Pet Sitters International’s Take Your Dog to Work Day celebrates its 15th year on Friday, June 21, 2013. If you’ve ever been in an office on the day set aside for spreading the word about how great dogs are, you know the amazing effect our canine pals can have amidst the filing cabinets, cube walls and rolling chairs.

“The growth of the day has honestly been amazing,” says Beth Stultz, marketing manager for PSI, which started the annual event in 1999. “I don’t believe anyone who was here when it started thought that it would get this big, but we’re excited that it has.”

If your workplace doesn’t normally allow dogs in the office, Take Your Dog to Work Day offers a chance to see a dog around every cube corner. Photo courtesy of Pet Sitters International.

Although the professional organization, made up of people who care for pets in their owners’ absence, doesn’t require businesses to register to participate, the staff believes that about 300 businesses participated that first year by allowing employees to show up at work with their dogs in tow. Since then, PSI has created all kinds of helpful information to assist employees in starting a Take Your Dog to Work Day tradition at their workplaces.

In “Win Over the Boss,” PSI suggests planning ahead, addressing any concerns the boss has, asking a professional pet sitter to help on the day of the event and sharing facts about pet ownership and the benefits of dogs in the workplace.

Those benefits have been documented in recent years as everyone’s understanding of the human-animal bond has grown. For example, a 2011 study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that having dogs in the workplace lowers stress in their owners and makes work more satisfying for other employees.

Some companies now celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day every year.

PSI also offers “7 Rules for Success,” advising that participants:

  •  Check to see who on the company’s staff has allergies;
  • •  Puppy-proof their work spaces;
  •  Bathe and groom their dogs just prior to June 21;
  •  Take along food, treats, toys, paper towels, pickup bags and pet-safe disinfectant;
  •  Plan to feed their dogs so that elimination can be predicted and managed;
  •  Avoid “forcing” co-workers to interact with their dogs; and
  •  Create an exit strategy should their dogs not like being at the office.

To enhance the event, PSI offers ideas such as having a pet costume contest or puppy parade; serving a hot dog lunch to the company’s staff; hosting a pet fair with presentations by a pet sitter, groomer, veterinarian, dog trainer or other pet professional; or holding fun contests, such as “best trick, friendliest canine co-worker, the ‘lazy dog’ employee of the day or most talented.”

Take Your Dog to Work Day has grown “quite organically,” Stultz says, in the last few years with the assistance of social media. “In the first year, there were lots of calls, lots of media promotions just to get some initial businesses participating,” she says. “From year to year, businesses get local press, and the word just seemed to spread. In the last few years, we’ve seen tremendous growth. Last summer, more than 360,000 visitors explored  to learn more about participating in the annual event – a 200-percent increase in site traffic from the previous year.”

Although a strong foundation and positive reputation were already in place, “social media has really helped us spread the word about the event,” she says.

Stultz says PSI President Patti Moran is “really humbled by the fact that it’s grown so much. She essentially started it as a way to give back. She’s such a positive, unique person, it fits with how she approaches everything she does.”

A group of employees enjoying a day of work with their dogs by their sides takes a moment to pause for a photograph to commemorate the day.

An important part of Take Your Dog to Work Day is one of its original purposes – to expose people to dogs and encourage them to considering adopting a dog. Over the years, some companies have asked local animal shelters to take adoptable dogs to their businesses for the day, while others hold fundraisers then donate the proceeds to a shelter or rescue.

“We hear from businesses every year saying how much they raised,” Stultz says, as well as from participants who say, “My coworker adopted a dog that was brought over.”
“So we’re really proud that we found a unique, positive way to shed light on the issue.”

While helping shelters and sheltered animals is “at the heart of the campaign,” Stultz says, “people get very excited just about the idea of having their dogs at work. People like to show off their dogs. It certainly makes a fun office Friday.

“When our president came up with the idea, of course, she hoped the event would make a difference,” Stultz says. “The idea was to create an event to give back to the pet community from which our members earn their living.”

Although this year’s event is just a little more than a week away, if you want to set up an event, you can download a free action pack from PSI.