Dogs at Work

Puppy Orly and big sister Cali, both golden retrievers, relax on a dog bed
Relaxing on the extra-large dog bed is a favorite office pastime

Should you be able to take your pet dog to work?

My office is as dog-friendly a place as you’ll find anywhere: A huge, overflowing toy box and two comfy dog beds are standard features. The window seat boasts a cozy dog rug. In addition to the chew toys and stuffed toys, two snuffle mats are at the ready, alongside a large container of treats. You get the picture.

Cali, a golden retriever, searches for treats in a blue snuffle matBut my office is the upper floor of my home. I’m the only one who has to like the idea of dogs, dog hair, dog toys underfoot, and the occasional vocal interruption. Well, my teammates are all dog lovers, so when the dogs chime in on a Zoom meeting, no one gets too upset. (And their dogs also participate occasionally.)

Post-pandemic, people are reluctant to return to their offices. Pandemic pets who’ve never been left home alone are part of the reason for many workers.

Since we’re also in the midst of a huge reshuffle of workers, offices that want to be the destination rather than the company everyone’s leaving are considering allowing employees to bring their dogs to work. What could go wrong?

Well, for openers, not all dogs are as easygoing as Cali, who enjoyed the amenities while visiting a friend’s co-working space. Some dogs will bark or whine, or even growl at people who walk by. Others are too energetic. Or attention seeking. Or food seeking (& stealing). The truth is, not all dogs are well-behaved or temperamentally suited to be out in public spaces with strangers and unpredictable sounds, sights, and smells.

Then there are the other workers. I love dogs. A lot. But I also get it that not everyone does (their loss …). And that work is stressful enough without worrying about an unfamiliar dog (or even a familiar one) poking her head under the stall door when you’re enjoying a private moment … or rifling through your trash or shedding on your new wool sweater.

Then there’s the question of which dogs get to come to the office and how many at a time and how often and … the areas of contention multiply rapidly.

I’m definitely not opposed to dog-friendly workplaces, but I think it requires a considerable amount of planning. I have heard too many stories of dog-friendliness gone very wrong when the decision to allow “a dog” in the office was made casually.

Anyhow, appealing as the dog-friendly office may be, I am even more strongly in favor of allowing people to work from home. Many of the types of jobs that enable people to have a dog in their office are the exact jobs that can easily be done remotely. Rather than bribe some people to come back using a reward that will drive other workers away … why not just give everyone more flexibility?