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I manage a small team of developers. Our intern (who only stays for the summer) asked me whether he can bring his dog to work, since he has trouble finding someone to look after the dog during the day.

I told him that it's ok

  • if all the other people in the office agree to it (which - to my surprise - they all did enthusiastically), and

  • only as long as the dog does not make any trouble. If it doesn't work, the dog will have to leave.

We've never had a dog in the office and I'm not a dog owner myself, i.e., I have no prior experience. Are there any other precautions I should take?

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    Are we talking walking mop-head or huge killing machine dog? The size, breed and training are important issues for this question. – Peter M Jul 17 '16 at 14:05
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    Do you have visits from people outside of the company and/or company bigwigs who might get you into trouble if there's a dog? – Thomas Jacobs Jul 17 '16 at 14:52
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    I have had a dog for most of my life. I have never once had a sitter come in to stay with the dog while I was at work, A dog should be able to handle being home alone (unless you are expecting your intern to work outrageous hours) and if he can't be trusted with the furniture then crate him or put him in a room like the kitchen that is easy to clean up. – HLGEM Jul 18 '16 at 14:27
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    I'm confused. Let's take the UK as an example. There are, according to the main animal welfare charity here, around 8.5 million dogs in the UK, which is roughly one dog per seven or eight people. In other words, almost everybody knows multiple dog owners. In contrast, almost nobody has a dog in their office or workplace. The inescapable conclusion is that most dogs can perfectly reasonably be left at home all day. Does your intern's dog need to come to work at all? Or is it just that the intern has never been in a position of leaving the dog alone for more than a few hours at a time before? – David Richerby Jul 19 '16 at 11:25
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    @PeterM "The size, breed and training are important issues for this question." The only facet you mentioned that is relevant is training, and the other important aspect is temperament (both dog and owner). Size only indicates damage potential. Breed isn't terribly indicative of anything in and of itself. – DVK Jul 19 '16 at 19:00

10 Answers 10

135

I will preface this by saying that most office spaces are not particularly good environments for dogs. If you are sure you want to try this out, you ought to:

  • Make it very clear to your employee that this is an arrangement you can terminate immediately if anything goes wrong - including if others' preferences change. Advise your employee not to stop looking for a dog-sitter.
  • Discuss what the dog is likely to be doing. Will it sleep in a corner? Or will it be looking for attention? Will it want exercising? Will it behave when everyone including its owner is in an important meeting? It will probably want a walk during the day, so make sure you agree when that will take place.
  • Make sure there are dog-free spaces where you can store food, have interviews, meet with clients/suppliers, etc. If someone you're interviewing has a dog allergy, you may well be required under law to put their need to breathe above the convenience of a dog owner. You will probably need to budget for a good clean when the dog is gone.
  • Make sure arrangements in case of accidental damage are clear. What happens if the dog ruins the carpet, knocks over expensive equipment - would you expect the company to pay or would you expect the intern to pay? If the latter, get it in writing. Don't assume any risk that is otherwise insured against is insured if you are bringing a dog into the office. Also, if the dog harms another employee, as the employer, you could be liable and can't pass that liability on to the intern.
  • If you report to someone else, you almost certainly ought to run this past them, as some of these considerations may have company-wide implications.

Consider also if, and under what circumstances, you would accept a parent bringing a child into work regularly. Not least because, if you say yes to the dog, another employee may well reason that it's more convenient for them to bring the child in than to organise childcare, and that a child can be about as well-behaved as a dog. If you don't apply the same rules and provisos you could cause resentment later on.

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    "you may well be required under law to put their need to breathe above the convenience of a dog owner" - not to mention the sheer amount of paperwork that results from killing an interviewee. – Steve Jessop Jul 17 '16 at 19:43
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    Not disputing your point, but out of curiosity can anyone point to which law this would be: "If someone you're interviewing has a dog allergy, you may well be required under law to put their need to breathe above the convenience of a dog owner." Just like there's laws to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities do they extend to allergens too? If someone with a severe peanut allergy arrives is it incumbent on an office to ban peanuts? Is there case law on this? – curious_cat Jul 18 '16 at 5:31
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    The point about dog-free space cannot be over-emphasized. Most people who don't have allergies seriously underestimate their impact on those of us who do. Consider: You're visiting an office. You walk into the office a perfectly happy and healthy person. Within 10 minutes, you have the worst cold you can ever remember having and someone's inadvertently thrown capsaicin in your eyes. And there you are, trying to have a business meeting. Lovely. – T.J. Crowder Jul 18 '16 at 9:43
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    @SteveJessop A dog in the workplace kill an interviewee? Do you have any evidence of someone with a lethal reaction to a dog in work space? If someone has that severe a reaction to dogs how would they even live to their 20's. I get your point on allergies but is death taking it over the top. – paparazzo Jul 18 '16 at 9:48
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    And this is without even getting into what happens if the dog is allergic to the candidate. – Steve Jessop Jul 18 '16 at 10:17
43

I work in an office that allows dogs, it works out very well. That being said, all people at my office who have dogs use discretion and know that the business needs come first. The dog most commonly brought in is small and elderly, sleeps the entire day, and doesn't cause any issues (the one time it had an accident the owner immediately cleaned up). Another two dogs occasionally come into the office, and while they have more energy, the owners keep them managed (it helps that there's a dog park a block away for the younger ones to burn off energy at during lunch).

Generally dogs are less problems in the office than the owners of dogs. Is this intern willing and able to take the dog home immediately if there are any issues? Even if the issues aren't the dogs fault (the owner needs to be in meetings all day, etc)? Not having a back-up plan for the dog isn't acceptable.

That being said, dogs are great stress relievers to have around the office. I've taken "puppy breaks" when working on big projects, and it helps. :-)

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    I, too, work in an office where dogs are tolerated - and all the points you and @Paparazzi mentioned are absolutely indisputable. All dog owners are aware that they are not in a position to be bold about their dog, since it's a human working space, and so does everyone else. The dogs lay in their corner most of the time, even when their character is a more brisk one. I am very surprised how many answers here assume that dog to be some rabid, bouncing furball, or even a danger. The owner should know best about that, and I think it would be a nice gesture to show that much trust in them. – Sir Jane Jul 19 '16 at 10:15
  • Who accepts the liability of the dog in case something happens either to it or it causes a problem? – MikeP Jan 31 at 18:29
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Pets can be great for people who love them and for mental health.

You stated that you asked and everyone agreed it was ok. However, that may not be legally sufficient, especially in the US, especially if you work for a larger organization. People fear retaliation from their manager and coworkers and will go along with the majority under 'duress', then sue later.

I'm going to take the "devil's advocate" position of being against allowing the dog.

I will assume that you work for a larger organization since you stated you 'manage' a 'team'. I will assume that this is a pet:

Some of my contrarian questions are:

  • What is the organization's policy?
  • If/when the dog bites someone, who is liable? Is the insurance going to cover it? Will the organization indemnify you, even if the bitten person sues you personally?
  • What about employees and/or their families who have dog allergies?
  • What if it barks, poops, runs around, thus disrupting work?
  • If you are in an office building, then the building owners may have a policy about pets.
  • Does your manager think it is ok? Did you get that in writing?
  • What if the dog has fleas or something?

For the slippery-slope items, which are always present in a group:

  • Next person wants to bring in their cat.
  • Next person wants to bring in their 3-month or 3-year old human child, because day-care is expensive.
  • Next person wants to bring in their great dane, border collie.

And, so on.

If it is your company and your office, then it is your decision, but check your insurance and other legal ramifications.

Satiating one temporary intern is not likely worth the legal risk, unless you already have a pet-friendly policy.

Maybe let them work from home?

  • I (former cat owner) would love to hear the rationale for someone bringing in a cat. Unless one worked in a bookstore, cats would not do well in the workplace. – BryanH Jul 18 '16 at 19:29
  • @BryanH I didn't know cats liked books so much... I went to a Veterinarian's office the other day and two "office cats" were loose in the entry room. Compatible? Or problem waiting to happen? Could a person with a dog have a cat allergy? – user37746 Jul 18 '16 at 20:19
  • @BryanH They seem to do well enough at train stations. Also my cat enjoys tearing up newspapers and walking over my notebooks with muddy paws, so I'm not sure a bookstore would be ideal. – Pharap Jul 19 '16 at 2:09
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We had a workplace with an office dog, and there's a few things we learnt.

  1. check if your office building allows it. Ours was in a residencial building but most local office spaces don't allow this.

  2. It really depends on the dog - if its a dog that sleeps much of the time, and just needs people present its a better office dog in many cases than one that's going to keep demanding people play fetch with it. There were games of fetch played over downtime sometimes tho.

  3. Have a 'dog/people' safe space when needed - our office dog was enthusiastic about greeting people, and sounded much larger than he was. We had a bed in the conference room or the director's office for when we needed to keep him out of the way cause someone was afraid of dogs and/or we had a delivery and wanted to avoid crushed dog. If possible, the intern might have a spare/old pen that might work well.

  4. Dogs are awesome stress relief.

  5. Its a lot easier if the dog's 'timings' work around work times - we parked the dog around lunch and after work, which worked well. Years after retirement, the dog still does his business at the same times ;). Doing it outside is essential - for obvious reasons. Yes, we're all adults here and I'm talking poo.

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    "avoid crushed dog" - gold! – Viv Jul 19 '16 at 6:08
  • hmm is "to park" a verb for taking a dog to the park now lol – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 19 '16 at 9:21
  • No, its a euphemism for taking your dog out so he or she can poo. – Journeyman Geek Jul 19 '16 at 9:22
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Think about the likely contingencies and prepare.

For example:

  • The dog will likely do his/her business on the floor at some point,
    so have cleaning supplies (spray cleaner and paper towels) available.
  • There will be times when the dog will need to under control and or walked someplace, so make sure you have a leash that is always available in the office.
  • Keep some spare food / treats around.
  • Have a food and a water dish that stay in the office.
  • Keep a dog toy of each type (wood, rubber, plastic) to keep the dog from chewing other things.
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    @Heinzi Another suggestion. A dog bed that is consistently situated in the same location would help the dog to feel at home in the office. – Lumberjack Jul 17 '16 at 15:15
  • My mother works with a partially sighted lady who brings her guide dog to work. I've been told he has his won designated basket, so that would definately be a good additional bullet point. – Pharap Jul 19 '16 at 2:11
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Make it clear the intern is responsible for cleaning up after the dog. And time to take the dog out is not work time. Use lunch to take the dog out for a short walk and to do his / her business. If they have to take the dog out more then fine but don't abuse it. Have a quite corner for the dog. They like to sleep a lot. Tell the office if the dog is sleeping then leave it alone. If the office was enthusiastic the dog may get too much attention.

Intern should show up with water bowl and a bed. The dog should be clean / groomed. Dog should be under control and take commands from the owner - sit and lay down. If not then that is not a good sign.

I would not let the dog have free roam. The dog is restricted to the intern work-space. Don't get me wrong - I am dog lover. Dog should not view coming to the office as going to the park.

5

An office dog can be an awesome addition, or a major liability. In every instance I've seen where dogs we allowed in a small office, everyone benefitted. Software development is a high-stress position requiring a lot of mental focus, but it also requires some distraction here and there to keep folks sharp and prevent brain-drain. A dog is clinically proven to help relieve stress and give busy professionals a little distraction when they need one (http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/pets-depression). Taking a pet to any public place however is a huge responsibility. Many folks take this seriously, but some do not. Provided you have the authority to allow the policy, here is what I would suggest:

  • Make sure that your insurance policies, landlord, etc. won't take exception to it.
  • Require the dog have a minimum level of training. American Kennel Club offers a "Canine Good Citizen" (http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/training/canine-good-citizen/) test that evaluates whether the dog has basic obedience skills (such as sit and lie down), isn't aggressive towards strangers and other dogs, and can tolerate short periods of separation from the owner without undue stress. I've heard that many non-hospital care facilities (like nursing homes) will allow dogs in provided that they have their CGC.
  • Let everyone know that this is a privilege, and can be immediately revoked at your sole discretion.
  • Treat them like an employee... have basic, consistent rules they have to follow. If the dog (or employee) breaks the rules, they can get anything from an informal warning to loss of dog-in-office privileges
  • Let the intern know that if others want the same privilege, he/she may only be able to bring the dog certain days and share the privilege with others
  • Require the intern to provide a crate where the dog can be safely contained when business needs require it. Require that the dog can rest quietly in the crate for as long as needed
  • Set rules for all employees. These are developers, not piece workers, so I think an impromptu game of fetch is probably a good productivity tool, but if it starts severely interfering with someone's work, then be prepared to address it
  • Be aware that, as with any privilege, it can cause some headaches from time to time. Be willing to accept them.
  • Put up a sign on the door (NOT A WARNING) that states there is a dog in the office, and what someone should do if they are afraid of or allergic to dogs.

While anecdotal, in every case where I've seen a well-mannered office dog, it was a very positive thing. The employees liked them, package deliverers would bring them treats, and customers would ask about them. Once the novelty wears off, most employees will go about their business like they always would, with maybe the exception of a break here and there to give the dog some attention.

  • I love having a dog around the office, and would probably take a pay cut if my employer provided a dog during working hours (can't have one at home). For the sign, though, you may want to make the language more general than afraid of/allergic to. Someone coming by in nice clothes may be neither of afraid of nor allergic to the dog but may be more comfortable not interacting with it. – Josh Rumbut Jul 22 '16 at 14:22
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A lot will depend on the demeanor/temperament of the dog.

At my previous employer, an employee would occasionally bring his dog into the office. That dog invariably created a distraction as it was small and highly energetic, running around and attracting attention while everyone should be working.

At my very first employer, a very long time ago, a woman brought her dog into the office when she worked outside of normal hours. That was a much larger, apparently more mature dog which spent the whole time sleeping at her feet.

A couple of other considerations not yet mentioned:

Allergies... Everyone may be OK with the dog, until someone realizes they have an allergy to it.

What happens if there is a new hire while the intern (and the dog) is still present? A new hire may be reluctant to speak out on any concerns they may have, even if it is a significant one. How do you ensure that the new hire gets as much respect in this matter as everyone else?

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    The new hire problem could be solved by adding a hypothetical to the interview questions: "How would you feel about allowing an employee to bring in a dog?". Make a note of the candidate's answer. When a new hire is about to start, check their answer. If they would object, notify the intern that the policy has changed and the dog is no longer allowed. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 17 '16 at 21:54
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I'm an animal lover and allergic to cats, dogs, etc. When I visit my brother and sister-in-law, I wash my hands after petting either cat (it makes a significant difference).

One friend who is an editor (and is often working in her apartment) has given the reason why she will never own a pet: she walks down the hallway during business hours and hears pitiful barking, mewing, whining, and in other ways begging to please spend some time with them. I wouldn't take her decision to be an absolute principle; if you have children who are genuinely interested, that's a different case and does not keep the pet in solitary confinement for all beyond maybe a couple of hours per day.

I don't want to weigh in on whether XYZ will be bothersome to other people, but I would specifically state that it is better for a well-behaved dog to be, really, the office pet, and if I were you I would search for a win-win strategy that focuses on interest-based negotiation a good brainstorming tool. Some creative problem solving may reduce the difficulties.

I have years' worth of treatment to reduce my allergies, including dog dander, and I would love to work in an office where someone else has a well-behaved, and lovable, furry pet.

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Many (not all) dogs can be taught appropriate business decorum, as demonstrated by properly trained assistance animals. That does require that the owner be willing to specifically work on teaching these skills, and that everyone else understand how not to sabotage this effort. (Do not play with the dog when it is "on duty", and so on.)

On the other hand, some issues -- customers highly allergic to or afraid of dogs -- may be harder to solve.

Basically: It can be done well, but don't expect that to be achieved without some serious effort on everyone's part. If folks aren't willing to make that effort, other arrangements may be wiser.

  • Assistance animals are trained for many months by professionals, though, from quite a young age. Do we think the intern has access to that sort of resource? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 19 '16 at 9:22
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    We're not looking for quite that level of training ... But yes, given intern and short-term, this is going to be more s matter of how well behaved the dog is now. – keshlam Jul 19 '16 at 12:06

protected by Jane S Jul 17 '16 at 21:38

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