Working dogs - giving canine colleagues a warm welcome

WORKPLACE CULTURE: Dogs can have a positive impact on an office. Picture: Shutterstock
WORKPLACE CULTURE: Dogs can have a positive impact on an office. Picture: Shutterstock

With a return to the office hopefully on the cards in coming months, some people might be thinking of taking their dog into work - especially if you've adopted a new dog during the pandemic.

We're big fans of dog-friendly workplaces - the RSPCA office is no exception - and pet dogs in the office can be a very positive experience for both workers and the dogs.

There are a few things to consider though before taking your dog in, to make sure it does not adversely impact the health or welfare of either your human or canine co-workers.

Before taking your dog to work

It might sound obvious, but before taking your dog to work - check your workplace is okay with it.

Some work environments may not be appropriate for dogs and some of your co-workers might have valid reasons for preferring not to have dogs in the workplace, such as severe allergies or phobias.

If you've got the green light, check your dog is healthy and also that they're up to date with their vaccinations and parasite control; you want to minimise the potential for them to catch or spread something infectious at work.

Make sure they're clearly identified, including up-to-date details on the microchip register.

Dogs coming to an office should be socialised with the other dogs and people, and should be trained using reward-based positive reinforcement - if you reward calm behaviour in the office, this will make the dog more likely to be calm again in the future.

A comfortable and safe environment

First of all, ensure the office environment is safe for pets.

This includes watching out for hazards like cables, cords and toxic plants, as well as making sure they can't get into rubbish bins and people's food.

Bring your pet's favourite blanket, dog bed, food (plus food treats), as well as food and water bowls. Also having their favourite toys will help keep them busy while you're working.

It's best to place their bed beside your desk or, if you're absent, at the desk of another person your dog knows and trusts so the dog is directly supervised.

Some workplaces set up temporary penned areas using baby gates around the owner's work desk area, which can also work well. Your dog can accompany you into meeting rooms or other areas if appropriate.

Dogs shouldn't have access to the kitchen area. You can prevent this by closing the door or calling them towards you if they do enter the kitchen, and rewarding them when they come to you.

If there are other existing dogs in the office, it's best to introduce the dogs to each other outside the office if they haven't met each other before.

Try introducing them in the car park and taking them for a quick walk together before they enter the office.

During the day

It's always a good idea to exercise your dog in the morning so they're not too excited when they get to work.

Your dog is always going to want to have a bit of free time in the morning to meet any other dogs and say hello to your co-workers.

Make sure you take your dog for a good walk or walks during the day - on your lunch break is a great chance to get out of the office and get some fresh air.

Just avoid feeding your dog immediately before or after exercise.

It's also important to allow time for sufficient toilet breaks. You can reinforce toileting outside by giving your dog a treat after they toilet in the correct place.

If they do accidentally toilet in the office - which can happen because new environments can be exciting and confusing - it's always best to display no reaction and never punish them.

Clean the area thoroughly with a non-ammonia-based cleaning product, found at your local vet or pet supplies store.

We have lots more tips on our Knowledgebase, and we hope that if you do choose to bring your dog to work, following this advice will make it a positive experience for everyone involved.