If your workplace hasn’t yet gone dog-friendly, and whether they’ve made the choice to do it yet or not, there are important things to keep in mind and steps to take before the first paw crosses the threshold.
Think of them as the before, during, and after phases of the dog-friendly policy implementation process. Our dogs are important to us and we’re important to our workplaces, so it’s best to avoid any problems before they happen. After all, well-prepared is well-protected.
For the sake of space, we’ll brush aside the enormous differences between trying to adopt a dog-friendly policy at a small business and at a huge corporation, and just focus on the steps that are generally necessary no matter how the policy is implemented.
First, of course, is to make sure that everyone wants the change to happen, so a survey of everyone affected is in order. Find out whether anyone objects based on allergies, or mental or moral grounds, or just generally. This is probably also a good time to survey people on how many dogs they have, how big they are, and whether they would bring them to work or not.
This will give you a picture of the company, and will be very helpful later on when you start to actually draw up the policy.
This is also when you should take a look at the physical space and determine whether there are any hazards to dogs that should be addressed. Do you have a loading dock with direct access to office space? Are there side doors that open directly into a street or alleyway? You don’t need to do anything about them just yet — but you will if and when the policy is approved.
Of course, before any policy can be approved there needs to be a policy, and this is probably the hardest part of the process. In order to succeed, you’ll need to set up a committee to handle the various necessary considerations, which include:
- Insurance: The first thing to look into before creating a dog policy is liability. Will the company need extra insurance to cover things like injury to an employee’s dog, or injuries caused by dogs to other employees or visitors? Or will waiving coverage of liability be one of the requirements before people can bring a dog? This is probably the single most complicated consideration, but shouldn’t be overlooked. If the committee does decide to forego the expense, then the policy will need to include a specific waiver from each dog owner which basically says, “If my dog hurts anyone or my dog gets hurt, it’s entirely my responsibility.”
- Pet-proofing: This is where all that information on the physical space comes in handy, because the committee is going to have to figure out how to eliminate any hazards, if possible. Are you going to need doggie gates? Will you have to repair or replace anything in the office? Is it going to be necessary to hide away wires and cables? This is also where you determine the start-up costs of the policy. But don’t forget…
- Ongoing expenses: What kind of floors does your office have? If you’ve got nothing but hard surfaces, like tile or concrete, then you’re in luck. But if you have carpet and you have dogs, there’s going to be extra cleaning necessary — not just from the occasional and inevitable accident, but from shed fur and dog paws. In a lot of dog-friendly offices, it isn’t unusual to charge a “dog fee” on a monthly or quarterly basis, and use this to cover the cost of extra cleaning. If your committee does decide to impose a fee, this is also a place to recover some of the costs incurred in the pet-proofing process.
- Rules: This is the most important part, of course — establishing the hows and whats of the policy. Are dogs going to be allowed every day, or just on certain days? What areas of the workspace are open to dogs, and where are they prohibited? Can people bring all of their dogs at once, or will it be “one person, one dog at a time?” This is another situation in which that preliminary survey data will really come in handy. One rule to always include, though, is requiring proof of vaccination before a dog can come to work, for the protection of all of the dogs in the pack. The other important rule: everyone is responsible for the behavior of their own dog, which includes keeping their dog with them and cleaning up any messes that happen.
- Discipline and appeals: Finally, your committee will need to create a way to deal with people breaking the rules before those rules are put in place. While it may seem harsh, dog privileges should be revocable on an individual basis — for example, if someone’s dog is always aggressive, or absolutely not potty-trained, or disruptive to the work environment. How to handle bans, whether they’re permanent or temporary, and the process for appealing them should be set out very clearly and plainly, and should be enforced equally no matter whose dog or which person does the offending.
Congratulations! You have your policy, you got it approved, and all of the necessary dog-proofing has been taken care of. It’s time to bring on the dogs, but it’s best to do it on a trial-run basis. The details depend on your specific situation, of course, but it can be anything from having one test day per week for a month or two to designating certain dogs on certain days to trying a full run for a week or two. This is the time to find flaws in the policy and to identify problem dogs or owners. The important part is that everyone is clear that a major failure now means that there will not be any dog-friendly policy.
Did you make it through all of the steps above without any issues? Congratulations — you now have a pet policy and a dog-friendly office, so now it’s time to enjoy all of the benefits of having our best friends come to work with us.
Has your workplace implemented a dog-friendly policy? Let us know how you did it, and whether you ran into any problems in the comments below!