Team Building: Adding a Pawsitive Influence in the Office - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: Adding a Pawsitive Influence in the Office

Photo: Outdoor Experts, Inc.

Dogs are touted as man’s best friend, so should they be welcome in your landscape company’s office?

Troy Clogg, owner of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates, LLC, based in Wixom, Michigan, says that he’s always had a dog by his side and because he brought his dog to work, it only seemed fair to let others bring in theirs as well.

Photo: Troy Clogg Landscape Associates, LLC

“I just believe that sharing your life with dogs makes us a better person,” Clogg says.

He says they have around five to six dogs in the office.

Gayle Younglove, VP of Outdoor Experts, Inc., based in Romulus, Michigan, says they always had dogs with them when they had a home office and they’ve had them at their headquarters since they moved to their current location in 2007.

“We had only two for many of the years until the 3rd guy ran in front of my husband being chased by two coyotes,” Younglove says. “He rescued him from the road and despite all our efforts, we were never able to locate his owners. Of course, he wiggled his way into our hearts and he got along with the two female dogs we already had so well that we couldn’t send him to the shelter.”

Benefits of Dogs in the Office

Clogg says his decision to allow dogs in the office is more about the dogs’ well-being than it being a perk for employees.

“It makes it more like a family environment than work,” Clogg says. “Some people worry about leaving their pets unattended at home or somewhere for extended periods of time. It’s better for the people and it’s certainly much better for the dogs.”

Photo: Outdoor Experts, Inc.

Younglove says as small business owners they put in very long hours and snow removal work is a large part of their business, requiring extended hours away from home.

“Because of the long days, if we couldn’t have them with us, we wouldn’t make good pet parents,” she says. “Bringing them to the office allows us to do both.”  

Clogg says for some employees, having dogs in the office is a morale boost for them. Younglove says having dogs in the office can help relieve stress and make you laugh.  

Younglove says that their customers love stopping in and seeing the dogs. Their team also likes taking a break to throw ball or give them their favorite treat.

“I would say 98% of the customers that come in love the dogs and say they come just to see the dogs,” Younglove says. “On occasion some have just stopped in to say hi to the dogs. Buying something from us is just a bonus. On the rare occasion they aren’t in the office everyone asks where they are. They are sometimes even featured on our Facebook posts.”

Clogg says the fact they allow dogs in the office has come up in interviews with new hires. He says their new receptionist is able to get her dog fix at work as she doesn’t have any pets of her own.

Drawbacks of Dogs in the Office

Clogg says you’d have to ask someone who doesn’t like dogs in order to think of a drawback to having them in the office.

“There’s probably people who have interviewed don’t want to be around a dog,” Clogg says. “They don’t like it, but I’ve never heard that.”

Photo: Troy Clogg Landscape Associates, LLC

Younglove says the dog hair and a pet occasionally getting sick or having an accident are the main drawbacks she’s experienced.

“It doesn’t happen often, but when we are really busy and I’m not at my desk for them to remind me that it’s ‘break’ time or catch the signs that there is going to be a problem,” Younglove says. “We also have to make sure no one leaves food accessible.”

As far as people being allergic to dogs, Younglove says it is very rare but they’ve had one or two customers ask to keep the dogs away.

“One of the things we tell potential candidates applying for work is that they first have to pass the ‘dog test,’” Younglove says.   

Younglove says because all of their dogs have some Labrador in them they do occasionally chew on items, especially when they were young.

“One of them is definitely more of my security dog letting everyone know when someone walks in and that it’s her space,” Younglove says. “This can be a little annoying at times when you are on the phone or trying to talk to a customer in person.”  

Pitfalls to Be Mindful

Policies and procedures should be in place if you decide to allow pets in the office. Clogg says whatever rules you set need to be honestly enforced.

Photo: Troy Clogg Landscape Associates, LLC

It takes some leadership skills to explain that not every job position can take advantage of this perk.

In one case, Clogg had an employee who wanted to bring his dog in the truck with him, but it wasn’t the right environment for the dog as they couldn’t leave the truck running all the time.

Clogg adds not every dog is a good fit, but he doesn’t discriminate against any specific dog breeds. Think through how you’ll respond if an employee brings in a puppy or a more aggressive behaved dog.

“Not all people work well together and not all dogs need to be in the office,” Clogg says. “Poorly trained dogs cause disruptions. It is not their job to protect and attack.”

He says their mechanic’s dog could get a little protective and barked a lot when he was a puppy so he wasn’t allowed to be in the office until this behavior improved.

Younglove says you need to know your situation and if you have a lot of walk-in clients consider if they will be okay with animals in the office.

Photo: Outdoor Experts, Inc.

“Make sure you don’t have any dogs that are going to dart out open doors when team members or customers come in and out,” she says. “Put signage out to let everyone know there are pets on property and be a responsible pet owner by watching your pets and how everyone is interacting. If you are in the snow removal business and work at night, be sure to have lighted collars to help them be seen when you are out with them in the dark.”

If you decide to allow pets in the office, you need to make sure the dogs have a place to go outside and someone is maintaining that area. At Clogg’s company, they have large fenced-in area where the dogs can be let outside for as long as they like. He says they have separate food bowls in different spaces to prevent dogs from fighting over food.

Younglove says they have gates to keep their dogs separate from the occasional customer who is afraid of dogs.

Owner responsibility is number one requirement to avoid issues with dogs in the office. While employees can bring in their pets, stress that this is not a doggy daycare.

“Be a good dog owner,” Clogg says. “It’s no different than being a good parent.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.