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TheStreet Open House

How to Handle Pets at the Office

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As corporate culture has become more relaxed, many businesses -- especially startups -- now allow employees to bring their pets into the office. These days it's not uncommon to see a dog roaming free under people's desks, through conference rooms or enjoying a snack in the kitchen. While this more casual office environment can make work feel a little more like home, pets aren't always a welcome sight during important meetings or for people who don't like dogs. If you've got dogs or are thinking of allowing dogs at your business, here are five ways pet-friendly businesses are keeping everyone happy.

1. Section off areas for them.

If you have a business, there will always be people who come in who don't like dogs, says Zach Schau, cofounder of Pure Fix Cycles, a company that makes fixed-gear bicycles in Burbank, Calif.

"There will be people who come in who just aren't dog people," Schau says. "We can tell when people are squeamish around dogs just by their body language, so we shut the door or move the dog into another room."

Dogs are never allowed in the front room of the business because that's where the company's support staff takes calls from customers. Schau says no one wants to hear loud barking over the phone while they're trying to get help.

"It's not great for customers to hear this excited dog while our support team is like, 'Can I have your order number?'" he says. "There are times when you have to close the door."

Even though shutting the door may sound simple enough, many startups have open floor plans or loft spaces without any real partitions. At Pura Vida, a company that sells handmade bracelets from Costa Rica, CEO Griffin Thall says that sometimes you have to consider what's on the agenda at work that day before you bring a dog.

"If there was a big meeting that required working on our investments or sitting down with our accountants, the dog probably wouldn't be there," he says.

2. More dogs does not equal more fun.

Even though everyone in the office loves dogs, Schau says that if everyone brought their dog to work, it would be too crazy to get anything done.

"At one point we had three or four dogs in the office, and they began barking constantly and fighting over toys, and we just couldn't work like that," he says. "Right now we only have one, sometimes two, and that works really well."

At tech startup Lettuce, CEO Raad Mobrem says that two dogs seems to be the "sweet spot" for his office.

"We have 15 employees total. If everyone wanted to bring a dog, it would be chaos," he says. "But if everyone did want to bring in their dog, we would work out a system, picking certain days of the week so that everyone could."

3. Hire people who like dogs.

"If people really don't like dogs, that's a deal breaker," Mobrem says.

When prospective employees come in for an interview, the first thing Mobrem looks for is how well they respond to the dogs.

"We have had some people come in, see the dogs, and say, 'Oh, I hate dogs.' And I say, 'OK, thanks for coming in.'"

The truth is, there are people who just don't like dogs, but Schau says that has never been a deal breaker for people looking for work.

"No one has ever considered not being part of the office because there is a friendly little dog running around," he says. "But if you don't like dogs and you don't want the job because of that, that's fine. That's your decision."

4. Know when to take the dogs for a walk.

When important clients come by or when you just need a quiet moment in the office, it's OK to take the dogs out for a walk around the neighborhood, Mobrem says.

"If there's an important meeting, I will ask someone who is not in that meeting, 'Hey, do you mind taking a walk with the dogs for a bit?'"

Dogs love roaming around outside, so taking them out during the day is a good idea whether or not you have an important meeting, Schau says.

"Having the dog here makes everyone happy, but sometimes it gets hectic. If we have clients visiting or customers visiting, it's OK to have someone step out with her for a bit."

5. Remember that your dog should prevent distraction -- not cause one.

"We want everyone at the company completely focused on building an amazing product and an amazing business. If people are worried about the dog they have at home all day, then we're not going to have their full attention," Mobrem says. "This is why we allow dogs and do lots of other cool things to take care of our employees -- so no one is distracted and everyone is happy."

It's very easy to manage having a dog in the office when the dog has a good disposition, Thall says.

"Our dog is chill. He takes naps under people's desks," he says. "You couldn't have a dog that you had to watch over that was aggressive or getting into things -- the dog has to be well-behaved."

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