Take a Dog to Work? Maybe, Maybe Not.
Friday June 24th has been designated “Take Your Dog to Work Day” by Pet Sitters International. Begun in 1999 with a goal of encouraging adoptions, Pet Sitters Int’l suggests that we all take our dogs to work to emphasize the human/animal bond, and indirectly encourage people to adopt homeless dogs.
This could be a great thing to do; many of us take our dogs to work regularly. If you work in the dog world, it’s almost a gimmee, and one of the perks that I love about my job is that I can take Willie to work whenever I want (except, of course, when he is recovering from surgery). However, there’s nothing like being an Applied Animal Behaviorist to stimulate the waving of red flags when we read about something that, in some cases, could also be described as “take your dog into a completely novel and highly distracting environment and where you have no time to work with her if it flips her out.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of taking some dogs to work, but it’s truly not appropriate for some dogs.
Curious about how Pet Sitter’s Intl handled the potential of trouble, I went to their website and read their articles on “Preparing Your Dog for the Office” and “Introducing Your Dog to New People and Pets.” There was some very good information in them, including being sure your dog has basic manners and being sure your dog has had “practice calming down in a public place.” Yeah for them for making it clear that dogs need experience to be comfortable in new, stimulating places, and that their training needs to be “proofed” in highly distracting environments. They also advise teaching your dog to sit before greeting people or other dogs, and wisely advocate for loose leashes when dogs are greeting one another. All good, especially the statement “practice taking your dog out into the world.”
This is a key comment, but I do worry a bit that they buried the lead. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who owned “bold, slap-happy” dogs who cowered and shivered and refused food when taken to a new environment.
The fact is, it’s hard to predict how your dog will behave if he or she has never been in a public place. That’s why I love that the website suggests “practice taking your dog out…”. But, their emphasis is on manners, and not on the dog’s comfort level. I’d love it if they added some lines like: “Not all dogs would enjoy leaving the comfort of home into a new and potentially frightening situation, so don’t bring your dog to work unless you have already determined that he or she likes going out and about with you.” The point being it’s not just about manners, but also about your dog’s comfort level.
On a related note, I’m reminded of the time I took Cool Hand Luke to the radio station and was doing a live show with Larry Meiller on Wisconsin Public Radio. Luke was lying quietly under the table while I answered questions from callers about training and behavior. Luke had been the perfect dog up to that point (you know what’s coming here now, don’t you?) but mid-way through the show a workman stopped to look through the large glass window that separated the studio from the reception area. I hadn’t noticed him because I was facing the other way. What I did notice was an eruption of high-pitched barking from Luke as he lept to his feet, slammed into me and the table and sent the show’s producer in a panicked attempt to modulate the amplitude.
For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Luke had responded as he did (remember, we’re live on radio now), until I observed that the workman had on knee pads–large, black circles that looked exactly like the fixed, hard eyes of a dog about to attack. And right at eye level too. Luke calmed down right away, and we all had a great laugh about it. Not long afterward I was told that the station had created a “no pet in the studio” policy. Go figure.
What about you? Do you take your dog to work? Is it harder for you to get work done when and if you do? (It is for me, but I also love it. Willie hasn’t come to work since his injury in February and probably won’t be able to until August or September. Ouch. Miss it.) Do other people bring their dogs and you’re glad? Wish they didn’t? I’d love to hear any stories you have. . .
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Willie had a bad day yesterday (gut trouble, no idea why) and was too sick to do his PT. I spent hours last night just cuddled with him on the living room floor, me watching the Perfect Storm and stroking his belly. I am so thankful he is such a cuddly dog, not sure what I’d do if he wasn’t.
Outside it’s like a jungle right now, rain is frequent and the vegetation is growing visibly. Honest, you can almost see it grow. I feel such sympathy for the people in drought affected areas, wish we could send some of our rain down to you. But you don’t want the lightening–we had a horrific storm this weekend that got all of us up at 4 am, a riot of thunder and lightening that burned down the very special cabin of a friend just a few miles away from my farm.
In a quieter moment, here’s a native plant that loves shade and moisture, wild ginger at the base of a Maple tree. I just love the shape of the leaves…
Here’s Sushi at the living room window, watching me and Willie do his exercises. (When I brought her in right after I took this I was concerned that she had a tick by her eye. See the black dot? But it was just a speck of dirt, so don’t worry if you noticed it too.)