Avery came in to my office a little while ago. She rubbed up against me, started panting and getting excited, and then lay down and rolled over offering her stomach to me for a tummy rub. Avery, as you might have surmised is my dog, a ten-year old black lab, for whom tummy rubs are the ultimate joy in life. Well, perhaps only surpassed by a treat.
One of my great stress release joys in life is rubbing Avery’s tummy. She is simply in heaven, and no amount of belly rub is too much. There is a real satisfaction in having such a simple act deliver so much pleasure.
Avery is an office dog. And when she comes to the office, there’s a routine in which she has trained everyone well. She greets you with tail wagging a mile a minute and body wiggling uncontrollably—you think it’s her joy in seeing you, but in reality it’s in anticipation of the treat you now have to give her. Once she’s made her rounds and enjoyed as many treats as she can finagle out of everyone, she settles down, managing to raise her head or possibly get up to greet a visitor (in the hopes he or she has a treat for her.)
Dogs can be a boon to the atmosphere in the office. The wagging tail, the eyes that simply smile at you, a pet or two, (especially rubbing Avery’s tummy), are all a tonic for the stress of the office environment.
The main issue is that the office dog absolutely positively must present the same positive image of your workplace that (hopefully) all the employees present. Having worked with dogs at both The Emily Post Institute and at an advertising agency I ran for twenty years, three inviolable rules for having dogs at the office stand out:
1. The dog must be under control. Visitors shouldn’t be accosted by an animal that charges up to them as they arrive or who jumps up on them in greeting. If there is any question at all about a visitor’s discomfort with a dog, the dog should be removed while the visitor is there. The best way to be sure the dog is under control is to have it on a leash and to have a pet gate on an office door so visitors are protected from an overly rambunctious greeting.
2. The dog can’t be a barker. Not only is the barking annoying to people in your office, it is disturbing to business neighbors nearby.
3. The dog can’t make messes. It should be obvious that a dog that can’t wait to go outside when nature calls is a dog that can’t come to the office. On the plus side, a short walk outside is good not only for the dog but also for the employee dog walker. In addition, the dog owner should proactively make sure that any shedded hair is routinely cleaned up.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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