June 21 officially marks Take Your Dog to Work Day for 2013, but at places like healthy, all-natural dog food and treat company DogsWell, it's Take Your Dog to Work Day every day.
"It sets a different tone in the office; it takes stress down a notch," says Brad Armistead, vice president of marketing and innovation at Dogswell. "From an employee attraction and retention aspect, it's a major plus."
For Dogswell, there's an added bonus: Workers are surrounded by their customers—dogs—giving the company, which makes healthy dog food and treats, an instant source of eager taste testers.
So how does it work? Aside from making sure the office is outfitted with dog-friendly flooring (not carpeting), Armistead says taking your dog to work boils down to a simple policy: First, dogs can't be a distraction that hampers work. Second, dogs need to play nice—no four-legged office brawls allowed.
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At Armistead's office, workers bring in all kinds of pet dogs, from 4-pound Chihuahuas to 76-pound pit bulls—and everything in between. Turns out, the office pack leader is a medium-size mixed breed.
And it works out. The pets enjoy the interaction and walks during the day when they would normally be home alone, and the employees tap into the stress-lowering qualities of pets. "When you're at your desk cranking out email and you see your pup staring at you, wondering why you're stressed out—it reminds you to take a break every now and then, go play with the dog," Armistead says. "It reduces stress; there's a calming effect throughout the office."
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We tapped Dogswell and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for tips on making Take Your Dog to Work Day a successful outing.
Here are 11 ways to prep for Take Your Dog to Work Day:
1. Know the rules. Make sure in advance that your office allows dogs. Due to lease agreements, concerns about allergies and other health issues, and management styles, Take Your Dog to Work Day may not be an option with your company. Double-check with your manager. If you get the OK, talk with coworkers to make sure they're comfortable with dogs before visiting their cubicle with your pup.
2. Brush up on etiquette. If your dog greets visitors by jumping on them or can't seem to remember what "sit" means, brush up on commands and make sure the pup understands that you're the leader before venturing into an office setting with him. For tips, visit ASPCA's Dog Behavior section.
3. Get social. Plan a few trips to a dog park beforehand. If your dog is uncomfortable meeting new dogs there, she might not be ready for Take Your Dog to Work Day yet. "If dogs are very needy or get uncomfortable or territorial in strange places, they need more socialization first," Armistead suggests.
4. Check your vet records. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations before taking him to the workplace. If your pup's on any meds, be sure to pack them for the big day at work.
5. Come prepared. ASPCA says your doggy daypack should include food, treats, bowls, a leash, paper towels, and something to clean up any accidents. You can even bring a baby gate to cordon off your doggy area. And be sure your pet is wearing a sturdy collar with an ID tag.
6. Get ready for the big day. Make sure your dog is exercised and well hydrated and fed before heading to the office. "They're going to be a lot less stressed out and more accepting of new environments," Armistead says. Be sure to have a water bowl at work, too.
7. Schedule a meeting. When integrating a newly arrived canine into the office scene, put the dog on a leash so it can meet with the other dogs and pet parents outside. If your dog is nervous, meet up with just one or two other dogs, not a large group.
8. Avoid triggers. Don't bring your dog's favorite toy. Although it seems like a good idea, she could get very possessive over her favorite item, potentially triggering a fight with another dog.
9. Schedule around personality differences. If two office dogs just can't seem to get along, work with other pet's parent and stagger office visits so the dogs aren't there at the same time, Armistead suggests.
10. Look for signs of nervousness. Obvious signs of nervousness or stress include the tail between the legs. Small dogs may even shake. If your dog is stressed during your day together at work, go on a short walk outside during your break, and avoid introducing him to a large group of other dogs.
11. Know where your dog is at all times. This goes without saying, but Dogswell learned this the hard way when one of their own was discovered riding the elevator by itself in the middle of the workday!