Recently having lost my dog, memories of him have been much on my mind of late. So perhaps it was kismet that last week I came across an article about dogs in the work place. For the last three years I ran my company my Jack Russell Terrier Jiggers was my constant companion.

My Dog Jiggers

I joke with my wife that I spent more time with him than her, but in fact it was true. I worked from home and he slept in the chair in my office, walked with me to my mailbox several blocks away, and accompanied me on my weekly visits to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf where I graded papers. I will never forget the afternoon when a mom with two small children walked by us and confused Jiggers with Milo, the dog in The Mask. They were so excited to see the “movie star dog.”

VCU Study: Office Dogs Reduce Work-Related Stress

Little did I know that according to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, people who bring their dogs to work accumulate less stress during the day. As well, 50% of those who brought their dogs to the office reported their productivity increased. For the business owner, employees who were allowed to bring their dogs to work felt they received greater support from their employers.

Since the results of this study resonated with my own experience, I thought it was worth looking into this issue further.It turns out that although humans and dogs have been bonding for over 12 millennia (several years ago in Israel a 12,000-year-old human skeleton was found buried with its hand resting on the skeleton of a 6-month-old wolf pup), little research has been done on human-animal relations. This despite the fact that about two-thirds of U.S. households have at least one pet and the pet population has grown from 40 million dogs and cats in 1967 to 160 million in 2006.

It turns out that although humans and dogs have been bonding for over 12 millennia (several years ago in Israel a 12,000-year-old human skeleton was found buried with its hand resting on the skeleton of a 6-month-old wolf pup), little research has been done on human-animal relations. This despite the fact that about two-thirds of U.S. households have at least one pet and the pet population has grown from 40 million dogs and cats in 1967 to 160 million in 2006.

In 2008 the National Institutes of Health held several meetings of experts in human-animal interaction. One study indicated that pet owners had better cardiovascular health, even improving longevity after a severe heart attack. Another looking at married couples seemed to indicate pets improved marriages. It found spouses with pets had lower blood pressure and heart rates, responded more mildly, and recovered from stress more quickly. Getting more exercise appears to be another benefit of pet ownership.

Children seem to benefit from pets too, giving them an outlet for releasing anxiety as well as helping them develop empathy.

Jiggers the Mental Health Worker

Many years ago when my father was in a nursing home, I asked the staff if I could bring my dog the next time I visited, knowing it would cheer up my father to see and pet him. To my surprise, they agreed.From the moment we walked in the door Jiggers spent every ounce of his being greeting each person as if he were finally being reunited with his dearest, long-lost friend. And they loved it. That first visit after spending time with my father he met dozens of people. The change in their bearing was remarkable. Whether in wheelchairs or walkers, standing up or lying down they went from being downcast to

From the moment we walked in the door Jiggers spent every ounce of his being greeting each person as if he were finally being reunited with his dearest, long-lost friend. And they loved it. That first visit, after spending time with my father, he met dozens of people. The change in their bearing was remarkable. Whether in wheelchairs or walkers, standing up or lying down they went from being downcast to elated.

Jiggers furiously wagged his stubby tail, positioned himself so they could pet him, and made them feel important. He became the talk of the home and his visits were eagerly anticipated. During all of the months of visiting his enthusiasm never flagged. To Jiggers, there were no strangers or insignificant people.

While there is too little research to draw firm conclusions, studies indicate that my experience was not a fluke. It appears that animal-assisted therapy reduces pain in patients with life-threatening illnesses and relieves distress among cancer patients. The full NIH article makes interesting reading.

Why Dogs on a Business Blog?

We probably never give a thought to the fact that farmers and ranchers have brought their dogs to work for centuries so we can learn something from agri-business. Bringing our pets to work may give us an edge through a less stressful, more productive workplace. Perhaps we can attract and retain better employees. And maybe we will improve our overall quality of life. And the best part – as the business owner we get to decide the pet policy.