Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

Dogs in the Workplace

Nearly one in five companies allows pets in the workplace.

There are a lot of dogs in North America -- according to the most recent The American Pet Products Association survey, there are over 77.5 million pet dogs in the United States. In acknowledgment of this, and the fact that dog owners like spending time with their furry companions, many managers of outdoor restaurants and bars, hotels and motels, retail stores, and other venues, have begun to relax restrictions on allowing dogs into their establishments. Many report that being more permissive about people bringing their pets seems to help their bottom line.

dog dogs workplace employment business pet pets
Perhaps one major indicator of society's more relaxed attitude toward the presence of dogs is the fact that this year on Friday, June 24, will mark the 13th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day. The first Take Your Dog to Work Day was held in 1999, and it was meant to be both a celebration of our companionship with dogs and also designed to encourage the adoption of dogs from humane societies, animal shelters, and rescue organizations. This first event involved only 300 businesses, while this year more than 5000 businesses in the U.S. have expressed their interest in participating.

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Allowing employees to bring their dogs to work with them on regular business days is apparently much more common than most people tend to believe. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that nearly one in five companies in the United States allows pets in the workplace. Still many employers remain skeptical about the feasibility of bringing dogs into the work environment. Perhaps they would feel more at ease about this if they knew that a number of surveys suggest that the majority of people are quite positive about the possibility of having their dogs with them during the work day.

For example, in 2006 the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association published a 375 page survey that tracked hundreds of pet ownership trends and attitudes of working Americans who were 18 years of age and over. Based upon that research they reach some striking conclusions:

  • 55 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace leads to a more creative environment
  • 53 million believe having pets in the workplace decreases absenteeism
  • 50 million believe having pets in the workplace helps co-workers get along better
  • 38 million believe having pets in the workplace creates a more productive work environment
  • 32 million believe having pets in the workplace decreases smoking in the workplace
  • 37 million believe having pets in the workplace helps improve the relationship between managers and their employees
  • 46 million people who bring their pets to the workplace work longer hour

Obviously the response to having dogs in the workplace will not be universally positive since some people may have allergies to animal fair and dander, others may be afraid of dogs, and even others might have religious or cultural objections to having to working in close association with dogs. However, on balance these objections are relatively rare. The sponsors of this year's Take Your Dog to Work Day have provided a kit for companies and interested people who might like to participate but need some more information, and this may be downloaded from http://www.takeyourdog.com/

As a psychologist it seems to me that something like Take Your Dog to Work Day could provide the perfect test to see if dogs would comfortably fit into a particular workplace, and would also offer some data to test future dog policies in a particular company. At the very least, in these times of economic difficulties, when many of the more social activities that businesses used to offer to boost employee morale, such as company parties etc. are being cut back, participating in such an event would provide a low cost up beat occasion for employees in any business.

If you have any experience (positive or negative) with dogs in your workplace, I would be interested in hearing from you.

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark, The Modern Dog, Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History, How Dogs Think, How To Speak Dog, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs, Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies, Sleep Thieves, The Left-hander Syndrome

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

 

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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