There are situations in which a dog might not be welcome, for example, if a co-worker had allergies. An employee must request permission before bringing his/her dog into the office. If the dog interferes with another employee’s ability to work, the dog must stay at home. There is a “three-strikes” rule for dogs who demonstrate aggressive behavior, such as growling, barking or lunging. If three formal complaints are lodged against the dog, he is no longer welcome in the workplace. Of course, biting is never tolerated.
If a problem arises, the Healthwise Hounds—a group made up of both dog- and non-dog people—encourages the person to talk directly to the dog owner. If the person isn’t comfortable with that, an anonymous email may be submitted and the Healthwise Hounds will follow up.
There are a few people on the Healthwise staff who are afraid of dogs, so dog owners know to keep their pooches away. Many dog owners will thoughtfully post a sign on their office door. “A girl on my team has a little sign—Hi, my name is Miko. I’m here today and I’m a friendly dog,” says Lineberry.
The Healthwise offices are located in Boise’s beautiful foothills, and employees and their dogs take full advantage of the many walking trails that surround their workplace. The company encourages everyone to respect the trail system by cleaning up after their dogs, and has thoughtfully installed disposal-bag containers in the parking lot to make it easy for them to do so.
More than a decade ago, Replacements, Ltd., founder and owner Bob Page noticed how happy his Dachshund was to see him when he came home from work. Touched, Page started bringing his dog to work, and invited employees to do the same. Today, even customers may bring well-behaved dogs into the 12,000-square-foot showroom in Greensboro, N.C.
It’s hard to imagine curious noses and wagging tails among fragile items like the crystal, china and other collectibles for which Replacements is known, but Vice-President of Human Resources Jeanine Falcon says that it’s allowed speaks to Page’s generous philosophy. (His 11-year-old Miniature Dachshunds, Toby Lee and Trudy Mae, are very popular around the office.)
Falcon has three dogs, but only two of them are comfortable in a busy office environment. Her dogs—10-year-old Bear, a Border Collie mix, and Zola, a 14-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog—attract plenty of visitors, which she feels helps her do her job better.
“People stop by just to see the dogs all the time,” says Falcon. “I don’t know if they’d come by just to see me, though I’d like to think so! It demystifies the HR department and the executive offices, makes them comfortable and homey.”
Replacements’ formal pet policy requires each dog to be current on vaccinations, on a six-foot leash at all times, and polite to people and other dogs. “We emphasize that your pet’s behavior is your responsibility,” says Falcon. “If they chew a computer cord or growl at somebody, you may get some feedback on that. If that happens, we have a conversation with the employee: Do some training, try again in three months. We don’t fire many dogs.”
Falcon recalls that the company’s dog-friendly policy was particularly comforting when her oldest Bernese Mountain Dog, Bella, passed away. “It’s nice to know that your colleagues understand. At other places, you could call and say, ‘I’m not coming in today because my dog died,’ and they’d probably say, ‘Yeah, right.’ Here, they know the dog. They’re not pets, they’re family members, and I think that understanding really helps.”
Truth be told, we expected to hear tales of the challenges that came with having canines as part of the workforce. After all, people can be emotional about their dogs, and that can easily lead to misunderstandings. Surely there were people who would complain about shedding, barking or allergic reactions. But in all cases, it seems that these companies’ dog cultures are a natural extension of a healthy working environment, one in which employees are treated with respect and encouraged to proactively voice concerns before they turn into potential problems.