Pet dogs are the new must-have accessory at the smarter office

Companies are using animal magnetism to reduce stress in the workplace and hang on to staff

After a half-hour walk to work each morning, Joy likes to grab a drink and head to her desk … where she promptly curls up underneath it and has a nap.

Joy is an eight-month-old golden retriever and she goes to the office with her owner, Carol DuPuis. These days, especially at tech companies, you’re as likely to find a dog in the office as you are a pot plant or watercooler. For startups particularly, allowing dogs is an easy, cheap way of attracting and retaining millennials, on top of the free snacks, pinball machines and gym membership.

The Google code of conduct states “affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture”. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in – reception desks are stocked with biscuits, some water fountains are set at dog height, and there’s an off-leash park – also open to the public – where staff can exercise their pets.

DuPuis is a partnerships manager at ReachNow, a US car-sharing app. “My favourite part about bringing Joy into the office is the joy she brings to my colleagues – pun intended. It’s tough not to love the puppy energy, it just feels so nice,” she said. Joy spends part of her day sleeping, but she also joins DuPuis for meetings and likes to sniff around for bits of peanut butter pretzel that have fallen on the floor.

Gemma Huckle, head of content and culture at London brands agency Rooster Punk, knows all about the pleasure dogs can bring. Her French bulldog, Amelie, has changed the mood in the office since her arrival two years ago.

Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.
Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Huckle said: “She’s made it feel like a home from home: the atmosphere is warmer and more sociable. If someone’s feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed out, they usually come and see the dog. Just five minutes pampering or playing with her seems to perk everyone up. Having the dog is also great for our physical health, as it gives everyone an excuse to get out of the office and get some air.”

Amelie was crowned StartPup 2016 after Rooster Punk shot a video of her in the office and entered her in the world’s first competition to find the best dog belonging to a startup. Huckle recommends having dogs at work. “It helps staff bond and I think it reinforces positive work behaviours – people seem to be more friendly and approachable.”

Around 8% of US and UK employers allow dogs at work. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88% think pets at work improve morale and 86% say they reduce stress.

Laura Wolf, global content manager at digital creative agency Possible, based in Seattle, said her chihuahua-dachshund mix, Boomer, is a “real morale booster”. She also helps break the ice with new colleagues. “You get to know people through your dog, people stop to cuddle her. She’ll sit on my lap during meetings; sleep next to my desk while I’m working; visit colleagues she knows who’ll give her a treat.”

Being able to take dogs to work was a major perk, Wolf said. “Younger people are getting married way later and choosing to have a pet instead of a child early on. Doggy daycare is expensive and it’s great to have that flexibility of being able to take your dog around with you.

“It’s beneficial to the company as well. The likelihood of people having to leave to get home to their dog or come in late because they’re walking their dog is much less.”

Companies have rules to ensure workplaces are safe, especially for staff or clients with allergies. At Possible, for example, dogs must be vaccinated, they can’t be aggressive or run around off-leash, and they are asked not to return if they foul the office more than three times.

Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk.
Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk. Photograph: Handout

In the UK, dogs have long been going into offices in the pet sector, such as Pets at Home, Mars Petcare and the charity Blue Cross, and they are becoming welcome at other types of businesses too, for example model agency Next Management and online retailer Firebox.

In the US firms such as Ben & Jerry’s and Build-a-Bear Workshop allow dogs, and the idea is spreading to the public sector. The department of the interior is to trial take-your-dog-to-work days, the first federal government office to do so. Dogs are also becoming more common in places such as dental surgeries, boutiques and hair salons.

Dentist Cameron Garrett and his wife Debra, a hygienist, take their elderly rescue dog, Karma, to their practice in Corte Madera, California. Debra said: “Some of our patients are dental-phobic and say that having Karma on their lap makes all the difference – and many more just like dogs.

“Karma keeps me calm too and makes my day feel that much nicer. I’m dental-phobic myself. I needed a filling recently and bought Karma with me and it does help. I know from both sides of the chair.”


Lucy Rock

The GuardianTramp

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