A few years ago, I posted about some of the benefits of bringing dogs to work, including higher productivity, lower stress, better social cohesion, and better teamwork. A recent article in USA Today cites even more research to prove what dog owners instinctively know: Pets decrease stress in a tangible way, by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. They increase our opportunities to socialize and exercise.
In fact, the article cites a 2012 study conducted at a single workplace in North Carolina, which revealed that workplace stress levels of employees who brought their dogs to work decreased by 11% as the day progressed. Employees who didn’t bring their dogs (or didn’t have dogs to bring) saw stress levels rise a whopping 70% in the same timeframe.
All of these benefits help explain the continuing office trend to allow dogs at work. Surveys show that about one in five employers allow employees to bring dogs to work, including the Daily Show and Google. (Those who consider themselves “dog people ” rather than “animal people” have to love their gentle rebuff of the feline: “we like cats, but we’re a dog company.” Me too, The Google; me too.)
And those are just the human benefits: For the dogs, the benefits might be even greater. Dogs get to enjoy the company of their human companions for more of the day. They get to scrounge scraps from coworkers. They get treats, belly rubs, and head scratches from office dog lovers. And, for some dogs, the opportunity to go to work lowers their stress as much as it lowers ours; it may even save their lives.
Pet ownership is at an all-time high, according to the American Pet Products Association. Almost half of all households in this country have a dog. But it can be hard to take care of a dog when you’re a working stiff. Dogs need to use the facilities, exercise, socialize, and get their mental stimulation, just like we do. If a family member, friend, or paid helper isn’t available to meet these needs, dogs will figure out other ways — ways less friendly to furniture, carpets, and possibly neighbors — to get things done. Older dogs may be fine on their own all day, with the help of some chew toys and a doggie door. But for younger dogs and recently acquired dogs, more supervision is better.
That’s my personal angle on the dogs at work issue: It’s a great way to help more dogs get adopted and stay that way. My employer has been dog-friendly for its entire 40+ year history. Once a week, one of my dogs comes to work. Every once in a while, I stop by the office while walking a dog from our municipal shelter, Berkeley Animal Care Services, like red-headed beauty Flora. And recently, I was able to help a friend and her newly adopted dog get over the “home alone” hump by bringing teenage heartthrob Richmond to work with me for a few days. This allowed Richmond to socialize with lots of new people, get used to behaving calmly in a new environment, and have some time to settle in with his new family; now, he’s a successful stay-at-home companion to canine siblings (including little Bimo, pictured above) and human grandparents. (And my own dogs didn’t seem too sad about the opportunity to sleep in.)
Looking for your own dog to bring to work? Visit your local shelter! If you’re in one of the counties that participates in Maddie’s Fund Pet Adoption Days (San Francisco and Alameda County are), you can adopt your pet free on the first weekend in June — and be all set for Take Your Dog to Work Day on June 21.