Home Podcast TOP #61: Dogs in the Workplace

TOP #61: Dogs in the Workplace

Who doesn't like the “take your dog to work” day? It's still not a regular occurrence to have dogs around the office. But some employers begin to realize how pets are a big part of our families and the benefits of bringing dogs to the workplace on a regular basis rather than a few times a year. Some companies even encourage this practice and hope that having pets in the office will become normal.

I interviewed Paul LeBlanc, founder of Zogics and Zogics Pets, who's a big fan of having our canine companions working together with us everyday. His rapidly growing business became one of the most pet-friendly companies and one of the best workplaces in the U.S., which may not be a coincidence. In this podcast episode, Paul and me discuss the bringing dogs to your workplace, why it's important and what are the benefits of such a work environment.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

Dogs in the Workplace
(podcast transcript)

Dogs in the Workplace - Podcast

I'm back with another episode of Theory of Pets. My name is Samantha. Today I'm going to be discussing dogs in the workplace. This is such a great idea. I am lucky enough to work from home, so I get to spend all day everyday with my dog and I would not change that for the world. This is a concept that it was really important to me and if you're lucky enough to be able to bring your dog to work or work from home and have your dog around every day, that is so wonderful.

You know what I'm talking about. If you don't, this concept hasn't taken off in a really big way just yet, but I definitely see a trend moving forward. Today I spoke with Paul LeBlanc. He started a company called Zogics. Zogics was actually named one of Inc Magazine's best workplaces in 2018 and they were also voted as one of America's most pet friendly companies of 2018. Those things to me go hand in hand. I was interested to talk to Paul and hear how the company got started, why they became so dog friendly and the benefits of dogs in the workplace.

Interview with Paul LeBlanc

Paul: I started a company called Zogics in 2007 and that company is serving the health and wellness industry. We supply gyms all around the world. When I started that company, it was just myself and a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy at the time. It was a home-based business and that puppy's name is Boo. He was beside me the whole time and as we continued to grow and eventually move into a proper office space, he came with me, and when we started hiring employees, since I already had a dog in the office, I thought, “Hey, let's let others bring their own pets as well. From the very beginning, we've been a dog friendly company and now a 10 plus years later, we have upwards of 20 employees, more than half of which bring their dogs to work every day. Boo is still with me and actually by my side right now and most recently he was joined by his grandnephew, a five-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. I actually have two dogs in the office with me today.

Samantha: That's awesome.

Paul: Yes, it's a handful of puppy is an interesting thing to introduce to an office. They obviously have a bit more maintenance required than an older dog, but they also bring that extra level of fun and levity and cuteness and entertainment that is welcomed in most office settings.

Samantha: Absolutely. Talk to me a little bit about what the dogs bring into the office. You mentioned the fun. Everybody obviously would love to have their dog around them every day, but what are the other things that you noticed with having a pet friendly office?

Paul: Yes, there's a lot of benefits, and just speaking about it generally improves workplace morale. It reduces stress. An interesting study was done where when a person pets a dog for 15 to 30 minutes, their blood pressure decreases by 10%, which is quite remarkable. You can imagine if it has that effect on blood pressure, it must be doing all good beneficial things throughout the day to reduce stress and improve to general outlook. It helps to improve work life balance. People don't have to rush home in the middle of the day or stress about leaving at the end of the shift to go take their dog out or otherwise worry about a dog getting into mischief if it's locked up at home. I think it does a great job at employee retention and attracting employees will often be interviewing job candidates and ask, “Hey, why do you want to work at Zogics?” Inevitably, one of the things they'll mention is, “Because we can bring our dog to work,” and it's one of those things that not only increases the quality of life for the dog because it's by its owner’s side most of the day, but also for the employee. We look at things from that employee lens, anything we can do to help an employee better navigate life or feel better about their workspace is something that we really get behind.

It improves company culture in general. Dogs are coming with us to meetings and interacting with various staff members throughout the day. It helps to add a certain degree of informality and friendliness to an office space. As a company that is focused on the health and wellness industry, it's also interesting to note how having dogs in an office helped to encourage people to get up from their desks and walk outside and get fresh air and take their dogs for maybe at lunchtime hike and it helps on the health and wellness front as well. The benefits are numerous and there have been surveys done that say that, over 80% of people survey find that being able to bring a dog to work greatly increases their sense of loyalty to the company. Even from a business perspective, putting aside all the warm and fuzzy feelings, which are certainly a significant enough, there's a business case to be made for. This where we are allowing employees to bring dogs to work has a positive impact on the business itself.

Samantha: Sure, absolutely, and I think that's important for anybody that's thinking that they may want to talk to their employer or if they're a small business owner themselves when they're thinking about getting started with a dog friendly workplace. That's definitely something to think about.

Paul: It's funny, take your dog to work day was a couple of months ago and one of the things we prepared for that was a form letter that we make available on our website that if you're an employee at a company that doesn't allow dogs, we wrote a letter for you to fill in your boss's name and your name and it makes the case for why that the business should go dog friendly and some of the initial steps to make that happen so, we're big proponents of most companies rolling out policies like this.

Samantha: That's fantastic and I'll link to that letter too, for anybody that's listening that wants to take a look at that or things they want to print that out. There'll be a link underneath the podcast for them to grab that off your website. That's fantastic.

Paul: Great.

Samantha: Especially, with a dog friendly workplace, I'm sure a lot of people are thinking that there's got to be some drawbacks too. Do you have any advice I guess, is your insurance more expensive? Do you ever have issues with multiple dogs being in the office at the same time?

Paul: I think what's important is to, if you're new to introducing dogs to the workplace, I think you want to start by assessing your employees and determining if it's the right fit for you. Does anyone have any allergies? Is anyone particularly opposed to dogs? If those answers are no or they can't somehow be mitigated, then there are things that one should do to make the introduction of dogs more easier and more agreeable. You want to have a policy in place, so people know what the rules are. For us, we have a few. One is first, when new dogs are introduced to the existing pack, we make sure that that's done in a neutral environment outside. That's always a good idea when introducing new dogs to an existing group of dogs. People are required to keep tabs on their dogs throughout the day, so they're not really roaming freely, but they're more likely to be by someone's side.
There are certain all company offense, all company huddles, we have a daily huddle for instance, where dogs are not permitted. It's just too many dogs in one confined space. We say, “Hey, don't bring your dogs to our daily huddle,” for instance things like, “Hey, if there's excessive barking, that's not allowed, loud squeak toys are not allowed. “We want to be respectful to the people who are working hard all day long and the dog should add to the environment, not be too much of a distraction. Then there's some of those little details that you have to address. For instance, and we have this, we actually bought a new office building last year with dogs in mind. We found this great space that's very homelike as a fireplace with the dogs congregate in the winter time and a beautiful deck where they congregate in the summertime and a big yard where they can go out and play. Little things like how do you deal with dog waste?

One of the first things we did when we purchased the building is installed a waste station. You can find those on Amazon and along with the requirement to, “Hey, pick up after your dogs.” Some of these basic things that are intuitive to most, but perhaps it's not entirely clear to every single staff member. You just want to lay that out in a policy and then also have a policy in place for what happens if something goes wrong. If there's signs of aggression or a dog is particularly loud. There should be a way of dealing with that and making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable in the workplace. We actually take them into a little bit further as well. We do things like, we have a pod trinity policy in place, so if our employees bring a new dog into their lives, they're given an extra week off to acclimate that new dog into their home or what not and maybe spend some time, potty training and getting to know the dog and we give them some money towards pet supplies and we try to celebrate that wonderful experience of bringing a new dog into one's life by supporting it with a paternity type policy. We have fun with it as well.

Samantha: Well, that’s so fantastic. I can see why potential employee want to work there. For those benefits, it is true when you bring a dog home there is that adjustment time and I know a lot of people try and even schedule a work vacations around when they're going to be adopting their new puppy, so they don't have to just have them at home for a weekend and then go right back to work on Monday. That's really wonderful.

Paul: Right. Yes. Thank you.

Samantha: You loved having your dog around, you brought him into your office, other dogs into your office. Now this is turned and Zojic has come up with this new pet, Caroline. Can you tell us a little bit about your product line and where that came from?

Paul: Sure. For 10 years we've done this very dog friendly dog centric company and at the same time as we've evolved as a business, we have been manufacturing a variety of products. We make fitness products, we make cleaning products and we make body care products. For eight years now, we've been making a line of really high quality, human shampoos, body washers conditioners, lotions, and we sell that all throughout the world. It's a plant-based line. It's very well received, and we've had a lot of experience really developing ecofriendly, healthy, beneficial products for humans. One day we were sitting there and we we're saying, “Hey look, we have all this experience making these great products for humans. We love dogs. We should make similar products for dogs,” and it was almost that quickly that light bulb went off and we said, “Hey, why don't we start a pet care line making ultra-premium products with organic ingredients that are plant based that are free of bad stuff and have a lot of good stuff in there for dogs and cats. That's what we did. We did it with two things in mind. One is, we designed products for our own pets. The whole R and D process that went into it, we always ask ourselves, is this what we would want to use on our beloved Boo in the case of my Rhodesian ridgeback or Kenzie or any of the other dogs that are in the office. That helped direct us towards developing a line that was really first rate.

The other thing we did, which I think is a bit unique, is we try to look at the line from the perspective of the dog or the pet itself. For instance, it's common for dog shampoos to be heavily fragranced and really suds up a lot. That's primarily done for the benefit of the dog owner. They want that sometimes. They want that strong smell and they want to see all those subs. From the dog's perspective, those things aren't all that welcomed. We decided to use natural, more subtle fragrances so that they're not offensive to the dogs, a heightened sense of smell, and we actually ratcheted down things like the changing of the shampoo and developed a quick rinse formula because when we put ourselves in the dog shoes per say, we realized that not every dog loves to be in that shower in that bathtub, getting hosed down. How could we make the experience as pleasant as possible and as quick as possible? By developing a quick rinse formula, we're able to get those dogs in and out of the bath as quickly as possible, and of course, if you happen to be lucky and have one of those dogs that loves to get wet and hang out, by all means take more time. For those that want to be done with it quickly, the products are designed to accommodate that.

We even develop some alternatives to the traditional shampoo that also helps for those pets that might not want to get into the bath tub or shower or just need to get cleaned up on the go. We developed a waterless shampoo that can just be worked into the coat and not be rinsed off as well as grooming wipes, which are great for sticking in the car and spot cleaning or getting around the face where necessary. The complete line is designed with our pets in mind for the benefit of our pets. We launched it, I think it's about three months ago now, and it's really taken off. It's been this great addition to the overall operations here at Zogics. The company's called Zogics Pet and it's a side business for us, but it allowed us to launch a startup within an existing company, ramp that startup the up, and now we're selling it around North America and the reception has been really phenomenal.

Samantha: Yes, I actually was able to test the products myself recently, a couple of weeks ago with my dogs. I received them. We've been using them for a couple of weeks now. The biggest things I noticed, one, the ingredients, I think a lot of pet owners don't realize that when they buy that cheap $2 bottle of shampoo at a big box store or a pet store and they just look for price alone, you're buying a product that has a chemicals, dyes, artificial ingredients, tons of things in it that are not, were not good for your dog, because they do leech into the body through the skin, but they also actually, work against your cars. They will dry out the skin, dry out the code, and it actually seems like you need to wash your dog more frequently when you use those cheaper products, so the ingredients really caught my eye.

Then the second thing, I actually am sensitive to strong fragrances and a lot of those cheaper products that you find are artificially fragranced and it's very strong. Sometimes it's not the most pleasing odour or sometimes they don't have a fragrance that's pleasant at all and they smell more like the chemicals and the ingredients in the products that you're buying. I was pleasantly surprised that it's just a really faint, nice scent that is pleasing for me and my dog. What you said about the quick rinsing, that is my favorite part. We have a little Beagle who hates to be in the bathtub. She is one that will jump out and get water all over the house, so the faster we can get her in and out the better for us.

Paul: A lot. That's all great to hear and thanks for sharing the feedback. I'm glad it worked out so well for you.

Samantha: Absolutely, and it's nice to hear from a company's point of view that you guys made these products with your own pets in mind, so that's where it definitely comes from a place of love and wanting the best thing for the animals that are using the products.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. We're not this big faceless company that's just pumping out random products. These are– Our thinking going into it was, even if we don't sell a single unit to the general public, if we have this available for ourselves, it's a success. Now of course it's gone far beyond that and it's exceeded our expectations in terms of reaching the general public, but we would have been happy if we just had this available for ourselves.

Samantha: Absolutely, and I'm sure you know that, especially in today's market, it's very rare to hear a company say that, that it's not how much they sell that is the important thing. It's more about the quality of their products, so that's nice to hear. Certainly refreshing.

Paul: Thank you.

Samantha: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about a for a dog friendly environment or about the company or the products in general that we haven't touched on yet?

Paul: There's another interesting statistic that we learned recently about dogs in the workplace. We were lucky enough to be named one of the best workplaces in the country by Inc magazine and 47% of the companies on Inc’s best workplaces list, allows dogs in the office. That compares to about 8% of companies in the country that allow dogs. In other words, allowing dogs in the office goes a long way to creating that workplace that people really seek out, really want to work at. I found that, I didn't realize it was going to be that high. It's one of those things that when you look at the statistics behind what makes a company a top workplace, that one stood out to me and I think helps to make the case for why it should be considered by more companies.

Samantha: Yes, I agree with that. I am surprised as well that it's that high, but that's fantastic. Speaking of that, so congratulations, first of all, and being named to that list, and there's also a link under the podcast as well to the Inc magazine site and all of those companies, if anybody wants to check that out.

Paul: Great, wonderful. I will add that if anyone out there listening has questions about our policies or introducing dogs to the workplace or addressing any issues that may come out, feel free to share my contact information. People are always welcome to reach out to me and I'm happy to share our experiences and answering questions I can.

Samantha: That's fantastic. Thank you so much. Like you, I think this is something that a lot of people don't realize the benefits of, so educating as many people as we can is definitely a huge part of why I wanted to do this podcast in general, but especially on this topic I think it's something that a lot of employees look at and think that they would love to work somewhere that's pet friendly, but from an employer standpoint, there's not a lot of education out there. I will certainly pass on your information for anybody that's interested in that.

Paul: Sounds great.

Samantha: I have to send a huge thank you to Paul for being on the show today. This was some great information and as I mentioned, there's some links underneath the podcast if you check out our website, you can find all the information about those other companies that have been named the best places to work and the most dog friendly companies. There's also the information on that study that was done on how dogs can lower blood pressure, so if you want to check any of that out while you're on our site, there is a link on the right-hand side where you can leave a quick review. It only takes a minute and that is really helpful to me when I am reaching out to experts like Paul and I can tell people that you guys are out there and you're listening, and you want to hear more, so if you could just take a second to leave me a review, that would be great. Thanks a lot for listening. I will be back with another hot topic next week.

PREVIOUS PODCAST: How Dog DNA Tests Impact Veterinary Research

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.