Bring Your Dog To Work Day: Is having a mutt in your meeting productive?

Farting, barking and humping the boss's leg... Caroline Corcoran discovers the reality of having a four-legged friend in the office
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The Independent Online

If you spend your journey to work sitting next to an office-bound French bulldog tomorrow, that's because it's Bring Your Dog To Work Day, an annual nationwide event which raises money for animal welfare charities. Which may mean that leaving your Pret cheese and pickle baguette unattended on your desk at lunchtime is a little riskier than usual.

Sandwich-theft aside, there are a glut of benefits to letting dogs roam free around the photocopier. The office pooch has been linked to lower stress levels, better team co-operation and increased morale, with studies even showing that people will work longer hours and take fewer days off when they can stroke their stress away on the staff Staffie.

And while pets at work may have once been the preserve of the boss (like 11am starts and three-course lunch breaks), this particular perk is filtering down. Alan, the famous "Tatler dog" who sadly died after becoming trapped in the revolving door at their offices at Vogue House, was the pet of the editor's assistant, and even giant corporations like Google and Amazon recognise the advantages.

Don't go exploiting your new four-legged colleagues, though: dog food brand Barking Heads has set up an "Office Dog Union", to try and ensure that workplace pooches get fair working conditions.

Lizzie Benton from content marketing agency Datify says that the positives she and her team get from their office dog Izzie are manifold, and mean that instead of spending breaks mindlessly scrolling Facebook, they head out for walkies or a game of "fetch".

"Izzie helps people to feel calmer and she makes you realise there's more to life than deadlines," she says. "We're a less stressed office because of her."

If we want evidence of just how much a dog can be part of the team, there is no sadder example than Charlie Hebdo's cocker spaniel Lila, credited by survivors of the attack on the magazine with bringing the survivors "back to their senses" after the shooting, as they heard the familiar sound of her paws padding around the office.

Of course, there are issues: colleagues with allergies or phobias, unsuitable workplaces and some dog breeds which just aren't happy being stuck in an office all day. Some people may also question the professionalism of a workplace where you can have your leg humped mid-way through a presentation.

"I went to a client's work premises and spent a whole meeting with their dog's head in my crotch," says literary consultant Diane Hall. "It was a professional business, yet the presence of the mutt gave it an overpowering 'dog' smell."

Which isn't surprising, really – it's enough to put anyone off their lunchtime sushi to know that a quarter of those who've taken their dogs to work admit that their pet has emptied its bowels in the office.

Four-legged friends: It's Bring Your Dog To Work Day on Friday

For many people though, the downsides are worth it. Digital marketing company Rehab Studio has three adored office dogs – a French bulldog, a Staffie and a blonde cocker spaniel – all of whom are at home everywhere in the office. Maybe even too at home.

"A few months ago, we were on a really serious client call and one of the dogs farted," laughs one of the company's creatives Nathalie Gordon. "There is nowhere to escape in these soundproofed booths so five people were suffocating in there but we couldn't show it in our faces. We've never been so happy to hang up."

Rehab Studio's dogs have also been known to eat leftover pizza and confuse the office plants with the outdoors when it comes to a place to relieve themselves but, says Nathalie, they wouldn't have their workplace any other way.

"They are such a welcome distraction, particularly when people are having a bad day," she says. "When morale is down, in comes the pup to raise the spirits. You just can't be sad when you have a fist full of Frenchie."