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  • Dogs in the workplace


    Unless the workplace happens to be a groomers, a doggy day care or a dog training facility, the odds of your boss letting you take your dog to work with you are still pretty low. But, as Bob Dylan once wrote “times they are a changin”. With the ever-increasing stress that seems to accompany paid employment nowadays, some more enlightened companies are beginning to soften to the idea of bringing dogs into an office environment so that the employees can take stress breaks by being with their dogs.

    Numerous studies have objectively demonstrated that the simple act of stroking a dog reduces a person’s heart rate and blood pressure and, for humans, the act of petting a dog can trigger the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin.

    Now I’m not suggesting that everyone and his brother should ambush their boss and demand to have their dog present with them at work! There are many environments that are completely unsuitable for dogs at any time. Being on the factory floor can be dangerous enough for humans sometimes, let alone have dogs there. The fact that dogs need to be supervised can rule out many work environments where a person cannot guarantee 100% supervision. A person working with heavy machinery, for example, needs to be able to concentrate on the job at hand and not be distracted by what his or her dog may be getting up to.

    The one category of dog that has, by law, had access to the workplace, subject to safety concerns, for many years is the certified service dog. These dogs have access to workplaces to enable their owners to fulfill their work obligations rather than simply be a stress reliever, although the owners would invariably say that these dogs are fulfilling that role as well.

    Employees who are allergic to dogs or fearful of dogs can be a barrier to introducing man’s best friend into the workplace. However unfortunate it is, not everyone welcomes dogs with open arms and careful research should be carried out ahead of time by any company thinking of relaxing it’s policy to allow employees to bring dogs to work.

    Going from a policy of “No Dogs” to “Bring whatever dog you like” into the workplace may be too big a leap so some organizations have started with a different approach: bringing therapy dogs into the workplace on specific days and allowing employees some downtime to be with the dogs. Community Therapy Dogs was asked recently by Calgary Revenue Agency in the Harry Hays building downtown to bring dogs into their offices. A friend involved in therapy dog work in Victoria has experienced a similar request from the B.C. Provincial Government. Baby steps.

    One other angle I’d like to throw out there is to do with doggy daycares. Many people realize how dogs enjoy socializing with other dogs and, for many, doggy daycare is the only means of achieving that. We’ve had a number of the larger (generally) companies provide day care for employees’ young children. Why not start providing doggy daycare as well?

    My own feeling is that in the next 5-10 years we will see more dogs in the workplace than ever before as people understand the therapeutic benefits of being with dogs. I guess time will tell.