They say a dog’s for life, not just for Christmas. And a growing number of Welsh businesses are taking that motto to heart and creating pooch-friendly workplaces where man’s best friend is also everyone’s favourite colleague.
With benefits including better morale, emotional support and increased confidence, and even a fitter workforce, more and more firms are adopting dog-friendly practices.
At creative agency Jessica Draws Media, chocolate Labrador Ruby greets clients at the firm’s studio in Abergavenny.
The sizeable five-year-old dog accompanies the team, including husband-and-wife directors Jessica and Dave Morgan everywhere.
“Ruby’s with us for everything we do, from meetings to events to lunch,” said Jessica, 32. “She’s super-friendly, and you have to like dogs to work here. We recruited recently and we mentioned her as part of the job description. She has a spot on our website as ‘dog concierge’ – she’s that important.”
The team, which is rebranding in January, has been looking for new larger premises to make room for its expansion – and finding a site that’s dog-friendly is top of the list.
Jessica said: “We call her our therapy dog. I think it’s so nice for the team to have little screen breaks to play with her. You can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy when she’s around. If you come in feeling a bit rubbish, you can always rely on her to give you a cuddle and make you feel better.”
The whole team is welcome to bring their pups to work – animator Gareth Axford is sometimes joined by his dog, a Collie Jack Russell cross named Dr Indiana Bones.
“Having a dog in the office makes it feel more like a family – your home away from home – which makes everyone feel much more relaxed and safe,” said Jessica.
She added: “Family and life outside of work is important and we bring a little bit of that ethos with us every day when we bring Ruby to the studio. Sharing an important part of our lives every day with the team just makes us more human, more personable and breaks down those corporate walls of boss and employee.
“It’s also a really good way for the team to keep fit. Taking her for a walk as a team, or alone if you want that headspace, is just another perk.”
Glen Fraser-Hynard thinks his Canton business Fraser & Quinn might be Cardiff’s only dog-friendly hair salon.
When you book an appointment at his business on Clive Road, you can choose either to have the latest fashion magazine on your lap – or Itchy the resident Cockapoo.
“Most clients want her to sit on their lap while I’m doing their hair,” said Glen, 48, who has a tattoo of Itchy’s pawprints on his wrist.
“We’ve had people in who say they’re not particularly fond of dogs but she usually changes their mind as she’s so soppy and loving.”
Studies have found that petting a dog can increase levels of stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.
Glen agrees: “When you stroke a dog, it tends to take your mind off a bad day.”
Six-year-old Itchy has been by his side at work ever since he opened in 2014 and she even helped him through a relationship break-up two years ago.
Clients are also welcome to bring their own dogs to the salon and Glen says it’s helped his business.
“Having a dog is around is relaxing and they tend to put everyone in a good mood,” he said. “As a hairdresser, I want my clients to be happy and comfortable. We often have a few dogs in the salon at a time and they’ve never been any hassle at all.”
Last year, #BringYourDogToWorkDay started trending all across social media, and by this December, there were more than 60,000 posts.
Glen recommends other employers let staff bring their pets to work.
“Dog people are good people,” he said. “Like dogs, they’re usually loyal, and looking after a dog, especially from a puppy, requires physical work – so they’re not lazy!”
Research by pet food brand Purina found a quarter of UK firms have a policy in place to allow employees to bring their dogs to work, with one in four saying work-life balance is a top reason for introducing the scheme.
At Moginie James lettings and estate agents, it’s the main reason co-founder Nick James introduced a dog to his team.
Nick, 62, had cancer surgery three years ago and friends suggested a dog might be a source of therapy while he was undergoing treatment. His wife Sheila knew a Guide Dog puppy walker, who encouraged them to register on the Guide Dogs website.
They did, and five-year-old black Labrador Ted now spends every day with Nick, whether at the company’s head office in Cardiff Gate or its branches across the city.
“He’s given me a new perspective on work-life balance,” said Nick. “Ted gives us and our clients joy every single day. He has a beautiful soul and is so calm and gentle.”
Ted has a bed at HQ, so he can rest after socialising with staff and clients or walking in Cardiff’s parks.
“He started coming to work from almost the first day we had him and fitted in instantly,” said Nick. “As he’s a former Guide Dog puppy, he has exemplary behaviour, which means he’s comfortable around people and helps to create a calm environment.
“He meets with accountants and lawyers and regularly wanders in and out of meetings.”
And Nick agrees Ted’s presence increases productivity and enthusiasm in the office.
“The excitement, enthusiasm and energy of a dog is contagious,” he said. “It’s no different to being around humans with the same traits.
“My life and the business just wouldn’t be the same without him.”