We all know having pets around helps decrease stress and creates a positive environment...at home. When it comes to bringing your dog to work, you might envision your little fur baby sleeping the day away next to you on their pet bed, disrupting you only with a tiny dog paw scratch to let you know that they have to go to the bathroom...or perhaps a kitty stretch and yawn. This idea sounds amazing, but you know this is Kitty and Doggy Dreamland, right? The reality is pets are, well, animals, and even if yours is an angel most of the time, there is no predicting their behavior in a new environment, no matter how well trained they are. As veterinarians, we want to avoid you getting yourself into a situation that could be dangerous for you and/or your pet.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that pets are allowed at work. There are some places where pets can’t come to work. These places include but are not limited to restaurants, grocery stores, most retail, healthcare, etc. What is the pet-at-work policy? Some companies are very strict while others are more flexible. Wherever your employment lands on this spectrum, follow those guidelines. We will cover some of those as well as some unspoken pet-at-work etiquette. If you are allowed to bring your beloved pet to work, you want to do so without disrupting production and making the rest of the workplace uncomfortable.
1. Your Pet Should Be Cleared By Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian should examine your pet and ensure that vaccinations are up to date along with any preventatives, such as flea and tick and heartworm medications. If your dog or cat changes their lifestyle, your veterinarian can help ensure that they have all they need to remain protected. You may be required to show proof of vaccinations before being allowed to bring your pet and have a copy of their rabies certificate available.
2. Ensure Good Behavior With Proper Training
Your pet should be okay with people and other animals. You want to watch for signs of stress in your pet and be prepared to leave if it becomes too much for your dog or cat. Your dog should have basic obedience training. You can even go a step further and have them go through AKC Good CItizen Training and certification. When your dog goes through professional training, it puts them in situations where they can learn and have a trainer identify behaviors that you may have inadvertently become blind to. Unfortunately, there isn’t a service like this for cats, but you can talk to your veterinarian about how they feel your cat would behave in an office environment.
3. Ensure Your Pet Gets Breaks
Dogs need breaks for mental and physical stimulation and, of course, to relieve themselves! You don’t want your dog to have accidents at work. Setting a schedule will help you know when your dog will need a break, and this also allows you to get moving and stretch your legs. If your workplace has an off-leash area, this is an excellent opportunity to let your dog get some exercise. If they don’t, however, keep your dog on a leash at all times.
A 10 to 15-minute break to let your dog outside and stretch your legs a couple of times a day is perfect, but if you are unable to make sure that your lunch includes a nice walk with your dog and make it quality time, it is best for both of you if you leave your phone off. Your dog may be getting their “pee-mail,” but you need to be alert so that they don’t pick something up that they should not be getting into. If you are bringing a cat to the office or another pet that doesn’t need outdoor exercise, you should still take breaks to spend with them and enjoy the benefits of having them at your work.
4. Arrange For How to Care For Pets During Meetings
If people are coming to you, let them know that you will have your dog or cat with you. Some people are not fond of animals or even have allergies. If your dog is more active, you may want to schedule that break before so the meeting doesn’t become more about your dog and keeps them from trying to get everyone’s attention.
If you are taking your pet to a meeting, check beforehand if it is OK to bring your pet with you. Keep your pet on the leash at all times and close to you. You can even bring a toy to keep them occupied; avoid toys that can be loud or distracting to those in the meeting.
5. Familiarize Your Pet With the Office
In the beginning, your dog may be excited to be in a new place. Your cat is likely to be a bit nonplussed—because, cats. Take the time to show your dog around, just like you would if they were a new employee. You don’t have to go into every office, but the ones that you may frequent. Bring lots of treats for people to give to your dog so that he/she knows that everyone there is their friend.
The same concept applies to being around other office dogs; ask the owner if their pet is friendly with other dogs. Slowly introduce them and watch their body language. If either of their bodies become tense or they start to growl, separate and try again another day. Or take a walk together in neutral territory. When you take your pet around the office a few times, they know where they are and can be more comfortable when they are with you.
6. Arrange For Ways For Your Pet to Amuse Themselves
Your dog may get bored as you are sitting there at your desk and may not realize that you are doing something even though only your hands are moving as you type on your keyboard. Having toys that are good for solo play or puzzle games will help to keep their mind going. When they are done playing, or maybe they aren’t as active, provide your pet with a bed and their own space.
The bottom line is that you need to know your dog or cat as, even if your office does allow pets, yours might not be the type to do well there. You don’t want to add more stress on yourself by having to take care of your dog while trying to get work done. Perhaps you take them to work a couple of days a week and consider dog boarding or doggy daycare on the other days. Most importantly, be aware of how having your pet may be affecting others. Bringing your dog to the office is a privilege that companies offer to some of their employees, and it only takes a few people to ruin it for everyone.
If you want to know what we think when it comes to your dog or cat’s behavior and readiness to be an office pet, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!