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.

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.

6 Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe While Flying

No matter how prepared I felt, I was still nervous when flying with my black Labrador, Tasha, to Colorado. Is it too cold? Will she be thrown about? Does she have to go to the bathroom?

Flying with your dog can be stressful. Here are six checklist items to keep the stress level down so both you and your dog can be happy travelers.

1. Bring a Kennel
First and foremost, buy an airline-approved crate and be sure that your dog thinks of this crate as his den. You may need to spend time getting your dog comfortable with being in his crate for long periods of time. There will also be a lot of loud noises on the plane and strange people walking around in the cargo-loading area. To prepare him for your trip, place your dog in the kennel and try carrying him in it by taking a drive to a park or busy location. This way, your dog can get used to loud noises and a busy environment while being handled inside his crate.

2. Outfit the Crate
There are certain items that you will want to place on the outside and inside of the crate to prepare it for travel:

  • On the outside of the crate, attach a few bright orange stickers that read “LIVE ANIMAL.” Most airlines will do this as protocol, but it doesn’t hurt to have them on the crate before you arrive at the airport.
  • Include a typed one-page profile of your dog that includes your contact information, including your cell phone number.
  • Make sure water and food dishes are attached to the inside of the crate.
  • Tape a small bag of food and a leash to the top of the crate.

3. Flight Time
To avoid plane changes or delays, check the length of the flight and try to book a direct flight when possible. It is important to match the length of the flight with your dog’s temperament and what you know he can handle. Whether your dog is being shipped as cargo or is riding in the cabin will help determine his experience during the flight.

4. Health Clearance
Before taking off, get a clean-bill-of-health certificate from your veterinarian. Your dog cannot fly without veterinarian records stating he is in good health. Most airlines require veterinarian health certificate records no more than 30 days out, while some require a certificate that is dated no more than 10 days before your departure date.

5. Exercise a Go-go
Every dog has a different energy level. A young Labrador runs on high octane and will need to expend this energy before being cooped up in his kennel for a long flight. An airport with an onsite dog area is a perfect place to play with your dog before placing him in his crate. This will also give him a good chance to relieve himself before the flight. But stay away from sedatives. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) say that sedation could lead to injury if your dog’s crate moves during the flight and your dog is not able to brace itself. The increased altitude may further cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems for sedated animals.

6. Nervous Nelly
You have decided to make the flight with your dog, but sometimes no matter how safe something seems, you may feel nervous sending your dog down into the belly of the plane. Even though you know the probability of nothing happening to him is in your favor, the separation and inability to see what his environment is like can be unnerving. Here are a few ways for both of you to keep your cool:

  • Give plenty of reassuring hugs and kisses to your dog. When you’re calm and confident, your pet will follow your lead and realize there is nothing to worry about. If you’re emotional about the separation and the trip, your pet may pick up on it and become concerned about the adventure.
  • Keep the mood light with a little preflight play to relieve any tension.
  • If your dog is in cargo, ask the flight attendant to confirm that your dog is loaded and secure once you’re on board. They may be able to give your dog a little extra water in his dish before take-off.

I can’t imagine going anywhere without Tasha if I can help it. She adds so much to my adventures that I feel like something is missing if she’s not by my side. In Colorado, half the fun was seeing her play in the snow and bounce everywhere with excitement as if to say, “What’s next?! What’s next?!”

Taking the extra time to become mentally and practically prepared for a trip involving extra logistics will make all the difference to you and your dog.

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Take Your Dog on a Winter Retreat

Does your dog give you that telltale depressed look when you return home from vacation -- the kind of look that says, “You had a great time while I was lonely and stuck at home with the sitter”? Skip this guilty moment by taking your dog with you on a winter ski adventure. Many top resorts nationwide make it easy on you and your powder hound.

“We welcome dogs in our lodge, and everyone has a great time,” says Lucas Milawsky, spokesman for Stowe Mountain Lodge in Stowe, Vt. “Dogs love the attention we give them, and it’s genuine because we really enjoy having them here.”

Whether your dog is lounging in front of a lodge fireplace or hitting the snow-covered trails, it’s sure to have one of the best winter vacations ever. Just a bit of advance preparation is needed.

Ski Resort Dog Policies
At many resorts, a $50 one-time fee gets your dog full entry to your room and other areas, including Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyo., says Matt Webb, a resort spokesman. Milawski says Stowe’s fee is the same. “You can go hiking with your dogs. A lot of owners love to go up on the mountain and play fetch,” says Webb. “At the end of the day, you can relax together in the resort.”

Beyond the standard fee, policies vary widely at pet-friendly resorts. Here are a few questions you might consider asking in advance:

  • What pet amenities do you provide? Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Lodge, for example, provides dogs with a clean bed and a couple of bowls. Most places expect you to bring food.
  • Can dogs be left alone in the room? “At Snow King Resort, it’s OK to leave your dog alone for a few hours during the day, but we like to know someone is with the dog at night,” says Webb. Some other resorts have even more strict policies, requiring the use of a sitter when you can’t watch your pet.
  • Where can my dog go? At most pet-friendly ski lodges, dogs are welcome in certain areas but not in others. For example, they’re often not allowed in areas where food is served.
  • Is there a limit to the number of dogs? Matching the relaxed attitude of vacationing skiers, resorts tend to not set strict limits on the number of dogs allowed, but if you have a canine “Brady Bunch,” you should mention your special needs in advance.

  • Are other types of pets allowed? If you have a dog, a bunny, a cat, etc., check in advance to see if the whole animal menagerie is welcome. Often, resorts only allow dogs but no other animals.

Dog-friendly Ski Resorts
Author and DogFriendly.com co-founder Len Kain suggests checking out the following canine-ready ski resorts. Be sure to contact each beforehand to determine up-to-the-moment policies. According to Kain:

  • Bretton Woods Mountain Resort, New Hampshire: Provides 8 kilometers of groomed trails for dogs and on-site fido-friendly lodging. Dogs need to be leashed on the trails and at the resort.
  • Bear Notch Ski Touring Center, New Hampshire: Dogs are allowed on most of the over 40 kilometers of groomed trails, and they can be off-leash if under voice control.
  • McGuire’s Resort, Michigan: Dogs are allowed on all 10 kilometers of groomed trails and on-site pet-friendly lodging.
  • Carter’s X-C Ski Center, Oxford and Bethel, Maine: Dogs are allowed at both centers, each of which has more than 40 kilometers of groomed trails. Dogs can be off-leash if under voice control.
  • Tamarack Resort Nordic Center, Idaho: Dogs are allowed on all of the 22 kilometers of groomed trails. Dogs can be off-leash if under voice control.

Snow Play
Once you’ve settled on a resort, days of snow play await. Many dogs love to chase snowballs down hills or to catch them in their mouth like icy Frisbees. You can also have your dog fetch sticks and pinecones for making snowmen, or play hide and seek with dog biscuits and other treasures. In short, it’s a veritable play paradise for pooches. Says Milawski: “We don’t have a house dog here, but many of us wish we did. The guests’ dogs wind up becoming part of our family instead.”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/LawrenceSawyer

Send Your Dog to Camp

When you start planning that trip to the Bahamas, do you ever wonder if your dog needs a vacation too?

That’s right. Instead of sending your dog off to a kennel, consider a dog camp, where a typical day may include splashing joyfully in a river, tumbling in the snow, or racing in a pack down a grassy field. It’s all about giving your dog much-needed exercise, socialization and the freedom to just be a dog -- and also about assuaging your guilt as you lie on the beach.

A Real Nature Experience
That was the thinking behind Glencadia Dog Camp in upstate New York. Will Pflaum, a Brooklynite, opened the camp in 2005 with a notion to offer city dogs some country living. His camp is 15 acres of unfenced, unfettered fun. “Camp is just a good way to describe it -- it’s rougher, exciting and fun,” he says. Camps are often a distance away from metropolitan areas to offer that authentic nature experience. Glencadia is 135 miles outside New York City, but it offers free shuttle service.

To send your dog to camp, you’ll need to meet some requirements. Like kennels, most camps require spaying or neutering your dog; vaccines for rabies, distemper, parvo and kennel cough; plus a dog license. Prices range from $20 to $40 daily -- a rate comparable to those of kennels in big cities -- with no extra charges for additional play times.

For that money, your dog gets a pretty good deal. Up in the snowy mountains of Southern California, for instance, at Double Dog Ranch , “dogs can run and play all day and have companionship,” says owner Dana Ridland. “It’s for dogs that like to be dogs and not little humans.” The camp environment is perfect for retrievers, pointers, herders, terriers and other breeds that are social and active, says Ridland.

What to Expect From Dog Adventure Camps
Be aware that being in the great outdoors can come with a risk of minor injury, Pflaum says. However, the benefits far outweigh those risks. “Better to have a physical injury, like a nick or a scratch, than a psychological one from being alone all day,” he says.

Good camps also ensure that everybody gets along. Michaela Hewett, a Glencadia regular, expects the humans to monitor canine clashes. For example, Pflaum put Hewett’s puppy retriever on a long leash until they were confident her dog was welcome in the pack. Technology can help ease any concerns you might have and let you know your dog is thriving. “When I check the webcam, I see the dogs are having a fantastic time,” says Hewett. That peace of mind can help you enjoy your vacation too.

If you’re looking forward to spending quality time with your dog after your time away, though, be warned: Your dog might need a vacation after its vacation. Dogs often come home bone-tired from all the excitement and play. But it’s a good kind of tired.