The office dog. A good idea…or barking mad?

Recently a friend entered a debate on LinkedIn about whether an office dog is a good idea or not. Last time I looked the thread had 150 contributions. Given that the normal threads tend to fizzle out at half a dozen, one thing is beyond debate – we have far more interests in discussing dogs than business issues!

Recently a friend entered a debate on LinkedIn about whether an office dog is a good idea or not. Last time I looked the thread had 150 contributions. Given that the normal threads tend to fizzle out at half a dozen, one thing is beyond debate – we have far more interests in discussing dogs than business issues!

In my contribution I posted a picture of Stig our office dog and explained that on balance we thought he had a positive impact on our staff. The picture received 9 likes almost immediately.

As you would expect there was a mix of responses. The mood was overwhelmingly supportive of a dog in the office, some of the other comments:

  • “Only if it doesn’t bite people” (no kidding….)
  • “I have a dog phobia”
  • “Not a good idea if it toilets in the office” (ever heard of house training?)
  • “As long as you do a proper risk assessment” (don’t you just love health and safety people…)
  • “I have allergies”

Starting with the employment legal situation, there is no reason not to have a dog in the office, or for that matter in a restaurant (though they shouldn’t be in the kitchen.) A ban on dogs is a local decision by restaurateurs, office owners etc. Concentrating on offices, we business owners do have a general duty of care to our employees and while there are no legal protections for people with phobias or allergies, common sense would suggest we should separate them from dogs if the dog is the issue.

Now clearly I have a personal involvement in this topic since Catherine and I bring our dog Stig (named after ‘Stig of the Dump,’ nothing to do with Top Gear) to the office. New recruits are warned that we have a dog prior to interview, visiting clients similarly. If there is a strong client objection (none to date) we’ll meet elsewhere, if a potential new recruit objects, we won’t take them further in the process. That is our choice and nothing in law can force us out of that.

So, now that we know that the law does not ban office dogs, nor can it, is it a good idea to bring a dog to work? To prepare the answer to that I thought it only fair to ask myHRdept staff who said that Stig’s presence is a positive thing, that he makes the office feel more homely, that ‘something is missing’ when he’s not there and that he has a therapeutic value to them. The only negative was that they felt unable to console him properly when Catherine and I are both away, to be fair he does howl a bit. They also said that although Stig isn’t distracting, a less well behaved dog would be more of a problem.

From our point of view, Stig is an ice breaker when new clients meet us here, and he makes sure we get fresh air every day, even when it’s raining – he insists on a lunchtime walk, and we’re fortunate to be surrounded by lovely countryside and open lawns – perfect for ball play. Not every office will be suitable for a dog and not every dog will be suitable for an office. Overall though it appears the office dog is a positive thing albeit some rules might be necessary. I’m looking forward to our first client request to write an ‘Office Dog Policy and Procedure’.

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