How to deal with a spaniel in the office?
July 14, 2012 1:55 AM   Subscribe

A colleague brings a noisy and disruptive (but otherwise lovely!) dog to the office, what's the best way of telling him that it's not OK?

I'm relocating to a different office. The setup is a large main room, with everyone in plus one senior manager, and the rest of senior management in a different room. The senior manager in the main room brings his excitable spaniel to work, where it barks, runs amok, and is given bits of carpet to chew up.

When I've visited this office, it's often a complete tip, with dog toys everywhere. The dog is house trained, but not much else, he barks, jumps up, and runs around. The senior manager gives the dog treats and fusses him when he starts barking, and even as a cat owner I know that's not right!

The rest of the team in the office are really sick of it but are terrified of saying anything because the dog belongs to the senior manager. He even has them picking up and bringing in the dog when he's not at work and needs a dogsitter. The rest of the senior team see it as a bit of a joke, and it's not been dealt with in a serious, formal manner.

I am quite happy to say something, because it's a ridiculous situation, where the dog is barking while you are making important phone calls, or jumping up at clients. I am happy to start dealing with this in a serious, formal manner if required!

I would love a well behaved office dog - we used to have someone who brought in their lab, and another guy had the sweetest little terrier. So what's the best way to address this?
posted by sarahdal to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You'd do best to just not move to that office if you can't cope with the situation. From what you're saying the people in charge do not see it as a problem, your direct superior (?) is the offending party and whilst your future colleagues may be unhappy about it they have failed to do anything about it so are unlikely to unite around you in trying to fix this.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:33 AM on July 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's not your problem. Working for people who think unprofessionalism is okay (particularly when dealing with clients) is much more your problem but, like anything in the office, if you're annoyed by that enough, you get a job somewhere else. You can't change them.
posted by heyjude at 2:44 AM on July 14, 2012

koahiatamadl is probably right.

However, I used to work with a woman who I believe could have pulled this off. I can see her walking in and noting in an exasperated voice the absolute absurdity of the situation in such a way that it just became clear that THIS WILL NOT DO! She was a force of nature.

Of course, I have no idea if this would be a good tactic for you.
posted by she's not there at 2:52 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Managers do shit like that. Because they can. Where I work, we have to put up with kids in the office. Not just on bring your kid to work day, but every damn day for weeks on end because the kids are on vacation and it's cheaper and easier than arranging babysitting. And who wants to tell the boss that his sniffly fidgety teenager is annoying?

Try to find a way not to work in the same room. If there's an otherwise less attractive but dog-free option in the building, see if that's OK. If you're asked why, say you think you have an allergy to dogs, because (list symptoms you looked up online). Maybe you can get a doctor to back you up.
posted by pracowity at 5:04 AM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is the dog owner a colleague or a superior to you? I think that might make all the difference.
If a colleague by all means say something -and bless you. (I too deal with a shop dog. Let us leave it at that.)

If you are going to report to this person, you may want to say something to your present superior BEFORE you move to this office.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:41 AM on July 14, 2012

Bring in your own dog and see if the rules are applied evenly.

(kidding. mostly.)
posted by jon1270 at 6:27 AM on July 14, 2012

When this started up in our workspace on campus, it was the housekeeping staff that was finally effective in laying down the law. I'd also consider a complaint to HR; people have both fears of dogs and allergies to dogs, and moreover it's simply unreasonable to inflct your beloved pet on everybody else no matter how wonderful you're sure it is.

That said, the power differential such that you should think hard about how important this really is to you, especially if your name is going to be attached to it.
posted by gerryblog at 7:17 AM on July 14, 2012

There's probably a reason your senior manager is grouped away from the others. And that reason might have big brown eyes and barks.

Along the lines of what she's not there suggested, since you don't mind addressing it, could you go in with these concerns as part of an agenda during whatever might be considered your orientation/move-in days? As you're taking your place and inquiring about this office's culture, I think you need to indicate, to the senior manager, with polite reserve and professionalism, that this is not okay as it is.

Adding what you've mentioned to a list of other valid questions, but letting your non-verbal response indicate that there's an issue might be a little passive-aggressive, but it can be used to open an agenda and a very very direct gaze can indicate that the manager needs to realize on his own that something must change. Things sound different when they come out of your own mouth, so maybe your new manager needs to hear his own answers. I've used that technique on day one in one of my last jobs, where I realized that the intake system was terrible and there were security issues with the inventory before even going in. So, while in my case it was, "Let me get this straight - you write up one receipt quickly in triplicate when the items arrive with the client; then you re-write it by hand again when you properly inventory them with more time, and then you type the items in the computer inventory? Hmmm." (long pause while assistant of former department head shuffles feet and it dawns on CEO that this is a little wrong) or "So, do I understand there is no master list of who has the combination to the safe, and no idea of who has keys to this office? Hmmm." Not mean, just pointed and thoughtful. If you think you can set that tone, go for it.

You might to in there with a few questions such as "And, what is the policy here for personal effects?" (not unusual - in mrgood's office, desks have to be cleared each night) and then move on to "So, please tell me - what happens when the dog barks while I'm speaking to a client?" "Hmmm." and "I'm not okay with a dog jumping on me, and (heaven) forbid that happens to a client. Is there a command like "off" to stop it - or should I do what I've read, which is to put my knee up?" (Whether or not that's right as it's not the only answer, it indicates that you have an expectation for a solution) and maybe "So, where do the dog's toys go when they're not being played with - surely we don't leave that for housekeeping? And clients don't want to see that." "Hmmm." After each question, stare, and if the answer fluffs them off in any way, stare incredulously and and nod slowly. And then move onto a last question about something unrelated like "Is there a scent-free policy?" just so the point about the dog has been made, but it's a part of being thorough and wanting to fit in.

If you still must deal with the dog, realize that bored, untrained and under-exercised dogs act like this. While it can turn into "do a job once and it's yours" thing - bring in a kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter and give it to the dog before you make a call; take the dog for a walk so that it might nap more (bonus breaks!); and bring in a personalized basket for the dog toys as a housewarming gift after you arrive. Take a few actions to have a good office dog, if it comes down to it. One other suggestion, or an option on days when the boss isn't there, is that you all might work on proper indoor tethering as a technique to control the dog at least for when clients come in.
posted by peagood at 10:00 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

What the hell? i"m terrified of dogs and would be pissed.
Tell management to let him know a couple of people have dog allergies.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2012

In one of my pre-move meetings, I would say as professionally polite and blankly as possible that you are a little concerned about maintaining your current level of productivity with an active office dog. It puts you on the record with valid concerns, and means you can later escalate when the dog is later disruptive.

If you aren't able to head the dog off at the pass and end up at this office with spoiled dog, document every. damn. time. the dog distracts you from work, barks while you're on the phone with clients, etc. Compute how much money this dog is costing the firm in productivity. Any sane manager will rethink their office dog policy. Now, it sounds like your manager isn't completely sane. Assuming you have at someone expressed your professional bemusement at having a disruptive office pet, suggest that the other office folk unhappy with the dog also keep a documented dog disruption journal.
posted by smirkette at 11:59 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you'll have to just work around it unless something specific happens. If they don't care enough to put limits on him or the dog to the degree that they let it have contact with clients and the like, that's not really up to you.

BUT! If you are a commission-based earner or otherwise rely on positive customer interaction for your pay, you could push back based on negative client response. "I almost had that sale, but Rover jumped on them!" or "Just as I'd closed on those upgrades, she heard barking and started backpedaling" delivered in a regretful, concerned tone could go far in convincing them to require more constraint of the dog's behaviour.

Other than that, just be a positive role model of discipline and attention for the pup without taking on too much ownership-like authority.
posted by batmonkey at 1:18 PM on July 14, 2012

tell HR you are allergic to the dog.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:15 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask whose insurance will cover it when the dog bites / jumps on / injures etc a customer / vendor / small child etc: the company or the owner?

If the office building is rented rather than owned (as is common), is the property management aware of the dog's presence and tendency toward destroying property?

Are non-assistance dogs allowed in workplaces? I don't know the laws or industry where you work, but in the US there are many restrictions on the presence of animals in restaurants / food prep areas, healthcare facilities, government buildings, etc. (Again, excluding seeing eye dogs and such.)
posted by nicebookrack at 12:29 AM on July 15, 2012

Also document every single time the boss makes you pick up his dog from home etc. Are you paid to be his personal assistant?
posted by nicebookrack at 12:31 AM on July 15, 2012

Sorry for not replying sooner - some great suggestions here, loads of ideas. Thank you everyone!
posted by sarahdal at 1:41 PM on July 23, 2012

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