The Dog Days of Summer: What Small Business Owners Need to Know About Bringing Pets to WorkIn ancient times, when the night sky was not obscured by artificial lights and smog, cultures in different parts of the world discovered images in the sky by connecting the dots of stars through constellations. They saw bears, (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins, (Gemini), a bull, (Taurus), and others, including dogs, (Canis Major and Canis Minor). The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which is also the brightest star in the night sky.

In the summer, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets in conjunction with the sun. The ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, “dog days.” While this varies somewhat with latitude, today, the dog days occur during the period between mid-July and the end of August.

A different sort of dog days is happening in the workplace. Almost 20% of companies in the United States allow their employees to bring their dogs to work. Many of these are small start-up companies who recognize the need for a flexible work environment or tech firms that seek to capture the interest of prospective employees or to better retain current employees. Some of the benefits they cite for allowing pets in the office are increased staff morale and worker productivity, decreased absenteeism and levels of stress, and greater camaraderie among employees.

Personally, I am all for dogs at work, though I realize it is not for everyone, nor appropriate for every type of business. If you are seriously considering it, be sure to develop and communicate throughout your entire organization a clear policy with guidelines and expectations. Most of the rules will be common sense, but more importantly they will ensure everyone’s comfort and safety.

For the employee and pet owner:

  • Take only well-behaved non-aggressive pets that are comfortable around people and have been socialized to other animals.
  • Be respectful of coworkers with allergies or who are not ‘dog people.’
  • Make sure your dog understands the basic commands, such as sit, stay, and down.
  • Ensure that pet vaccinations are up to date and have a current rabies certificate at hand.  It is also best if your pet is spayed or neutered.
  • Groom your pet before office visits.
  • Make sure your individual work space can comfortably accommodate your pet and let coworkers know you have a pet in your office to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Bring the essentials with you and plan for contingencies (or accidents).
  • Act responsibly and supervise your pet closely.  Keep dogs on a leash or in a closed area or crate.
  • Be respectful of all designated “pet-free” zones and coworkers who are uncomfortable around animals.
  • Plan for walking your dog throughout the day.
  • Clean up after your pet immediately.
  • Do not leave water, food bowls or pet food out. Put them away before you leave at the end of the day.
  • Reward your dog frequently for good behavior.

For employers:

  • Start by consulting with your business manager. Make sure you are meeting all of your business, compliance and liability responsibilities in a smart way.
  • Only well-behaved non-aggressive pets that have been socialized to people and other animals are allowed.
  • Maintain a file of up-to-date pet vaccinations and copies of current rabies certificates.
  • Identify and implement “pet-free” zones.  These can include meetings, conference rooms, employee break rooms, cafeterias, and rest rooms.
  • Be respectful of and continually check in with employees who are uncomfortable around dogs and other animals.
  • Create a “pet rest area” for walking dogs during the work day.  Be prepared with poop bags and garbage cans conveniently located for easy clean up.
  • Communicate and enforce standards of behavior.  One example is three accidents and you’re out. Uphold a zero tolerance policy for any aggressive pets.

Remember, welcoming pets in the workplace is not for everyone but if you’re game, paying serious attention to proper office petiquette is not only critical, but advice we would all do well to heel, er, heed.

Ranger, ready for work!
Ranger, ready for work!

Mallary Tytel is president and founder of Healthy Workplaces (, a national consulting firm that focuses on helping create healthy, productive and sustainable workplaces. Grounded in the theory and practice of complexity science and human systems dynamics, HW provides customized coaching, training and facilitation, centering on the critical areas of strategy, diversity and culture, developing women leaders, and the triple bottom line.  Contact Mallary at or +1.860.874.7137.

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