Ode to the Office Dog

On Tuesday, a complaint from the marketing strategist: “The dog gets more attention than I do!” Of course. In this agency our office dog Dakota, a Groenendael rescue, is probably the most popular employee. The most popular client-facing employee, even. It’s good to be a dog. Even–or especially–a giant fluffy wolf-shaped dog. Office pets are a key perk in creative industry offices. Broadsheet, a popular Australian food and culture magazine, recently ran an office dog competition on their subsidiary Scout (Confession: We submitted a profile for Dakota but didn’t make it to the final round):

“If you’re looking for ways to lower the stress levels and improve morale in your office, consider becoming a dog-friendly workplace,” says Michelle McCormack, experienced Melbourne psychologist, workplace consultant and dog owner. “The benefits are really too good to ignore. They can have a calming influence on your team, improve office communication and increase job-satisfaction levels – all of which can help increase overall workplace productivity.”

There are dogs that aren’t suitable for office environments. Dogs that aren’t bark-trained, or dogs that aren’t semi-toilet trained, for example. Here at Starship, our previous dog, Buster, knew to alert people whenever he needed a walk around the park. Regarding barking, Buster and Dakota have been pretty good about it: Buster only tended to bark at the occasional passing cat. As to Dakota, she was anxious at the start but has gotten a lot better integrating into the office since. Groenendaels are big dogs, as you can see from the feature image. With training, attention, and frequent walks, even a big dog can be a good fit.

They’re All Good Dogs, Brent

We always recommend adopting if you can. Shelters are full, and there are a lot of dogs out there that will fit into your life given a chance. Shelter reps will often also be able to recommend a dog for you depending on your home and lifestyle. Some dogs just need a bit more work. Dakota was from a home that didn’t treat her well, and at the beginning, she had serious anxiety and separation issues. She’s definitely too big for an apartment, but has benefited from having a normal doggie diet, long runs on the beach, and from living in a house with a big yard. If you’re thinking in terms of breeds, a popular, chilled-out breed in Melbourne which often needs homes is the Greyhound. Despite being racing dogs, Greyhounds are actually gentle and quiet off the track and don’t have a doggie smell. Some Greyhound rescues in Melbourne include Greyhound Rescue Victoria.

If you’re thinking of buying from a registered breeder, other popular office breeds in Melbourne include dachshunds, squishy-faced dogs like pugs and Boston Terriers, and small breeds like Maltese Shih-Tzus. We wouldn’t recommend buying a squishy-faced dog if you can help it. An RSPCA campaign has brought up issues that certain breeds like pugs have:

If you’re thinking of buying from an unregistered breeder: don’t. The puppy might be cheaper, but it might have health problems, temperament problems, and worse, it might be a product of a puppy mill.

Who Let the Dogs Out

Pet dogs are increasingly popular and acceptable in offices, even large corporate ones. Via the Guardian:

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. […]

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.”

What about cats? Some agencies have cats instead of dogs, but they’re a rarer breed. A Japanese workplace recently appeared on the BBC for having cats in the workplace to reduce stress. Some businesses, like the bodegas of NYC or secondhand bookstores, traditionally have kitty employees. And one of the more famous cats in the world, Larry, ‘works’ at No. 10 Downey St in the UK as the Chief Mouser, a staple at that address through a series of changing PMs and Brexit.

Cats or dogs or other animals, we hope the prevalence of pets in offices will become more mainstream over time. If you’re working in a petless office, good luck! And if you ever want to drop by to give Dakota a pat, let us know.

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