08/16/2012 07:40 EDT | Updated 10/16/2012 05:12 EDT

It's Never Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work Day


Good old Alberta, the land of big trucks, big belt buckles and big deals. It's also the land of big dogs. And little ones. And every size in between. It seems like you can't swing a cat in our province without hitting someone who's cavorting with a canine.

Man's best friend can lead to a common conundrum, though. The question is; should dogs be part of your corporate culture?

A while back I called the VP of a company for a scheduled telephone meeting, and ended up fighting for air time with his dog. Not just any dog, but one that sounded like a K9 defense hound cornering a burglar during the heist of the century.

"Sorry 'bout that," the executive said, "I bring my dog to work with me and he goes crazy every time he sees a bird."

Our corporate conversation was preempted because of a bird? I almost had a canary!

On another occasion, the manager I visited in her corner office had a puppy on the floor in a funky little carrying case. Cute. Until Phoebe (the puppy, not the woman) appeared at my feet and began licking the toe of my one of my brand new red patent-leather Manolo's.

"I can't keep her locked up in there all day!" exclaimed her mistress. Hopefully she came up with a Plan B, because making her precious pup a priority could potentially lead to questions about her decision-making abilities.

These days there seems to be plenty of opportunities for people to bring their favorite four-legged friends to work with them. Those critters can add a lot of character to a business, in some cases even becoming part of the brand.

That is, unless your pooch takes center stage.

If your dog accompanies you to the job, there's something you need to know -- not everyone loves having your canine companion around as much as you do. Some people are frightened of even the friendliest lap dog. Others think your puppy pals are, shall we say, unhygienic. And then there are folks like me, who adore dogs but are allergic to them.

By now I suspect you bring-your-dog-to-work lovers are thinking of me as a 'Doggy Bag'. And I get it. But before you get your extendable leashes in a knot, please hear me out.

Bringing a dog to work is a privilege that is often reserved for business owners and other "higher-ups." Some employees may wonder why there's a double standard. After all, if the boss gets to bring a dog to work why can't they? And what about their feline friends; are they chopped liver? You're running a business, not a kennel...right?

The fact is, at most workplaces customers would rather be greeted with a handshake than a sniff.

As a leader you're setting an example, so before you open the crate to let the canine equivalent of the cat out of the bag, here's some 60-Second Civility advice to help you stay out of the corporate doghouse:

1. Go public. Whether you mention it in conversation or post a "pet-friendly" sign on your door, it's respectful to let people know there's a dog on the premises so they can make arrangements to meet you elsewhere if that's their preference.

2. Make manners mandatory. Only bring a courteous, pleasant, well-trained dog to work with you. Ensure that barking, begging and jumping are not in your doggy's bag of tricks.

3. Mind your business. Work comes first, especially when a client or colleague is present. Avoid letting your dog's needs overshadow those of the humans around you.

4. Clean up after your canine colleague. Messy bowls, chewed treats and hair-covered upholstery don't serve your business well. Place your pet's food and water in a discreet location and keep surfaces free of fur and dander.

5. Hit the mutt mute button. When talking on the telephone, joining a meeting via Skype, participating in a conference call or doing a radio interview, always be mindful of the potential for your dog to spontaneously bark. Put them in a separate room and close the door.

6. Curb your enthusiasm. There's no need to parade your pooch around like he's competing at Westminster. When customers and colleagues come to meet with you, hang up the lead and lead. If people express an interest in meeting your furry friend, fine. But if they don't give a knick-knack paddy-whack, then give your dog a bone and send him out of the room.

In the long run it's an executive decision whether furry friends are welcome at work. But if they are, please keep this in mind; you may get the short end of the stick if that doggy in the boardroom window piddles on your professionalism.