Hate leaving behind your furry friend while you trudge through the hours at work? Increasingly, businesses are allowing their employees to bring their pets to the office.
From large companies to locally owned stores and veterinary practices, working alongside animals – especially dogs – is becoming more common. Experts say the practice could improve workers’ moods and productivity.
“I think for a lot of people pets exert a major calming influence on them,” said Ashley Brown, practice manager at Animal Hospital at Brier Creek in Raleigh, N.C. “For our pet parents, they’re not just animals, they are their babies.”
One of the most well-known dog-friendly companies is Amazon.com, which has more than 6,000 dogs joining their owners each day at its Seattle headquarters. Lara Hirschfield, Amazon’s “Woof Pack” manager, said in a PJ Media article that the company has been dog-friendly from the beginning. Some of the canines are even profiled on Amazon’s website, with their names, ages, favorite toys and favorite activities.
The Amazon campus includes designated relief areas, free treats and two dog parks. To bring a pet to work, employees have to register the animal and talk with their manager and fellow workers to make sure everyone is comfortable with the pet. Then, they have to submit a registration form, give proof of vaccination and review Amazon’s dog policies.
A 2016 report from Fortune named the most pet-friendly companies in the U.S. On the list were Google, Salesforce, Genentech, Mars, Build-a-Bear Workshop and the Kimpton hotel chain. In addition to allowing the dogs at work, many of these companies provide pet insurance and bereavement leave for the loss of a pet.
While this may be the latest trend in tech companies, small businesses have been allowing pets in the workplace for years. Often it’s because the animal is a pet lover and because they have fewer employees to manage.
“It also depends on what their core values are and what kind of image they want to portray,” Brown said. “Some companies are known for taking care of employees, I think it kind of depends on that.”
Doug Diesing, owner of Seaboard Wine & Tasting Bar in Raleigh, brings his 10-year-old Lab mix named Gruner to work several days a week.
“We’ve always been dog-friendly,” Diesing said. “It’s a nice calming effect to have a dog laying around when people are shopping. We let customers bring their dogs in.”
He said that Gruner has his own “fan club” – some customers will shop in the store only when they know Gruner will be there. People who enter the store usually like that a dog is there to greet them, Diesing said.
Similarly, customers at Autobahn Automotive know to look for Duke when they walk in. The 11-year-old black lab, who belongs to office manager Matthew Drake, has been coming to the office almost every day since Drake got him in 2008.
“He likes people more than he likes other dogs,” Drake said. “I know for us, he’s just a part of the team pretty much. He’s almost like an employee.”
Patrick Casey, manager for Green Front Interiors & Rugs, “employs” his 5-year-old Maltipoo named Walter – as a model. Walter frequently comes into the store to pose for photos used in the store’s advertising.
Casey said that he thinks smaller businesses are more likely to have dogs in the workplace because they have fewer overarching rules and regulations to deal with.
“If we were Pottery Barn, I certainly wouldn’t be able to bring him in,” he said.
These benefits of having dogs in the workplace have been documented in recent studies.
According to a 2016 report by Banfield Pet Hospital, a pet-friendly office contributes to a sense of well-being, reduced stress, greater work-life balance and reduced guilt about leaving a pet at home. It can also lead to improved work relationships, increased productivity and the ability to work longer hours.
In addition, 83 percent of employees surveyed said they had a greater sense of loyalty to their employers when there were pet-friendly policies in place and that 88 percent said having pets at work improves morale.
Traci Lorraine Farmer, owner of Crazy Combs Salon who brings her English Golden Retriever Walter to work, said having him there attracts clients, especially those who don’t have pets of their own.
“I think there is something very therapeutic about petting dogs and receiving unconditional love from them,” she said.
Timothy Schwarzauer, founder of Dingo Dog Brewery Company near Carrboro, said his employees would agree. His Australian Cattle Dog mix Dingo is the unofficial chairman of the board and the company’s namesake. Dingo and Schwarzauer’s 5-year-old mix named Suzie spend one or two days a week at the brewery, which is on a farm in Orange County.
“We very much believe in the therapy that dogs provide,” Schwarzauer said. “There’s a kind of unconditional love that they provide to everyone who interacts with them. They’re very much a calming presence and part of our families.”
He said the dogs also loving being able to run around the pastures.
But what about the potential problems with having dogs around?
Some people are afraid of dogs and others may get distracted by the animals.
Having a dog scare or bite a customer is certainly a concern, but this is typically easy to resolve, said Diesing of Seaboard Wine.
“If a customer is a little skittish about a dog, we can bring it to the back room,” he said. “It’s a very rare occurrence. We have more of a problem with unruly children than dogs.”
Most employers also make sure that their employees’ pets are housebroken, well-behaved and vaccinated before allowing them in the office.
As for the best breeds to bring to the office? Brown said there is no ideal type.
“I’ve seen pit bulls that are the best dog in the entire world and Chihuahua that you wouldn’t want anybody touching,” she said. “I think it depends on the dog.”