3 dogs in office
Below is Jerry, wearing his shades. Shiloh is in the left chair, Finn in the right. Best buds! Photo by Mary Buck.
June 23 is Take Your Dog to Work Day®. Yay! Right?
While a group of dogs unknown to each other can all get along, there's the tiny possibility of a riot. Envision a movie scene in which several dogs are running around in an office, knocking over trash cans, barking the moment you step out of sight, and bumping things off desks in a spirited and recurring game of wrestle-bitey-face. Oops, they knocked over Bob, who just had a hip replacement a while back. Uh, Bob, let me call the EMTs, since you can't stand up... So sorry about that.
Sadly, there's also the possibility of dog fights. (Boy, if you thought the guy three cubicles down didn't like you before....)
Get the right dogs into the mix, and the above Scenario A is a possibility.
There's also the possibility of Scenario B: a lovely, happy day at the office seeing different dogs calmly resting near their owners' desks, looking adorable and searching for love in all the right faces (i.e., the people who come to say hello or "Gosh, you're gorgeous!") Petting dogs lowers our blood pressure, which is beneficial in any office. It's good for bonding with co-workers as it humanizes us to each other. It's good for the dogs, as they get a new experience and a special day celebrating the human-animal bond with the person they love most.
Significant wonderfulness can be experienced on this day as long as the people who bring their dogs in have a good idea of how their dog will react. If your dog is a 6-month old Lab who either sleeps or is blitzing around at high speed and barks from excitement, he's not likely to make people happy, although he might make the other dogs happy. If your dog is a tiny lap dog who hasn't quite yet conquered housetraining, he is also not likely to make people happy. If your dog is dirty, smelly, and in clear need of a bath, the dogs may love him but your coworkers may park you both outside on a picnic table.
And most of all, if your dog is fearful or aggressive, an office is not his kind of environment. You're not trying to scare the wits out of your dog or your coworkers. There are legal liabilities for bites, and your dog's aggressive behavior could make your life at work more difficult for a long time to come.
Before you decide to bring your dog to work, you should know enough about your dog's temperament to know how he would react to being in an office. If you are at all concerned about your dog's, don't bring him in. Only arrive with four extra feet if you are absolutely certain your dog will enjoy the day, display good behavior, and not disrupt your coworkers. It's not just Bring Your Dog Day, it's Bring Your Dog to Work Day: people still have to work so they can pay for the kibble.
Some people are afraid of dogs, and spending a day near your dog isn't likely to change that. You didn't know that Juan was bitten by a big dog when he was a wee child and is deathly afraid of your gregarious, everybody's-my-BFF-Labrador, but you're going to find out quickly.
Any dog trainer knows the potential pitfalls that come with bringing dogs in; they go beyond driving Juan into a state of terror for the day. He's closing the door to his office, trembling with fear, and scanning the hallway for the stuff of his nightmares.
Dog trainer Mary Buck brings one of her dogs to work every day, and considers her ability to do so a huge perk in her lake-front office near Seattle. Each cube has a baby gate or crate to keep the dogs in when the owners are busy. The dog owners get to work early for a pre-work romp before the day gets busy so the dogs aren't pent up. There is water in every cube and every dog owner has treats. The dogs are walked together about three times a day to go potty. The people who bring their dogs into that office have a good understanding of each others' dogs and have permission to discipline or treat as needed.
"Dogs in the office don't work unless you have some rules and guidelines," said Buck. "The minute there is a problem, they would be out so we all work very hard to make sure they are good. It's a privilege, not a right."
Those dogs come in every day, so it's routine. For many dogs, it's only one day a year and therefore kind of like second-graders going to the zoo on a field trip: a tiny bit noisier than usual.
Poor behavior and liability for bites aren't the only considerations, of course.
Dogs and people share diseases; they're called zoonotic diseases. Dogs or the parasites on dogs can give them to people. Sometimes it's no-big-deal-but-really-freaking-annoying stuff like ringworm, sometimes it's the less than pleasant stuff like Salmonella, and you always have to hope a dog is vaccinated against rabies.
There can be parasites 'a popping on dogs. Ticks carry tick-borne diseases like Lyme and like to hitchhike on dogs. Fleas can jump ship to another host ("Look, Sid, there's another dog, let's go party!") so critters that didn't come in with you might find a way home with you.
Then there's the contagious stuff: right now, there's a resurgence of one of the two strains of canine influenza. Hopefully no one would bring a sick dog to work.
Compared to the possibililty of behavior-related problems, however, the other concerns are minimal, and depending on where you are geographically, the most likely non-behavior concerns are fleas and exposure to canine influenza.
Considerate dog owners will think out the pros and cons of bringing Fido in for the day; of course, participation depends on how employers feel about it, and their permission is 100 percent necessary. When it works well, Take Your Dog to Work Day is a spectacular day full of human-animal bonding, relaxation, lowered blood pressure, and improved human relationships; when it doesn't work well, someone is responsible for a dog bite, dog fight, broken computer, urine stains on the carpeting, and a company's end to participation in the day. You need to know your dog and your colleagues before Fido hops into your carpool, all anticipatory for an adventure.
Be sure your dog is healthy and ready for the day, or leave him home where he can't poop in your boss's office, no matter how much you may want him to.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.