By Chantal Hughes
We know there is a link between happiness in the workplace and increased productivity.
Findings from research coming out of Virginia Commonwealth University in the USA report that “[m]an’s best friend may make a positive difference in the workplace by reducing stress and making the job more satisfying for other employees.” (Barker et al., 2012).
Great news, right? Yes, generally.
Not All Dogs Are Office Dogs
And here’s the but…as long as the dog has an experienced handler. And it’s also important to note that, just as not all dogs are dog park dogs, not all dogs are going to be office dogs.
But here are 10 steps to ensure that your office dog’s life is enriched and that the dog feels comfortable
- Always consult company health and safety regulations to embrace employee fears, allergies and emotions.
- Introduce your pet dog gradually to human workspaces. Consider what has he been exposed or habituated to before. Has he experienced riding in a crowded lift? Or multiple interior floor surfaces? Build his confidence slowly and at his own pace.
- Is he good at generalizing? Can he apply all your hard work and training to a new environment? How’s his ‘leave it’ cue when he locates your colleague’s ham sandwich?
- Manage his access. Use baby gates to prevent following his nose into areas such as kitchens, restrooms, conference rooms and so on. You can also have him wear his harness and attach a long line, in case you need to make any quick interventions.
- Make sure your stress-relieving companion has a cool zone where he can withdraw and relax in safety. A bed or crate where he is ‘out of bounds’ to everyone is crucial, so he too can have his downtime.
- Know your dog. This sounds obvious doesn’t it? For some dogs, attention without their consent can be punishing and stressful. Make sure your dog is positively rewarded for all his good behavior. If he’s uncomfortable, ask the person to back off and/or remove him to his cool zone.
- Understand your dog’s body language better than anyone else. Look out for the many signs of stress, insecurity, fearful behavior, or low-level aggression. Here are just a few – panting, lip licking, freezing, tail carriage and speed of movement, whale eye, tension around his mouth, paw lifts, body weight and tension, shake-offs, looking away, sniffing, yawning, nose flicks and licks.
Signals That Are Red Flags
These are signals or ‘red flags’ from your dog to you that he is uncomfortable and it’s time for you to step in, help him, and offer him ‘time out.’ If your dog’s temperament isn’t suited to being the office dog, or he’s clearly not enjoying it, leave him at home!
Respect his polite requests for help as if ignored these signs could escalate. Equally, watch for carry on or ‘green flag’ signals from him that invite continued interaction.
These include wiggly body, windmill tail, ears back and open, squinty or almond eyes, leaning into someone and relaxed commissure/muzzle.
- Visit iSpeakDogto learn more about canine body language to be sure you recognize any signs of stress.
- Always have a plan B! Dogs have feelings and emotions too and there will be days he feels unwell or simply doesn’t feel like being a stress buster, so always allow him a day off!
- Get into a routine of work, breaks and exercise. Always pack a day bag for your dog to include, water bowls, poop bags, bed/crate, treats, toys, and a well-stuffed Kong.
Barker, R.T., Knisely, J.S., Barker, S.B., Cobb, R.K., & Schubert, C.M. (2012). Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions. International Journal of Workplace Health Management
iSpeakDog. (n.d.). Body Language Gallery
Rugaas, T. (2013). Calming Signals – The Art of Survival