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.

What to do with a dog that won’t stop barking

It’s hard to believe that your little Sparky, who’s always such an angel when you’re home, could be making so much noise when you’re away. But if your neighbors are at their wits end with your dog’s barking it’s important to get to the bottom of why he’s doing it, and then figure out how to stop it. We enlisted the help of Victoria Wells, senior manager of behavior and training at the ASPCA’s Adoption Center, to answer a few questions on barking—and to help us determine when we might need to worry.

How do you decipher between normal barking and excessive barking?

Dogs communicate with other dogs and with humans through barking, so it’s unrealistic to expect a dog not to bark at all. But what constitutes as ‘excessive barking’ is really up to the owner and their particular situation. Many owners only discover that their dogs are barking when they’re not home because they get noise complaints from their neighbors.

Is there cause for concern if your dog didn’t bark much before, but has begun to recently?

Some dogs don’t begin using their voice until they have reached a certain age. If they transitioned from puppyhood into adolescence, they may have just found their voice and this is normal. If an adult dog who has been typically quiet for most of their lives begins to bark this may be a signal that something is troubling them in their environment, health wise, or behaviorally.

What’s the best way to curb excessive barking?

Barking is motivated by different emotional states, and there are different causes for it. So, the first step is to identify why a dog is barking. To do that, you need to find out whether the dog is barking intermittently or consistently throughout the day. To figure this out, try recording the dog when you’re away. Or, the next best thing would be to ask a neighbor for their observations on your dog’s barking patterns.

What does it tell you if the barking is intermittent versus consistent?

If the barking is intermittent, the dog is likely ‘alarm barking’, or alerting to noises it hears outside. But if the barking persists throughout the day while the owner is absent, it could be because of something like separation anxiety.

How do you deal with alarm barking?

If the dog is alerting to noises in the hallway of an apartment building, or even outside, the first thing you want to do is provide them with entertainment and stimulation while the owner is absent. We recommend some sort of enrichment toy filled with food to keep their mouths busy and their minds stimulated. Then, you want to block the outside noises. So we suggest providing some sort of consistent white noise like from a white noise machine, classical music [which studies have found calms anxious pups], or even a simple, inexpensive box fan placed near your entrances or windows.

What if your dog is doing a lot of barking outside?

Again, it depends what the trigger is for the behavior. Many times barking is socially facilitated, which means they’re communicating with another dog. Sometimes that’s just how they say hello, and you’ve got to expect that once in awhile. If it becomes problematic, or if they’re incessantly barking, you’d want to distract them from other dogs by giving them treats while other dogs pass.

If the barking is towards people, then you probably have a greater issue and you might want to seek help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

What role does exercise play in a dog’s barking?

For every form of barking, exercise is a great antidote. If the barking is attention-seeking, if it’s out of boredom, or even if it’s anxiety based, aerobic activity is going to decrease that behavior.

If the barking is attention-seeking, the last thing you should do is give the dog attention, because then you’ve essentially reinforced that they will receive attention when they bark. I know it’s hard, but you should ignore them when they’re barking and then pay attention to them when they’re quiet.

How do you determine if a dog’s barking is because of anxiety?

That’s where something like a recorder comes in. If you determine that the barking lasts almost the entire time you’re gone, it’s more likely to be because of anxiety than an outside noise. There are other symptoms that would accompany the barking as well, like excessive panting or housetraining accidents.

What should you do if you determine the barking is a symptom of separation anxiety?

First, exercise is very important. Then, since separation anxiety stems from a very strong bond that the dog has created with their person, it’s important to teach the dog that the world won’t end if its owner isn’t right next to them.

We suggest placing the dog in an area of confinement, like behind a baby gate or in a dog crate for just 10 to 15 minutes every couple of hours. Give the dog something to chew on, like an interactive dog toy with food in it, leave the room and then return when the dog is not stressed out and is not barking. When you enter and exit the room, don’t make a big fuss, just walk right past them. Once your dog calms down, then interact with them.

Could a dog’s bark indicate duress?

Yes, a bark can indicate that a dog is injured or ill. Most people know what their dog’s typical bark sounds like. If it deviates from something the owner is used to, to something that sounds like the dog is in distress, then you should you take your dog to the veterinarian.

Remember: Certain breeds also tend to be more vocal than others, like Beagles or Yorkshire Terriers. So, if you are sensitive to barking—or you live in a building or neighborhood where a barking dog wouldn’t be welcome—it’s important to do your homework when picking out your new furry friend. Also keep in mind your city or county rules on noise violations. If you’ve got a particularly antsy neighbor who complains all the time about your vocal pup, he could be within his rights to involve the authorities. If that’s the case, you’ll want to try out some of the above tactics to curb your dog’s barking sooner rather than later.

Good Dog Park Etiquette

For most dogs, dog parks are a bit like Xanadu. There are no leashes, they get to interact with lots of other dogs and they can run as fast and be as rambunctious as their little hearts desire. It’s pretty great.

For their owners, however, navigating the terrain can be a bit trickier, as sometimes what constitutes for “well mannered” can get a little murky. If only there were an Emily Post for pooches.

Until then, here are some unofficial rules that will help ensure both you and your pet avoid becoming the dog park pariah.

1.      Be on your best behavior. When bringing your dog to an open-play park, understand that people often have different ideas about what constitutes play versus fighting in dogs, or what is acceptable behavior and what is not. For the most part, these are judgment calls, and not rules written in stone. Try to be calm and compassionate in your interactions with other owners. Something else to keep in mind: Most dog parks post their own rules and regulations right near the entrance. Be sure to read and understand those before entering, as well.

2.      Know your dog’s signals. The dog park is not for every pup. If yours seems overwhelmed by the play—if they lunge, snarl, snap or growl at the other dogs--it might be too much for them. They could be feeling more threatened than engaged. On the other hand, it can be hard to see (or sometimes admit) if your dog is the bully, but it is imperative that you try. If your dog is aggressive in his treatment or intimidation of other dogs, a behavior class could be beneficial before trying another trip to the dog park.

3.      Be smart about safety. Do not take your puppy to a dog park until he has had all of his shots. If he is not properly vaccinated, he will be highly susceptible to potentially deadly diseases. Similarly, do not take an unspayed female in heat or an unneutered male to the dog park. This increases not only the likelihood of unplanned pregnancies, but of fighting and aggressive behavior as well.

4.      Break it up the safe way. If you ascertain that your dog is not merely playing, but has gotten into a fight, don’t immediately step in to intervene. First, make lots of noise—clap your hands, bang on the fence, shout, blow a whistle—to try to get your dog’s attention. If that doesn’t work, approach your dog at the same time that the other dog’s owner approaches them. Make sure your dog knows you are there before you make any physical contact. During a heated exchange, biting would be instinctive and should be anticipated. Once the fight has stopped, both owners should put their dogs on the leash and leave the park for the day. The next time you visit, be aware of whether or not the same dog is visiting the park again. You can always try another go-round with the two at the park at the same time, but if they don’t get along again, it’s probably best to avoid the park whenever the other dog is around.

5.      Be prepared (Dos and Don’ts). 

  • While some dog parks have hoses or fountains for thirsty dogs, some don’t. Do consider bringing a water bottle and small dish for your dog on hot days. 
  • Don’t bring treats or toys into the park, as it creates a power imbalance among the dogs that can lead to tension and even altercations. 
  • Don’t talk or text on your cell phone while in the park, as you should be focused on and attentive to your dog. 
  • Do have some waste bags on hand. Not cleaning up after your dog is perhaps the greatest dog park party foul of all.

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.

The Best Way for Your Dog to Ride in the Car with You

Ready to hit the road with your dog? Before you put the car into drive, it’s important to make sure that your dog is safe. Some options for properly restraining your dog while in the car are in a crate, a harness or a seat belt.

Using a Crate

If you decide to keep your dog in a crate for the duration of the car ride, and your vehicle has enough room to stow it, the crate should be large enough for your dog to lie down or stand up and turn around. Bill Rabenberg, owner/trainer at Red Iron Kennels of Manor, Texas explains: “You must also ensure the crate is not so large that the dog can easily be tossed around inside,” he said. “It’s helpful to include a soft crate-bed to provide padding for the dog to lie on, but torn newspapers or cedar shavings also provide a soft spot for animals still learning to ride without getting carsick, and these make cleaning up a snap.”

Keeping your dog in a crate stops your pet from moving around the vehicle while it’s in motion, and also prevents him and you from injury during a sudden stop or accident.

Where to Let Them Ride

The safest place for your dog is in the back seat of the car. You can easily install a harness or dog seat belt to keep your pet from climbing into the front seat. “Some pets are difficult to manage when nervous, and may suddenly climb onto the driver's lap, interfere with driving or jump down below the driver’s legs, obstructing his ability to reach the gas and brake pedals and possibly causing an accident,” Rabenberg says. 

Another reason to keep your pet in the back seat is the danger from the force of a deployed airbag.

Dealing With Fear and Car Sickness

Many dogs are afraid of riding in the car or are apt to get carsick, but there are steps you can take to teach your dog that car rides are fun. Rabenberg suggests allowing the dog to sit in the car in the back seat while you sit in the front seat until he relaxes and then you can pet or reward him. After trying this for a few days, you can turn on the car but not drive anywhere. “After several successful attempts on several days, go for a short drive, just around the block,” Rabenberg says. “When you arrive home, take some time to pet and talk to your pet before getting out of the car, so he knows his reward comes with remaining in the vehicle, not rushing to get out. Repeat this several days in a row, then slowly expand your trips, making them a few blocks longer, and finally take him to a fun location, gradually increasing the distances.”

Allowing your dog to feel more comfortable in a moving car will lower his stress level and prevent accidents in the car.

Dogs enjoy the feel of a breeze coming from the car windows on their faces, too, so feel free to leave the window open, as long as your dog is properly restrained. If not, keep the windows closed to prevent him from falling or jumping out.

Your dog may be unhappy at first, but with a little time and patience he will soon become used to the restraint and look forward to your next car ride adventure.