Oct 21, 2010

Dogs at Work

dsc00041.jpgYou know those commercials for PetSmart, that end with "We love to see healthy, happy pets"? Apparently that applies only to customers, not to employees. Earlier this year, PetSmart employee Eric Favetta was reportedly fired for theft of company services after he brought his dog to work with him and left it in the store's doggy day care facility. Favetta had agreed to work an overnight shift to help prepare the store for a visit from Martha Stewart's company (got to be clean for that!) and didn't want to leave his dog, Gizmo, alone all day and all night. After some bad publicity, PetSmart offered Favetta his job back.  

The trend in dogs and work seems to be in the other direction: According to a 2006 survey, 20% of companies (mine included) allow employees to bring their dogs to work with them. Even Congress has gotten in on the act, with dozens of dogs coming to work each day. Among the many benefits: Employees are able (and willing) to work longer hours, employees who already have pets are more likely to want to work (and continue working) at a company that offers this benefit, and employees are more likely to adopt pets, which reduces the huge numbers of homeless pets in animal shelters. According to a recent study reported in Psychology Today, having dogs at work may even increase social cohesion and the ability to work together as a team.

Of course, there are some potential down sides to allowing dogs at work, with a general lack of "petiquette" topping the list. Dogs that aren't housebroken, get into the trash, like to chew coworkers' purses and end-of-year financial reports, or just smell bad (you know who you are, guys) should probably stay home, at least until they make some improvements. Dogs should be confined unless their behavior is impeccable or everyone around them truly loves them. And coworkers should not be required to interact with working dogs unless they want to: Someone who is afraid of, or just doesn't like, dogs isn't going to enjoy a productivity boost from being surrounded.

DSC00135.JPGLooking for a dog to start bringing to work? Visit your local shelter! That's where I'll be this Saturday, when Berkeley Animal Control Services and Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls (BAD RAP) will be hosting an open house to celebrate National Pit Bull Awareness Day. Some of the dogs seized in the Michael Vick bust will be in attendance, as well as many shelter dogs learning basic obedience and social skills. This misunderstood and so often mistreated breed is my personal favorite (my two pictured here), but your local shelter will have many others to choose from. And if it's not the right time for a new pet, you can volunteer to walk, socialize, or just hang out with the shelter animals.