Dogs in the workplace

Q: My employer is very flexible and cool. We can dress how we want to dress. We can work from home. A few people have started bringing their dogs to work. I like dogs but I was bitten by a dog several years ago and so now I am reluctant to approach a dog. Some of the dogs roam the hallways and it makes me nervous. All the dogs seem nice but so did the dog that bit me!

A: Your employer sounds very progressive! How wonderful that you are given a lot of flexibility around dress and telecommuting.

Some of my clients permit employees to bring dogs to work. I understand your concern. No one should have to be fearful if they walk to the men’s room.

When an employer permits a dog to accompany an owner to work, most employers share a few requirements to ensure the safety of all:

  1. A current vet record should be provided saying that the animal is up to date on all vaccinations, etc.
  2. The dog must be house-trained and well-behaved with no history of aggressive behavior.
  3. All dogs should be treated humanely and given water and breaks outside on a regular basis.
  4. The dog must be restrained while on company property. Some dog owners use crates while some use baby gates or leashes.
  5. Create spaces where pets are not allowed. Examples include kitchens, bathrooms and conference rooms.

The landlord should also be notified in advance. Some companies require a signed legal release from the dog owner before bringing the dog into the workplace.

You could explain your concerns to your employer and ask them to limit the dogs’ ability to roam freely. It sounds like that dogs at a distance may be ok for you but you prefer not to run into them unexpectedly.

One of my clients allows employees to bring in their dogs but only on Fridays. A scheduled day might be a reasonable compromise. That way you could schedule your work-at-home day on Friday and dog owners could bring their dogs to work on Fridays.

I love most dogs but like you, I am reluctant to approach a dog I don’t know. More and more companies like Amazon and Ben and Jerry’s allow dogs in their workplaces. I think it is wise to provide rules to employees on bringing pets into the workplace so everyone shares an understanding of how it will work.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole, owner of two wonderful rescue dogs, is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section. Click here to read about more employment topics in The Job Doc Blog at Boston.com.