Mental health benefits of allowing dogs in the workplace

“Having dogs in the office can improve employee mental health, as well as provide a calming influence at work, relieve tension or stress and promote social interaction.”

Our changing relationship towards dogs in the workplace

In the past the presence of dogs in the office were confined to allowing only assistance dogs who support their owners with visual, hearing or other health impairments. However the recent COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed our attitudes and relationship towards dogs in the work environment.


The pandemic has changed our attitudes towards dogs in the work environment


Firstly, the pandemic has facilitated the biggest boom in pet ownership Australia has seen. During periods of significant stress, uncertainty and reduced social interactions, many Australians turned to pet ownership as a source of comfort and joy. Over a million additional dogs were brought into Australian household since 20191.

Secondly, the pandemic appears to have strengthened the relationship between people and their pets, due to the increased amount of time spent together during the lockdowns. Many dog owners have become used to having their dogs alongside them whilst working from home.


Many dog owners have become used to having their dogs alongside them whilst working

Reasons for allowing dogs at work

A significant number of owners have identified the benefits of interacting with dogs, including companionship, comfort, positive mental and physical health, as well as unconditional love1. The touch based interactions people have with dogs were comforting and relaxing in a way that contributed to their overall wellbeing2.

Employee satisfaction, stress alleviation and positive mental health have become an increasing concern for employers. Consequently the presence of dogs in the workplace can provide a highly useful tool for employers to tackle these issues. Having dogs in the office can improve employee mental health, as well as provide a calming influence at work, relieve tension or stress and promote social interaction.


Employee interaction with dogs promote positive mental health and alleviate stress


The companionship provided by dogs continue to be highly valued by Australians. Almost half of pet owners surveyed said they now spend more quality time with their pets compared to before and even during the pandemic1. With pet ownership now at record levels, employers have another reason to seriously consider allowing their employees to bring dogs to the workplace.

A survey by LiveCareer3 indicated that a significant number of employees value pet friendly workplaces and are using it as a criteria when choosing an employer. The survey found:

  • 52% of respondents said that pet-friendly benefits and policies are important when considering an employer
  • 49% said that a pet-friendly work environment could convince them to take a job offer
  • 52% felt more supportive of pets in the workplace due to the pandemic.

More benefits of allowing dogs at work

Research shows that employees who often took their dog to work reported higher than average work engagement on all factors (vigour, dedication, and absorption) with significant differences reported in comparison to those who never took their dog to work4. Dogs in the workplace encourage interactions between staff and promote an improved social atmosphere.


Dogs encourage positive social interactions between staff

Managing health and safety aspects of having dogs at work

Before allowing dogs in the office, employers should have in place a Work, Health and Safety Management System (WHSMS) including a policy for dogs in the workplace. The policy should state the expected standards of behaviour for both humans and dogs, such as:

  • Owners being responsible for ensuring that their dog will not cause a disruption in the office. This may involve requiring proof of proper socialisation with other dogs and people, such as a certificate of basic obedience
  • An agreement on who will be responsible for cleaning up after the dog and whose insurance will pay for any damages/ injury caused
  • Owners ensuring that the dog is currently healthy and will not spread any infections. This includes making sure the dog’s vaccinations are up to date.


Employers should have in place policies and procedures for having dogs in the office


The WHSMS should also include a procedure for employees to assess the risks that humans and dogs may encounter in the work environment, as well as  controls to bring these risk to a manageable level. Detailed guidelines should be provided on:

  • How to identify whether other employees have cynophobia (an extreme fear of dogs), allergies or cultural aversion to dogs
  • What type of work space set up is suitable for keeping a dog in the office
  • Who will be supervising the dog (including when the owner is required to be away from their work space such as during meetings)
  • Areas of the office where the dog is allowed and not allowed
  • How to introduce and socialise the dog to other dogs already in the office
  • How to ensure the dog has a positive experience in the office
  • How to reward the dog for good behaviour in the office and prevent bad behaviour.


Employee and employers need to agree on whose insurance will pay for any damages or injury caused by the dog


Having dogs in the workplace offers substantial benefits to both workers and employers, most importantly by promoting positive mental health in the workplace. With the right safety management systems in place and a little planning, employers may find having dogs in the office can bring a massive improvement to their workplace and quality of life.



Did you just say… ‘The Boss is bringing his cat to the office tomorrow’?!!





  1. Animal Medicines Australia, 2021, ‘Pets and the Pandemic: A Social Research Snapshot of Pets and People in the COVID-19 Era’, Newgate Research,, accessed on 27 April 2023.
  2. Young, J, Pritchard, R., Nottle, C., Banwell, H., 2020, ‘Pets, Touch and COVID-19: Health Benefits from Non-Human Touch Through Times of Stress’, Journal of Behavioural Economics for Policy, Vol 4, pp 25-33.
  3. Pieniazek, J., 2021, ‘Working like a Dog: Opinions on Pets in the Workplace’, LiveCareer,, accessed on 1st May 2023.
  4. Hall, S., Mills, D., 2019, ‘Taking Dogs Into the Office: A Novel Strategy for Promoting Work Engagement, Commitment and Quality of Life’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Vol 6, Article 138.



University of South Australia, 2021, ‘Companion-Animal Multi Species Risks Management Tool (CAMSRMT), Society for Companion Animal Studies,, accessed on 16th August 2022.