Andrew Field and his wife, Victoria, never wanted to be like the couples who coddled their pets like children. That changed when they got Jessie, a Border collie and black Labrador mix, who has since accompanied Field to work every day for five years. Such an arrangement ruffled no feathers--Field owns the company.
At first, only he and one co-worker brought their canine companions to work at PrintingForLess.com, a $10.3 million printing services company with 85 employees. Now, as many as eight dogs frequent the two-story building on any given day. "People find it a great stress release," says Field, 44. "But it was on the verge of getting completely out of control." So Field, his lawyer, and the director of human resources drafted an official company dog policy, which detailed owner accountability, established a dog review board, and created a dog-approval process (among the criteria: Pooch must be housebroken and spend a trial day at the office). Other pets, especially cats, are not allowed. Neither are "inherently intimidating breeds" such as rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, pit bulls, or German shepherds.
Employees love the perk. Paul Tikalsky, a technical service representative and aspiring dog owner, says having the dogs around is therapeutic. "It's relaxing to stop and pet them," he says. "It's a welcome distraction." Dogs may wander to desks seeking dog biscuits from sympathetic employees, but most stick with their owners. Technical service rep Michele Rogerson says her cocker spaniel, Buster, stays in a bed under her desk: "He's well behaved and laid-back. We joke that he's a mama's boy."
Peg Rucker, a past president of the American Animal Hospital Association, says dog policies are becoming more prevalent in casual workplaces but urges keeping tabs on vaccinations and diseases. Otherwise, she says, dogs at work can prove a great benefit by fostering an open, familylike environment.
Field also says the policy helps him make good hires; candidates who respond favorably to the rule are likely to fit in with the office culture. Job seekers allergic to dogs are welcome to apply, but with one caveat. "We don't accommodate people with allergies," he says. "They can medicate."
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