Dogs and the Workplace

The sad eyes. The droopy face. The moping. Let’s face it -- you probably hate leaving your dog in the morning to go to work just as much as he hates being left.

What if you could avoid all that, and instead bring your dog along with you when you head to the office?

Bringing your dog with you to work isn’t just about the fun of having him with you throughout the day - the benefits to having a dog in the workplace have been scientifically proven. For example, a study by Central Michigan University found that when dogs are present in a group, employees are more likely to trust each other and collaborate more effectively in the office. Dogs can also help break the ice when it comes to communication between co-workers.

Greg Kleva, a celebrity dog behavioral therapist/master trainer for Bark Busters Home Dog Training in New Jersey, explains how mood-boosting chemicals increase when dogs are around.  “Interactions with dogs have been proven to increase levels of oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘feel good’ hormone,” Kleva said. “Studies have shown that the presence of dogs in the workplace may also reduce stress hormone (cortisol) levels for their owners. These same studies indicate that cortisol levels for workers who didn't bring their dogs to work were drastically higher by the end of the working day.”

In fact, many places have been using canine companions to provide therapeutic relief for years now. “Look no further than your local rest home, hospital, library, elementary school, etc to see dogs being utilized for their therapeutic value,” Kleva says. “Dogs are also often seen in disaster zones and courtrooms to help calm those in traumatizing situations.”

For employers, the fact that having canine companions around increases productivity makes it a plus for them as well. “Dogs have the ability to break down the barriers that keep humans from interacting with one another,” explains Kleva. “We find it much easier to chat with someone we don’t know quite as well if we approach them to meet their dog.”

Of course there will be some prep involved if you’re thinking of bringing your dog with you to work. “Start by training your dog to greet people appropriately by teaching him to sit while greeting, rather than jumping up,” suggests Kleva. Other basic commands like ‘come’, ‘stay’, ‘leave it’, and ‘go to bed’ should be mastered as well, and you’ll need to make sure he can ignore distractions. You can practice by bringing him to the park, where there are a lot of distractions, and making him pay attention to your commands.

It’s also important to make sure your dog is both physically and mentally stimulated to keep him calm and to reduce boredom prior to entering your workspace. This will make the experience better for your dog and everyone in the office.

Be sure to have the right supplies on hand if you’re bringing your dog along with you to the office, as well. A leash is the most important thing to have, as it can be used for walks, as well as keeping him under your control. “Since bringing your dog to the office can be a stressful experience for your dog and cause him apprehension, bring your dog’s pillow or blanket from home so he has something familiar to comfort him,” says Kleva. “Also help your dog stay entertained by bringing along dog puzzle toys that make him work to earn a treat. Bring food or treats and a water bowl so your dog can stay well hydrated, too.”

There may be some drawbacks that come with bringing your dog to the office, too. The most obvious is that a co-worker may be allergic. Be sure to check with everyone in the office before you bring your dog in and put someone’s health in danger.

You should also be on the lookout for accidents, and it will be your responsibility to ensure your dog does not ruin any equipment in the office.  Barking or aggression can be off-putting to office mates, as well, and the additional time added to an already hectic work schedule to tend to your dog’s needs throughout the day may upset coworkers. Trying your dog out at the office for a half day may a good way to determine if it’s a good fit for your dog’s personality, as well as for everyone else in the office.

Exercise and the small dog

Just like you, your small dog needs exercise to stay healthy and happy. Small dogs are defined as those that weigh less than 22 pounds and who are shorter than 16 inches. “Exercise helps to keep your pet physically fit, mentally secure, socially engaged and emotionally happy,” says Lori Morton-Feazell, Director of Animal Care and Education for Petco. “It also reduces stress and deters negative behaviors such as chewing, digging and barking.”

If you are considering an exercise plan because you believe your pooch is overweight, your veterinarian can examine your dog and let you know if he needs to lose a few pounds. If your dog has difficulty walking or playing, he could be overweight, and it will be important to start any exercise regime slowly to build up endurance and lung capacity. 

Even if your small dog is the proper weight and is healthy, it is still important to check with your veterinarian to learn about any specific precautions you may need to be aware about for your dog’s breed, like breathing problems. Additionally, if it has been a while since your dog has exercised, start slow with short walks and play sessions. Always take your dog’s age, breed and health into account when starting any exercise routine.  “Begin with a 15-minute walk each day, and after the first week increase it by 5 minutes,” Morton-Feazell recommends. “Watch your dog for signs of [exhaustion] like heavy panting or their tongue hanging out, and remember if it is a long walk, take water to give to your dog. If your dog is used to exercise, a 30-60 minute walk daily is enough to keep him physically fit and emotionally happy.”

Keep in mind that the amount of exercise your dog needs is not equivalent to his size, but rather to his breed. For example, a small Jack Russell Terrier requires more exercise than the much larger Great Dane. Oppositely, a Labrador Retriever is a very active dog and would need more exercise than a tea cup Poodle. Ask your vet about how much exercise your particular breed of dog should be getting.

Of course going on walks isn’t the only way to exercise your pup. Other options for include obedience training and agility training.  “Try teaching him a new trick,” says Morton-Feazell. “Some simple ideas are give paw, high five, sit and stay.  This can help keep your dog emotionally happy and social.”

As far as agility training goes, many small breeds are very agile, and doing agility training through simple obstacles is a great way to experience the human/animal bond with your dog, in addition to providing exercise.

The key to getting the most out of an exercise program is getting your dog’s heart rate up, which will cause her to have a good pant. “Be careful not to over-exercise your dog and cause heavy panting or heavy breathing,” explains Morton-Feazell. “Give your dog breaks to catch his or her breath and get a drink of water.”

The best way to encourage your small dog to exercise is by incorporating toys into the workout.  Puppies, particularly, love to chase toys and put them in their mouths. Some options for older small dogs are balls, frisbees, Kongs or other toys that can be thrown for your dog to retrieve.  Morton-Feazell advises that you pick the right size toy for your dog. Don’t give your small dog a large toy as they may not want to play with it. You also want to make sure that the toy is large enough to not get stuck in the dog’s throat and cause an injury.

Keep in mind that all small dogs are different and will receive the most benefit from different types of exercises. There are no exercises that are off limits for your small dog, although some modifications can be made to accommodate their size. While playing, walking or training your dog, notice if he is tired, panting excessively or thirsty. These are signs that you may be pushing him too hard and that he needs a break and/or water.

4 Tips to Keep Your Dog’s Coat Healthy

Anyone with a furry friend can tell you that keeping up with a dog’s shedding is a full-time job. And some dogs can grow 100 feet of fur per day -- that’s adding up all the new strands covering the entire animal end-to-end, including the fluff between your dog’s toes -- so it’s easy to see why taking care of your dog’s coat can sometimes seem overwhelming. But all that fluff’s got real substance! You may not know it, but your dog’s fur:

  • Is eight times warmer than wool
  • Is fire-resistant
  • Wards off dirt
  • Repels static
  • Protects from parasites

So how do you keep your dog’s coat healthy and handsome? Use these tips and tricks from the experts to keep Fido’s coat glowing -- and growing.

A Healthy Diet
Like humans, dogs are only as healthy as what they eat, says Michael Weiss, a veterinarian at All Creatures Veterinary Care Center in Sewell, N.J. Two things to look for in your dog’s food:

  • Protein. If your dog lacks this vital nutrient, its body will dedicate protein to muscle first, leaving its fur and skin dry and dull. Make sure your dog’s food is rich in protein.
  • Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These essential building blocks keep your dog’s coat healthy, thick and lustrous. They may also help reduce itching, dandruff and allergy-related skin problems. On the ingredients panel, look for fish oil, fish meal or flax, all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Exercise
Exercise not only keeps your dog slim, it may also help keep her fur in top condition. Weiss says regular exercise benefits your dog’s overall health -- and a healthy dog is more likely to have a healthy, shiny coat.

Grooming
The fact is you can’t keep your dog from shedding. But with a few key products and techniques, you can easily take great care of your dog’s coat at home to keep it looking its best:

  • Brush at least once a week. In order to keep your dog’s mane manageable, give the fur one good brush each week with a de-shedding brush to get out the undercoat, says New York City-based groomer Lisa Caputo from the dog service company Biscuits and Bath. Part the hair and brush from the skin out to avoid matting, moisture and heat build-up, which can cause yeast and bacteria. For an even slicker look, give your dog a quick brush every day.
  • Bathe with gentle shampoos and conditioners. If your dog has sensitive skin, try a hypoallergenic or oatmeal shampoo. Caputo recommends washing your pooch every four weeks.

Medical Checkups
If you notice your dog has consistently itchy, uncomfortable skin or is shedding more than usual, your best bet is to take him to a veterinarian. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and each dog is different,” says Weiss. “It could be something as small as a food allergy to a more serious problem, like ringworm.”

How to Play Soccer With Your Dog

While it may be hard to imagine your beloved Fido out on a field dribbling a soccer ball, shooting on a goal and scoring, in fact there are many dogs that do just that—and love it! Whether you’ve seen them strut their stuff at a half-time show, on a TV talent competition, or in family films like 1999’s Soccer Dog: The Movie, here are three reasons we can’t get enough of dogs playing soccer.

1.) It’s adorable. When Mark Lucas saw a dog dribble a soccer ball at the halftime show of a professional soccer game, he became determined to train dogs the same way. Soon after, he founded Soccer Collies, a troupe of dogs who can run with the ball, bounce it off their noses, and even catch it between their paws and their chin. Lucas brings his dogs to interact with kids and adults at schools, charity functions, and sporting events. BEK and Ms. Z, his two beloved Collies, are even able to shoot (and score!) on a goal.

2.) It’s fun! The first step in teaching a dog to play soccer is finding out whether they’re ‘ball motivated,’ says Lucas. The simplest way to figure that out is to bounce a basketball in front of them. If they seem excited and eager to play, then they will likely enjoy learning tricks with a soccer ball. “All breeds that like a ball will play soccer,” Lucas added. At first your pooch might not know quite what to do with a ball that’s too big for him to pick up in his mouth, but soon enough he’ll figure out how to pounce on it and move it with his paws. “People shouldn’t get discouraged, it does take time,” says Lucas. Start simple by having your dog bring you the ball. If you reward him with praise and treats, he’ll be much more inclined to keep up the good work. Of course, it becomes even more fun when you get in the game and run, pass, and steal.

3.) It’s healthy.  In the wild, dogs spend their days moving, running, and scrounging for food. Domestic dogs, on the other hand, often spend their days relaxing, sleeping, and lounging around. That’s why walks and play are so incredibly important for keeping your dog healthy and happy. Dogs that aren’t getting enough physical activity often display negative behaviors like digging, chewing, barking, jumping, hyperactivity, and sometimes even aggression. Getting your dog to run around with a soccer ball is a great form of exercise, not to mention an opportunity for you and your dog to bond. “The dogs are getting a great physical workout,” says Lucas, “and they’re also getting a mental workout. The more you play, the more they want to play, and that’s how they get to be so good.”

You can find out more about Lucas and his furry friends at SoccerCollies.com, or on Twitter @SoccerCollies.

Winter Weather Hazards for Dogs

With cold weather in full swing, the winter months can be a dangerous time for your dog. There are many hazards that occur when there is snow, ice and ice melting chemicals on the ground.  However, your dog can still enjoy the great outdoors during winter if you follow a few precautions.

When the temperature drops, it’s important to protect your pup from the cold. According to Dr. Kimberly May, Director of Professional and Public Affairs with the American Veterinary Medical Association, “people often overestimate their pet’s resistance to cold, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and go on the assumption that if you’re wearing a coat and you’re cold, odds are your dog may be cold, too. If your dog is acting as if he/she is cold, it’s time to go back inside.”

The type of dog and the age of your pet are both factors to keep in mind when determining how long your dog will be comfortable in the cold weather. However, Dr. May warns that no dog should be left out alone for extended periods of time in extremely cold (below freezing) weather.

Your dog’s paws are susceptible to many winter weather hazards since they encounter ice, snow and chemicals. “There’s a risk of physical injury from rough or sharp surfaces or edges that can cut or abrade the paw pads,” Dr. May explains. “There’s also a risk of frostbite or cold damage, and the risk of chemical burns from non pet-friendly ice-melting chemicals put on roads and sidewalks.”

Booties are an excellent option for protecting your pooch’s paws from the winter elements. Not only do they offer protection from injuries from sharp pieces of ice, but also shield delicate paws from chemicals. “If you choose to use booties, make sure they are properly sized-they could rub sores or reduce circulation if they don’t fit correctly-and gradually introduce your dog to them,” suggests Dr. May.

If you don’t use booties, make sure you clean off your dog’s feet and paw pads with a damp cloth and then dry well to remove any irritants.

Ice-melting chemicals, such as road salt, can make your dog ill and hurt their paws. There are a few ways to protect your pup from this winter danger. “To prevent ingestion, don’t let your dog lick the salt or any treated surface, don’t let him drink from puddles near the road and don’t let him eat snow or slush,” says Dr. May.

You also can protect short-haired, young or old dogs with a coat. “Remember that road salt tends to be splashed up on your dog’s belly, legs and sides, so give these areas a thorough wipe-down after a walk to prevent your dog from ingesting the road salt when they lick their paws or body,” Dr. May added.

As a dog owner, you can make this winter comfortable and safe for your pet by checking the weather before walks, making sure to plan a route without icy areas and cleaning off salt and chemicals so that your dog stays healthy.