Today was Bring Your Dog to Work Day. It’s a day that’s of particular interest to me, as I’ve written a book on the topic of office dogs. I’m very excited to say that this will be published in Norwegian a little later in the year by publishers Huldra, and in English in early 2019 by Hubble and Hattie. Keep an eye on this website and on Hubble and Hattie’s website for further information on the English version….
But not wanting the day to pass unmarked this year, I posted a video on my Facebook page with some hints and tips for bringing your dog to work (find it here!). Below you’ll find some more information on some of the things I mentioned in the video. If you’re working for one of the 8% of companies for whom every day is bring your dog to work day and you’re thinking about bringing your dog into work more frequently, this information may still be useful for you to consider in advance of doing so!
- If this is going to be your dog’s first time in the office, it may be worth trying to get them in for a ten minute visit over the next few days when the office is quiet. Dogs are curious creatures who spend a lot of time investigating their environment. Giving them the opportunity to do this ahead of bringing them in for a longer period of time will help them feel more secure and make it easier for them to settle.
- If you’re worried about accidents, when you bring the dog in for the reccy, or if you beat the rest of your colleagues in in the morning, it’s a good idea to scatter some food for them. Dog’s don’t tend to want to go to the toilet where they eat, so if their first association with your office floor is that it’s a place for eating, you reduce the chance of them peeing there!
- To quote veterinary behaviourist Amber Batson, ‘calmness is a way of life, not a trained behaviour’. If you want your dog to be calm in the office, promoting calm behaviour the rest of the time will make this much more likely! It’s not uncommon for people who bring their dogs to the office to try and tire them out by engaging them in fast exercise like ball chasing or other fast play before work or on their lunch break. While this might give you a quick win because the dog will initially be physically tired, their system will remain full of adrenaline and other glucocorticoids for hours after. These stress hormones make your dog more likely to engage in undesirable behaviours like barking/ reacting to other dogs or people/ or being hyperactive. Activities that use the brain like slow sniffy walks, puzzles or nose work are a better way to tire your dog out in a calmer way.
- Think about your journey into work. No matter how you’re getting there, allow extra time! If you need to travel to work by public transport bear in mind that there can be restrictions on dogs on public transport. Dogs can often ride buses at the bus driver’s discretion. Public transport can be really unpleasant for dogs at peak times too- being in crowded spaces with people who may stand on their paws or tails, or insist upon petting them can be stressful. Travelling off-peak can make this a more enjoyable experience for your dog. If you’re walking, allow plenty of time for your dog to sniff- trying to drag them along at your pace will be frustrating for you both, and your dog will miss out on all the mental stimulation that comes with sniffing! If you’re travelling by car, make sure you factor in time for a short walk between the car ride and getting to the office so your dog can go to the toilet if they need to.
- Create as calm and quiet a space as possible for your dog in the office. It’s going to be a long and tiring day for your dog, so allowing them as much down time as possible is important! It’s likely that many of your colleagues are going to want to greet your dog. Watch your dog’s body language for signs of stress- your dog may lick their lips, look away, move away, or yawn. These are what we call calming signals, and dogs use them when they’re feeling worried or threatened or are trying to diffuse a situation or communicate peaceful intent. You can find more information on calming signal in Turid Rugaas’s book ‘Calming Signals; On Talking Terms with Dogs’. Encouraging your colleagues to allow the dog approach them rather than vice versa, and making sure your dog can move away when they want to can make these interactions as pleasant as possible. If your dog is looking uncomfortable, help them out!
Things to bring:
- Food and water; dogs need access to fresh water at all times. Depending on your dog’s food routine, you may or may not want to bring food. Having treats on hand may be useful, especially if there are going to be coffee breaks. Dogs always like to be included in any eating that’s happening!
- Clean up stuff- accidents happen! It might go without saying, but I would recommend bringing a roll of kitchen paper to soak up any accidents, some carpet cleaner if you have carpet and some disinfectant spray if you have hard floors. And don’t forget the poo bags! Dogs need to pee when they get excited or stressed, so don’t be surprised if there are accidents, and be sure that they have plenty of toilet breaks.
- Things to chew: chewing a really nice way to keep your dog entertained and to relax them. Chewing releases happy, stress busting hormones in the brain, and providing appropriate things to chew can reduce the chances of them finding their own things to chew. In my experiences dogs in need of things to chew in offices often go for wires! In my house, natural chews are always popular- pizzles, ears, dried tendons, moon bars etc. Some are smellier than others, so worth trialling these before bringing them to work if you don’t want to alienate your colleagues! My go-to webshop for good quality chews is woofs to kittys.
- Interactive games- my personal favourite is a snuffle mat! I use (and sell!) these ones from Knauder’s best. The idea is to hide food in them which the
dog can sniff out. This is a tiring, calming activity, and once done, the dog will often use the mat as a bed! If you don’t have a snuffle mat, scattering treats in long grass is just as good. Or I’m going to link you below to a video by one of my PDTE colleagues showing how you can use a towel or blanket to play similar games.
5. bed and comfort things. Dogs do about 40% of their sleeping during the day. Bringing a cosy bed to work, and putting it in a quiet spot by/under your desk will set them up for success on this front. Cushions, soft toys etc can also be added for extra comfort. And don’t let your colleagues disturb your dog if they’re sleeping! Tired dogs can be hyperactive and restless, something I’m betting you don’t want in the office.
I’ve recently started offering lunchtime talks to dog-friendly workplaces in Dublin on topics such as creating a calm dog, canine communication and suitable lunch time activities for dogs. If your workplace is dog friendly, I would be delighted to come and speak to your staff about doggy topics of your choice, or to run some dog-friendly lunchtime activities.
If you’re thinking about turning ‘dog-friendly’ why not arrange a consultation to discuss the pros and cons, the things to consider, and what you can do to create a workplace that is truly dog-friendly, rather than one that just allows dogs!
My new book ‘Office Dogs; The Manual’ is now available to pre-order on Amazon. Find it here!