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Many workplaces now permit their dog-owning employees to make every day "take your dog to work day." If you are one of these lucky people, strive from the outset to promote acceptance and harmony between your dog and your colleagues.
The key to a safe and successful experience is to prepare yourself and your dog in advance and to learn how to recognize potential problem situations before they arise. The privilege of taking your dog to work depends on you to demonstrate reasonable, consistent leadership and set boundaries for your dog's behavior.
This leadership begins at home. Before you introduce your dog to the exciting and challenging environment of a shared workspace, be sure he is already in the habit of listening to you. Since workplace expectations may be more stringent than the behavior you allow at home, remember that what matters most is that your dog trusts and respects you as his leader.
Deciding If Your Dog is a Good Candidate for the Office
Know your dog's temperament. A dog that is shy and fearful around visitors in your home is probably not a good candidate to go with you to work.
Have a good sense of your dog's timing and needs for toileting. If he is not yet completely housebroken, contact your local Bark Busters dog behavioral therapist to help you accomplish this important training component.
You should have excellent on- and off-leash control of your dog. He should respond consistently to basic commands such as "come," "stay," "leave it," and "kennel-up" or "go to bed." Your dog should also be able to ignore distractions, especially people (with or without their own dogs) passing by your workspace. Teach and test your dog's tolerance of distractions in your front yard or at a dog-friendly cafÃ© or retail store-not at your workplace.
Consider working with your dog to achieve the AKC's Good Canine CitizenÂ® designation, which has many of the above requirements. Visit akc.org or ask your local Bark Busters dog behavioral therapist, who may be certified to administer the test, for more details.
Get an OK from your supervisor ahead of time to leave work early if your dog isn't ready to handle the new environment. If he becomes too stressed, overexcited or inhibited, it's best to just take him home. Do not opt to leave him in your vehicle while you continue to work.
Preparing to Take Your Dog to Work
Dogs crave good leadership. If they don't get it from their owner, they'll take charge. That leads to bad behaviors, such as barking, jumping, aggression and pulling on the leash. Dogs will challenge for leadership in the home (and in the office), just as they would in their dog pack.
Establish a clear leadership role with your dog before you take him to the office. One way to do this is to ignore all of his requests, such as nudges to be petted or to play. Ignore him by breaking eye contact and turning away from him. When he has "given up" trying to get your attention, call him back to you for petting or play. When he responds to your requests and actions, versus you responding to his, he sees you as the leader.
Also remember that the leader always leads. You can further establish your role by leading your dog (going in front of him) up and down stairs, through doorways, and especially on walks. Engaging with your dog in a way that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader helps him to feel safe and secure and promotes a balanced relationship based on bond, trust and respect.
If you have access to your office after hours, it may be helpful to bring your dog in for a "test run" where he can sniff around and get acquainted with the building and your work space in a calm, non-stressful environment. Make it a short, relaxed and pleasant experience so your dog will have a positive association with your office when you bring him in for a real workday.
Supplies for the Office
Help your dog acclimate to the office by bringing a blanket, bed or crate from home. This provides him with a familiar and comfortable smell and texture in the new environment.
Bring a leash (plus a backup) to walk your dog from the car to your office, to take him outside for toileting, and to control him in the office. Even if your dog is used to being off leash, don't risk letting him go off leash in the unfamiliar surroundings of your workplace.
Bring some food or treats, his water bowl so he can stay well hydrated, and bags to clean up after toileting. Also, bring along treat-rewarding dog puzzle toys such as the Buster CubeÂ® or KONGÂ® products to help him pass the time.
To make things easier for you, set up all the new supplies a day or two before you bring your dog to work; you will need your hands and focus to be on him when you enter the building, and you won't want to leave him alone right away to make a trip back to the car.
Establish Routines for Your Dog in Your Office
Place bedding in your work area where your dog can feel secure (such as under or next to your desk) in a place that is out of the way of foot traffic. Teach your dog to stay there unless you invite him to do otherwise. Use a baby gate to block the doorway to keep him from wandering; even a well-housebroken dog may mark or toilet in a hallway or unoccupied office.
Schedule break time to take your dog outside for toileting. If you must leave for a meeting, isolate your dog in a closed office or have a dog-familiar friend sit in until you return.
If you anticipate a particularly busy day, it may be best to leave your dog at home or elsewhere (such as at a doggie daycare) so that you can focus on your work and he does not become stressed from being in a strange place without you for long periods of time.
If picking up a ringing phone and starting a conversation triggers your dog to bark or wander, set up learning opportunities to teach him that this is not acceptable behavior. Have a friend or co-worker call you, so you can teach without undue stress or neglect of your work responsibilities. Additionally, enlist a co-worker to walk by your workspace at a pre-arranged moment to teach your dog that you don't want him to respond to such distractions.
Meeting People and Other Dogs in the Office
Learn how to read your dog's body language around visitors to your office, especially those who are afraid of dogs-some dogs will respond protectively to human fear. If your dog exhibits this response, you should not leave him unsupervised in your workspace. Training can minimize the likelihood of his acting in response to that fear.
Do not leave your dog unsupervised with other dogs. Remember that other dogs might not be as well behaved as your dog. Learn how to read your dog's body language around other dogs and watch for any signs of aggression, such as growling, staring, and stiff body posture. Defuse potential conflict by removing your dog from the area. Don't try to force unfamiliar dogs to "become friends."
If a dog scuffle occurs, do not lunge in and try to break it up by hand-you could get bitten accidently. Throw your dog's blanket or a towel over the heads of the fighting dogs. This will confuse the combatants long enough for you to defuse the situation.
A Good Dog-Workplace Experience Depends on You
Your dog depends on you for his basic needs, including feeling safe wherever you take him. Preparing him well in advance of excursions to your workplace can ensure that you, your dog and your colleagues will have an enjoyable experience in the new environment.