term the company’s coined for its furry officemates—currently clocking in each day, Humphrey counts inter-employee engagement among the top benefits of Hootsuite’s dog-friendly workplace.

“Dogs are often a great conversation starter, especially in an office where there are an average of 10 new people being on-boarded every week,” she says. “It gives both new and existing employees a great excuse to meet… even more so when they’re in different departments.”

Another big boon to having #HootDogs—like snuggly Pomeranian-Chihuahua cross George, goofy Bluetick Coonhound-Bernese mix Oscar, and playful Boston Terrier-Pug Alfie—at work is stress relief.

“I think most people with dogs can agree that having their trusted companion by their side, or having the opportunity to take a quick walk with their dog is a great source of stress relief,” Humphrey says. “Many employees also love petting dogs around the office.”

It’s not just the stuff of casual observation or hearsay, either. Research is proving that the benefits of a dog-friendly workplace range from decreased stress levels to increased productivity to improved employee relationships.

A 2012 study out of Virginia Commonwealth University, for example, saw up to 30 dogs brought to work daily by employees of Replacements, Ltd., in Greensboro, North Carolina. Researchers found that, after one week, reported stress levels fell an average of 11 percent among staff who did bring their pooches to the office, as opposed to those who left their four-legged friends at home.

According to celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman, host of former Animal Planet TV series “GOOD DOG U” and a big supporter of the movement to welcome pets into the workplace, this particular finding couldn’t make better sense.

“There are so many positives that can come out of allowing pet owners to bring their dogs to work, but I think the biggest thing of all is your dog naturally wants to be around you,” Silverman says. “They’d rather spend all day in their crate in your office than be loose in the house while you’re at work all day."

At the same time, because people love their animals so much, he says that employers are “better off knowing their employees are happy at work and not having to rush home to take care of their dog.”

In fact, a recent survey of 50 pet-friendly companies by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) not only revealed that workers enjoyed less absenteeism than in pet-free offices, but that productivity and employee morale got a boost when canine companions joined the workforce, and that staff members were more willing to work overtime thanks to the addition of pets in the workplace.

“This survey indicates that more people are realizing the importance of pets in the workplace,” says APPA president Bob Vetere. “Pets are becoming more of a welcome addition and proving to be beneficial to employee well-being and office culture.”
Clearly, opening up the workplace to dogs can be a very good thing. However, employers who are thinking of becoming pet-friendly must also be aware of some of the challenges that may arise.

Beth Stultz is marketing and communications manager for Take Your Dog to Work Day (TYDTWDay)—an international event created by Pet Sitters International in 1999 that occurs annually on the Friday following Father’s Day (this year’s date is June 26). In helping first-time participants organize an event at their office, Stultz has come face-to-face with some of the short- and long-term issues around bringing dogs into the workplace.

“Building codes are a big one—if you as a company don’t own the building where you work, you likely need to seek special permission to allow dogs,” she says, listing employee allergies and phobias as other potential problems to keep in mind.

Another issue: how the dogs behave around other dogs and around people, particularly strangers.

“It is important that aggression of any kind in a participating dog not be tolerated,” cautions Stultz. “Dogs showing aggressive behaviour should be asked to leave the office right away.”

“The office is an office, not a play area for dogs,” Silverman adds. “My personal feeling is that dogs should not have contact with other dogs in the workplace; they should be separated in different offices or various areas of the building until it’s break time, and then they can go outside to play and interact, if desired.”

The truth, he continues, is that “specific rules need to be laid out, and all of those rules need to come from the owner of the facility. Employees who would like to bring their dogs to work should always remember that it’s a privilege to bring your animal to the office—it’s not something to take for granted.”

At Hootsuite, rules around the pet-friendly work environment are—and always will be—paramount.

“As we entered into a time of hyper-growth, the increased number of employees [at our company] also meant an increased number of dogs, so we had to start being more aware of factors like people with allergies, puppies who had accidents often, or dogs who didn’t get along,” says Humphrey.

“We started asking employees to register their dogs and also implemented a Hootsuite Dog Policy, which included leashes at all times and employees to not bring in dogs younger than six months old or those that have not been vaccinated and potty trained.”

She strongly recommends that companies that are considering going dog friendly “set up some ground rules from the beginning to establish expectations for owners. With the guidelines in place, employees will have a good idea of whether their dog will be a happy dog without disrupting other humans or dogs.”

Silverman agrees.

“Bottom line, when you’re in the office, you need to be focusing on work, not on your dog,” he says. “It’s an absolute privilege to bring your dog to work, so stay low key, don’t make it a big issue. You want to make it work out in the best way possible.”


Last Updated:

By: Noa Nichol
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