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Dogs At The Office Could Lower Stress

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A new study found that bringing your dog to work could lead to more productivity in the office. Researchers discovered that the presence of a pet reduced stress on the job.

Randolph Barker, a professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University's business school, conducted his experiments at  Replacements Ltd., where the company's 550 employees bring about 20 to 30 dogs in the office each day. He and his team divided staffers into two groups -- one with their dogs at work and another who owned pups, but left them at home.

By the end of the day, the average stress levels fell about 11% among people who had brought their dogs to work, while they rose up to 70% for those who had to leave their behind.

The researchers also observed "unique dog-related communication" in the workplace. During the day, people who hadn't brought pets walked over to colleagues who had and asked whether they could take the four-legged visitors for walks. Barker observed, "People who typically are not as verbal were more engaged."

Tips For Bringing Pets To The Office

Another recent study found that 1 in 5 U.S. companies do allow their employees to bring their pets to work. But before you plant your dog into your cubicle for the day, know that there are plenty of "do's'' and "don'ts'' involved -- and knowing the difference can improve your pet's visit and enhance your own reputation in your workplace.

"When it comes to taking your dog to the office, the key to a safe and successful experience is to prepare your dog in advance and to recognize potential problem situations before they happen,'' said Liam Crowe, president and COO of Englewood, Colo.-based Bark Busters, which has trained more than 350,000 dogs over the past 18 years.

From Crowe and other pet experts, here are some helpful tips when bringing your dog to work:

  •     Note that most companies only allow dogs in the workplace. Check with your employer to see what animals are allowed at work.
  •     A workplace can be an anxious environment for you pet. Make it more "homey'' by bringing your pet's favorite snack, blanket, or toy to make them more comfortable.
  •     A hungry or thirsty pet can be a distraction in the workplace. To keep your dog in line, bring along plenty of food and water.
  •     To avoid conflict with other pets, keep your dog or other pet isolated from other employees' pets.
  •     Recognize that your pet is different from other pets. While you may immediately "read'' your pet's mood, it's not so easy to gauge the mood of an unfamiliar animal. Consequently, keep your eyes and ears open for signs of aggressiveness from other employees' pets. For example, if another dog stares with its ears forward, has its hackles up, or growls aggressively, these are clear signals of adrenaline in the system and could indicate the dog is ready to attack.
  •     Conflicts between pets are inevitable. If your pet gets in a scramble with another animal in the office, keep a cool head and a handy blanket nearby. Toss the blanket over the squabbling pets to distract them, and then remove your pet from the scene.
  •     You're the boss -- in your home and in the workplace. Make sure your pet knows that. Experts say that in unfamiliar environs (like your office) your pet is even more prone to challenge your authority. The key is to ensure that your pet knows you are the leader. Some key ways to accomplish that are to ignore any requests for attention from the pet, keeping eye contact to a minimum. When your pet tires of trying to get your attention, call him back for a little play session.
  •     Your pet must be up-to-date on all medical vaccinations and you should have documentation available before you bring it in the office.
  •     Keep your pet on a leash at all times and have a confined space for it to roam around. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules dictate that your employer must keep a clear passageway in the workplace. A sleeping pet may be considered -- officially -- an obstruction.
  •     Groom your animal before bringing it to work to prevent allergic reactions. OSHA also calls for a "safe working environment'' -- all it takes is one complaint from an allergy-ridden co-worker to cause a problem.
  •     Keep pets out of eating areas and break rooms
  •     If you work late, know that your pet may get antsy. Some experts advise that most pets aren't the sunrise-to-sundown type-A personalities that personify some workplaces. If you bring your pet to work, keep regular hours. If it's crunch time at the office, leave your pet at home.
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