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Allowing dogs in the workplace can lower stress and lift morale

Golden Retriever 'Murphy' rests on the floor of the office of his owner, Stephen Dean (rear). 'Murphy' comes to work with Dean every day.
Golden Retriever 'Murphy' rests on the floor of the office of his owner, Stephen Dean (rear). 'Murphy' comes to work with Dean every day. (Globe Staff Photo / Evan Richman)

For people who love spending time with their dogs, leaving them home when going to work is difficult.

While most businesses don't allow dogs, Pet Sitters International, which promotes the annual ''Take Your Dog to Work Day," says that's slowly changing.

''We've seen steady growth in participation," says John Long, a member of the Pet Sitters organization. ''The first year, we had 500 companies; in 2003, more than 5,000."

Take Your Dog to Work Day, the seventh such event, is tomorrow, and Pet Sitters International expects more than 10,000 companies to have some sort of canine-related event.

''Having dogs in the workplace has been shown to reduce stress and improve employee morale. Employees are more willing to work longer hours," says Long. ''It's also a nice recruiting tool. A company that has a pet-friendly policy will appear more attractive to a dog lover."

Of course, having dogs come to work has its share of challenges. Some people are allergic to dogs, and some are frightened of them. There's also the issue of potty breaks and cleanups, and of setting a professional tone.

Long says having dogs in the workplace goes smoothly when the company sets guidelines that everyone agrees on in advance and that address the potential problems. Dogs may be allowed in certain parts of the building, for example, or can come only on certain days.

Although a couple of large companies are involved in Take Your Dog to Work Day, most workplaces that allow dogs are small ones, says Long, and typically in a creative line of work. Small technology, advertising, or design companies seem to have more dog-friendly workplaces, says Long, as do real estate agencies.

''You only want to bring in pets that are, first and foremost, clean, well-groomed, and socialized. No dogs with an aggressive nature, shy, or nervous," he says. ''And always have cleanup supplies on hand."

Don Linville, a partner in the Sacramento, Calif., Web-development firm CR deZign, runs a dog-friendly office. He left his tie behind on Wall Street and likes working in a relaxed, small-business environment. His 10-month-old retriever, Henry, has grown up in the office and is there most days when clients aren't.

''When I looked for a dog, I specifically looked for mellow, for a breed that would work best around people," he says, ''and I made sure everyone who works here was OK with a dog."

Because Henry was a puppy when Linville joined the firm, cleanup supplies and a crate were crucial. ''When he was small, the crate was his default," says Linville. ''He'd be in the crate except when it was time for walking or play."

Now Henry's main job is to be a greeter. ''He prefers the mailman over the UPS guy, but he likes the FedEx guy best of all," says Linville, who notes that the retriever's also a good center fielder in the occasional office Wiffle ball games.

For Linville, the advantage of having Henry in the office is that it makes working long hours more bearable. ''He's a good distraction. I can't focus for 12 hours straight, but I can put a leash on him and take a walk," he says. ''Or just stop, take a couple of minutes, and throw the ball for Henry.

''He has become kind of a mascot here. Folks are genuinely bummed out if he's not at work."

Gina Spadafori is the author of several pet-care books and a consultant to the Veterinary Information Network. Her Web log and column archives can be found at spadafori.com.

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