Here at Happy Office Dogs, 21 June is a very special day in our calendar…and that’s because it’s international Bring Your Dog to Work Day! Each year on this day, workplaces across the world open their doors to their employees’ furry friends.
As you might have guessed, we’re all for opening workplaces to dogs, and believe the dog’s welfare should be the primary concern when facilitating these arrangements. To celebrate I’ve put together 5 key tips on bringing dogs to work, giving you plenty of time to plan for a successful day. You can discover even more of these by arming yourself with a copy of my book Office Dogs: The Manual.
1. Plan an advance visit
If this is going to be your dog’s first time in the office, it may be worth trying to get them in for a short visit in advance of the big day, when the office is quiet. Dogs are curious creatures who spend a lot of time investigating their environment. Giving them the opportunity to do this ahead of bringing them in for a longer period of time will help them feel more secure and make it easier for them to settle. On the day itself, some time to investigate should also be allowed on arrival.
2. Avoid accidents
If you’re worried about toileting accidents, it’s a good idea to scatter some food for them in the area they’ll be hanging out. Dogs don’t tend to want to go to the toilet where they eat, so if their first association with your office floor is that it’s a place for eating, you reduce the chance of them peeing there! Also allow for plenty of toilet breaks. The novelty of the experience could well lead to a dog who needs to relieve themselves more frequently than usual.
3. Be wary of hyping them up
To quote veterinary behaviourist Amber Batson, ‘calmness is a way of life, not a trained behaviour’. If you want your dog to be calm in the office, promoting calm behaviour the rest of the time will make this much more likely! It’s not uncommon for people who bring their dogs to the office to try and tire them out by engaging them in fast exercise like ball chasing or intense play before work or on their lunch break. While this might give you a quick win because the dog will initially be physically tired, their system will remain full of adrenaline and other glucocorticoids for hours after. These stress hormones make your dog more likely to engage in undesirable behaviours like barking, reacting to other dogs and people or being hyperactive. Activities that use the brain like slow sniffy walks, puzzles or nose work are a better way to tire your dog out and promote calm behaviour.
4. Think about your journey into work
No matter how you’re getting there, allow extra time! If you need to travel to work by public transport bear in mind that there can be restrictions on dogs on public transport. For instance, dogs can often only travel by bus at the bus driver’s discretion. Public transport can be really unpleasant for dogs at peak times too - being in crowded spaces with people who may stand on their paws or tails, or insist upon petting them can be stressful. Travelling off-peak can make this a more enjoyable experience for your dog. If you’re walking, allow plenty of time for your dog to sniff - trying to drag them along at your pace will be frustrating for you both, and your dog will miss out on all the nice tiring mental stimulation that comes with sniffing! If you’re travelling by car, make sure you factor in time for a short walk between the car ride and getting to the office so your dog can go to the toilet if they need to.
5. Create as calm and quiet a space as possible
It’s going to be a long and tiring day for your dog, so allowing them as much down time as possible is important! It’s likely that many of your colleagues are going to want to greet your dog. Watch your dog’s body language for signs of stress - your dog may lick their lips, look away, move away, or yawn. These are what we call calming signals, and dogs use them when they’re feeling worried or threatened or are trying to diffuse a situation or communicate peaceful intent. You can find more information on calming signal in Turid Rugaas’s book Calming Signals; On Talking Terms with Dogs. Encouraging your colleagues to allow the dog approach them rather than vice versa, and making sure your dog can move away when they want to can make these interactions as pleasant as possible. If your dog is looking uncomfortable, help them out!
Things to bring
Food and water
Dogs need access to fresh water at all times. Having treats to hand may be useful, especially if there are going to be coffee breaks. Dogs always like to be included in any eating that’s happening!
Clean up stuff
It might go without saying, but I would recommend bringing a roll of kitchen paper to soak up any accidents, some carpet cleaner if you have carpet and some disinfectant spray if you have hard floors. And don’t forget the poo bags! Dogs need to pee when they get excited or stressed, so don’t be surprised if there are accidents, and again, be sure that they have plenty of toilet breaks.
Things to chew
Chewing is a really nice way to keep your dog entertained and to relax them. Chewing releases happy, stress-busting hormones in the brain, and providing appropriate things to chew can reduce the chances of them finding their own things to chew. In my experience, dogs in need of things to chew in offices often go for wires! Natural chews are often popular with our four legged friends - pizzles, ears, dried tendons, moon bars etc. Some are smellier than others, so it's worth trialing these before bringing them to work and choosing the less smelly items if you don’t want to alienate your colleagues!
My personal favourite is a snuffle mat. The idea is to hide food in them which the dog can sniff out. This is a tiring, calming activity, and once all edibles have been extracted, dogs often lie down on the mat for a nap! If you don’t have a snuffle mat, scattering treats in long grass is just as good.
Bed and comfort things
Dogs do about 40% of their sleeping during the day. Bringing a cosy bed to work, and putting it in a quiet spot by/under your desk will set them up for success. Cushions, soft toys etc can also be added for extra comfort. And don’t let your colleagues disturb your dog if they’re sleeping! Tired dogs can be hyperactive and restless, something I’m betting you don’t want in the office.
Let us help you embrace the day!
I offer lunchtime talks in workplaces in Dublin on topics such as creating a calm dog, canine
communication and suitable lunch time activities for dogs. I would be delighted to come and
speak to your colleagues about doggy topics of your choice, or to run some dog-friendly lunchtime activities. I will have a limited number of slots available on the 21 June for Bring Your Dog to Work Day, so get in early to make the most of the day!
If your business is thinking about turning ‘dog-friendly’ for more than just the day, why not
arrange a consultation to discuss the pros and cons, things to consider, and what you can
do to create a workplace that is truly dog-friendly, rather than one that just allows dogs.
My new book ‘Office Dogs; The Manual’ is now available to order on Amazon. Find it here!