Bark’s Best Places to Work: 2015 Edition

By Cameron Woo, February 2015, Updated January 2018

In some workplaces, lucky employees are offered a range of enticing benefits—juice bars, daycare, climbing gyms—but for us, those that top the charts open their doors and cubes to dogs. And for the firms who submitted entries to the second annual Bark’s Best Places to Work contest, having dogs on-site is also a matter of pride.

Across the country, companies large and small are proudly flying the dog flag, and that’s a good thing. Dogs in the workplace mean reduced employee stress, increased employee satisfaction and a positive work environment. Not to mention an option to lighten up with a little puppy love when things get harried.

Our sponsoring partner, Zuke’s, is pretty darned dog friendly itself. As Chris Meiering, director of innovation, says, “Our canine companions have an immeasurable impact on the culture of our company and the quality of our workplace. Without dogs under our desks, Zuke’s wouldn’t be the same.” The fine folks at Zuke’s will be sending each of the three winning firms a year’s supply of its wholesome treats. We can already hear the dogs cheering!

WINNERS

Trupanion, Seattle, Wash.
400 employees, 227 cats and dogs
trupanion.com

No surprise here: Trupanion, a pet-insurance company, is owned and operated by people who love animals. Of the 227 dogs and cats who are approved to spend time on-site, about 150 show up each day—most of them of the canine persuasion. (When Darryl Rawlings founded Trupanion in 1999, he was the only employee, and his dog, Charlie, kept him company.)

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The firm provides its employees with a plethora of pet-related benefits, including one free pet insurance policy with an enhancement that covers alternative therapies, a dog-walking service, baby gates and tethers at every cubicle, and a dedicated Pet Team made up of employees with veterinary, training and behavior expertise who provide guidance and review pet incidents. From intern to executive, everyone is expected to know and observe in-house protocols involving pet health and safety (and the prohibition on squeaky toys!).

And you know those emergency drills that require everyone to get out of the building and assemble in, say, the parking lot in an orderly way? Now, imagine that with the addition of dogs, cats, leashes and carriers. Trupanion took its commitment to its on-site companion animals into account when designing its fire safety plan, which was developed with the help of the local fire warden and experts in pet space.

On a business-review site, a Trupanion employee volunteered, “Never in my life have I ever loved a job as much.” It’s easy to understand why.

Etsy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
600 employees, 50 dogs
etsy.com

Connecting the crafty with their customers, Etsy prides itself on its casual and creative work environment. Some of that good vibe can be traced to the company’s canine operations team, manned—umm, dogged—by Sadie, Pierre, Hoover, Milo, Teddy, Starbuck, Tyson and Fish, to name just a few. (Employee experience manager Sarah Starpoli says even email looks rosy when Hoover comes over to say “hey.”)

Etsy’s dog-friendly policy, which has been in place from the e-commerce site’s beginning in 2005, allows employees’ dogs to wander at will through the company’s headquarters in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, and their fans get email updates—“poop911s.”

Etsy gives employees time off to volunteer, which many use to lend a hand to humane and rescue groups; it also supports local adoption events. In fact, a number of the Etsy dogs are rescues—for example, Fish, whose full name is “Fish Dogg Hunt,” got his second chance from Etsy creative designer Randy Hunt.

Having dogs at work reinforces the company’s mission, which includes being a “mindful, transparent and humane business,” and making fun part of everything they do. (The “fun” was on display last Halloween, when the office swarmed with costumed kids and dogs enjoying a family-friendly party.)

As the company notes, “Through our dog-friendly policies, we’re living our values by crafting a happy, healthy workplace for our employees. … helping them better integrate their personal and professional lives, reduce stress and generally have more fun at work.”

archer>malmo, Memphis, Tenn.
160 employees, 25 dogs
archermalmo.com

Headquartered in Memphis’s historic Cotton Exchange Building, this advertising and marketing agency has been welcoming dogs to the office for the last 15 of its 60-plus years. The firm’s open (dog) door policy began in the late 1990s as part of “Bring Your Dog to Work” day; before long, dogs at work were the rule rather than the exception.

As CEO Russ Williams says, “Dogs bring joy to our hearts and lives at home, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing for us at work? There is no question in my mind that dogs in the office are accretive to the value of our work.” (Williams’ two dogs occasionally join him at the office.)

The company does pro bono projects for local humane and health charities, and individual employees do their bit for the rescue community as well. For example, one of the account managers is a long-time volunteer with Tails of Hope, assisting with adoption days and fundraisers, and fostering as needed.

Archer>malmo also makes pet insurance available to its employees, underwriting 10 percent of the premium. Until about a year ago, when a formal pet policy was put in place, company dogs roamed at will; there were, of course, occasional etiquette faux pas (who can forget the case of the purloined Pop Tarts?).

The firm counts companion-animal health businesses among its client base, so—in addition to adding to its feel-good quotient—archer>malmo’s dogs have been known to provide creative inspiration as well.

But Wait! There’s More!

Judging from the entries to this year’s Bark’s Best Places to Work contest, there’s no end to the ways dogs are incorporated into and provided for in the modern dog-friendly workplace. For example . . .

SUP ATX in Austin welcomes dogs to its company outings and socials, and office dogs take part in the company’s stand-up paddleboard classes.

Seattle-based Paula’s Choice considered canine requirements when choosing new office space, and in those offices, doggie gates and tethers are provided (plus, an unlimited supply of pickup bags); the company also offers subsidized pet insurance.

Ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., includes office dogs in its emergency-response planning, and mid-morning group dog walks are a regular thing.

At Average Joes Entertainment, a Nashville alt-country record label, employees’ dogs are greeted with open arms and pockets full of dog biscuits.

NYC ad firm McGarryBowen offers comprehensive pet insurance as part of their benefit package.

Employees’ dogs at Eddie’s Wheels in Shelburne, Mass., help out with the company’s mobility-product R&D, and at Bomber Online in Silverthorne, Colo., they meet and greet visitors to the snowboard-binding operation.

In Seattle, online pet-sitter service Rover.com employees have a truly splendid pet-related benefit package, which includes a new-dog bonus, foster-home bonus, pet-bereavement time off, and sitter coverage when they take a well-earned vacation.

Portland, Ore., ad agency North, a small company with a big charitable footprint, supports its local dog-related organizations, including Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital and the Oregon Humane Society. Dogs are everywhere in the agency offices: “on laps, under desks, in meetings.” And how sweet is this? They describe themselves as patient with all types of workplace dogs: “old dogs, rescue dogs, nervous dogs, dogs who have to wear gym shorts and cones after surgery …”

In addition to clean floors, Bissell Homecare, Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich., is also seriously devoted to animal welfare. The Bissell Pet Foundation, founded by Cathy Bissell, focuses on adoption, spay/neuter, microchipping and foster care to reduce the number of animals in shelters.

Employees of Now What, a Brooklyn-based strategy and research firm, volunteer time and donate money to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. And when they adopt a dog, they get a day of paid time off to help the newcomer settle in.

At distiller Tito’s Handmade Vodka in Austin, rescue dogs live on the premises, and the company actively supports several animal charities.

Pet retailer Kriser’s of Santa Monica, Calif., gives employees time off to volunteer with local humane groups.

Watering Bowl, a St. Louis, Mo., dog daycare and boarding business, reimburses its employees up to $125 for annual vet checks and covers new-dog adoption fees.

In Portland, Maine, web developer Page One Web Solutions gives employees who’ve lost a pet time off to grieve.

A small community of dogs (35, actually) lightens the 60-hour workweeks at security software firm Palantir, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.

At tech giant Google’s Mountain View, Calif., offices, freedom to bring their dogs to work is one of many enviable employee perks. The company provides a fenced play area and strategically placed treat stations.

In the Malibu, Calif., office of the Sam Simon Foundation, there are more dogs than people. The foundation, which trains assistance dogs, has a roster of 12 dogs and 8 employees.

Among other things, the 40 or so dogs who come to work with their people at the Radio Systems Corporation (DBA PetSafe), a pet product manufacturer based in Knoxville, Tenn., have their own dedicated dog park to frolic in, complete with agility equipment (lucky local dogs are also welcome to join the fun).

Bitly, a NYC-based digital marketing firm, has a casual but enthusiastic policy: “We love dogs!”

On the big-picture front, in Sri Lanka, Odel PLC, a clothing manufacturer, commits resources to programs that support rescue and adoption of its country’s street dogs.

And let us not forget the pioneers. The dogs-at-work protocol developed by San Francisco Bay Area design software firm Autodesk is quite possibly the granddaddy of them all. Dogs have been coming to work with their people here since 1982.

And in Greensboro, N.C., crystal, china, and silver retailer Replacements, Ltd., was chosen as the site of the first quantitative study on the benefits of dogs in the workplace, which was conducted in 2012 by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a perfect match-up: Replacements has been dog friendly for 18 years (and counting).

Truth is, every company that entered makes winners of its employees and their dogs every single day. We congratulate and celebrate all of them.

Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.

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