Okay, so this is a good news/better news situation… The good news? Take Your Dog to Work Day® – one of my favorite pawlidays – is the fourth Friday in June! (More like Fri-yay!) The better news? According to Pet Sitters International, “The entire week leading up to Take Your Dog To Work Day® is Take Your Pet To Work Week®.” Yep – the entire week. That means, if your place of business is participating, there’s no time like the present to start practicing some workplace (p)etiquette with your inquisitive canine.
Prep Your Pup Starting Today
Whether your dog is already an employee of the month or still developing good manners, it pays to plan ahead and come up with a strategy to ensure success. Starting today, you can:
- Pay attention to how your dog responds to new public places. If you’ve never taken your dog to work with you before, then note how your dog reacts in other new situations – including encountering different people.
- Know your pup’s personality and what you can reasonably expect in a novel situation. Like humans, dogs may have a range of responses to new experiences. For instance, when heading back to the office after months working from home, any of us might get really excited and want to greet anyone and everyone – person or dog! Or, we might become a little overwhelmed, more uncertain, reserved, anxious or even “reactive.”
- Note if your dog appears afraid when meeting new people (backing up, barking and backing up, not eating or not taking treats, for example). If so, I would conclude he or she is being pushed too far and would probably be happier ‘working from home’ on June 25. However, for many pets and their people, working together is a wonderful way to share with others the love and joy pets bring!
- Come up with an alternate plan in case dogs aren’t allowed in your workplace or you and your inquisitive canine are not quite ready to take this show on the road just yet. It’s all good! You can still celebrate! Bring photos and/or video clips of your dog (is there any better use of a smart phone?) and swap fun pet stories with your coworkers during a water-cooler – or water bowl – break.
- Perhaps, set a goal of participating IRL (in real life) next year if it’s a matter of your pup needing some help and support overcoming anxieties in the workplace or other challenging situations. Time spent with a humane, force-free trainer and/or behavior consultant building confidence and skills, and working on overcoming fears can be a real game changer for your inquisitive canine and the bond your share.
- Plan to take an active role in your dog’s behavior in public places. It’s the pawfect opportunity for dog guardians to practice positive reinforcement training and refine/show off their dogs’ skills. After all, the more active roles we take in our dogs’ behaviors out and about, the more freedom they will have to go places with us!
- Practice – even if your dog is new to these adventures and skills, no need to worry; you still have time to rehearse them. No matter the work environment, your dog will most likely need to know certain basics. Consider practicing some, or all, of the following for at least 3-5 minutes about three times a day:
- Sit and Stay – This can be a matter of safety, not just polite manners.
- Great Greetings -Your coworkers are sure to appreciate this skill!
- Go to Your Place – Helpful hint: Practice with a portable mat, bed or crate that you can bring to your workplace.
- Loose leash walking – Pro tip: Practice inside too, for when you’re walking throughout the office together during the day.
If your buddy is already savvy at canine behaviors for the workplace, I still recommend you practice, especially in new settings. And that brings us to the next stages of planning.
Prep Your Pup One Week Ahead of Time
- What kind of workplace is it? Cubicles or a ranch? Phones ringing all day? Or just one other employee? If your dog has never been introduced to this specific working environment, the best thing to do is arrange a few quick visits so he or she can start to get used to things beforehand.
- Ask if you can bring your dog to work to do some “dress rehearsals.”
- Spend a few minutes meeting and greeting everyone, sniffing around the office, learning where the “potty room” is (outside in a specific area), getting to know the surroundings, practicing some appropriate office behaviors, etc. to help make the actual day go much more smoothly.
- When Fido’s at work with you, you’ll want to provide enrichment so he will have something to do while you’re busy. So, the week before might also be a good time to experiment at home with bones and food-stuffed toys or puzzles to discover what your inquisitive canine enjoys doing independently.
Prep Your Pup on the Big Day
Since you want your CCO, that’s Chief Canine Officer, to associate the workplace and employees with fun and pleasant times, focus on how you can provide positively reinforcing moments throughout the day.
- Allow your dog to set the pace on how quickly he or she wants to meet coworkers.
- Provide a comfortable place for your pal to “work,” meaning a dog bed, mat or crate specific for him or her to hang out, either next to you or in the same general area.
- Think about what your pup’s workday might look like and prepare for:
- Meetings: This is a great time to practice rewarding your dog for calm, quiet behavior. Provide a frozen Kong, food-filled toy, or snuffle mat, or set aside a portion of his breakfast and scatter it (without making a mess of your workspace, please) so Fido can play “Find It.” Or depending on the time of day and number of distractions, it might be a good opportunity for an executive power nap (for your dog, not you!).
- Break time for Fido: Make sure to take your fur friend out for frequent potty breaks and fresh air. You may be able to sit at a computer for hours on end, but 1) should you? and 2) it might be a challenge for dogs if they’re not used to it.
- Break time for pet parents: Speaking of potty breaks, make arrangements with other staff members to take care of your dog if you have to step away, even for a few minutes.
- Pawfice politics: Do not try to force your dog to like anyone. If you do have to leave the room, make sure your leave your pup with someone she is comfortable around- or bring your dog with you.
- Lunch: This is a nice time to put on Fido’s harness and go for a walk outside. You and your pupper can decide if it’s a sniffing break (so many new scents!) or a chance to work on generalizing cues and outdoor adventuring skills in a new environment. …Or why not a little of both?
- Actually working: When you get back to the office, sometimes a leash tethered to a desk is a good option, so you don’t have to worry about your dog just wandering off while you’re on the phone or conferring with a colleague, client or customer.
- Rewards for a job well-done: At the end of the day, take time to settle in and enjoy your favorite bonding activity with your dog. Maybe that’s cuddle-time in your lap for Fido and a glass of wine for you. Certainly, you’ve both earned a fun game of fetch or tug… if either of you still has the energy. Your inquisitive canine is likely to be pretty tuckered after his big day out!
Let’s back up for a moment though. Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is check to make sure your place of business is participating. If so, be sure to thank your employer – more positive reinforcement in action! Then, if you can help make this experience positive for everyone, your inquisitive canine just might get invited back for more visits to the pawfice!
However you choose to celebrate, Take Your Dog to Work Day® is just one more reminder of the important place our dogs have in our world and in our hearts – and that’s why it will always be one of my favorite inquisitive canine-centric pawlidays.