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Dog Friendly Businesses Say Advantages Outweigh Hassles

It’s a sad fact of a dog’s life that workdays are generally taken up by sleeping, and barking at passersby until master returns home.

But a number of Vermont businesses open their doors to their employee’s dogs, and despite the potential problems they say there are more benefits than drawbacks.

Fifty people as many as twenty of their dogs report for work each day at the offices of IBEX Outdoor Clothing in White River Junction.

The dogs casually roam the halls visiting with people and other dogs.

IBEX marketing Vice-president Keith Anderson says the dogs help the business.

“There’s a lot more maintenance but I think the plus side for employees and morale all the way around is a lot higher,” says Anderson.

Like other dog-friendly employers, IBEX has rules about dog behavior.  Owners sign a contract before bringing their pets to work.  Dogs that violate them, like Kate Porter’s Labrador Retriever named Archer are, essentially, fired.

“Mine was a rascal,” says Porter. “ He was a lab so he’s very food motivated.  It’s better off that he’s by himself at home.”

By ‘food motivated’ Porter means Archer was caught snatching someone’s lunch.

Other frowned upon behavior includes acting aggressively, excessive barking and what are euphemistically referred to as ‘waste management’ problems.

But customer service manager Terry Gault says, generally the dogs at IBEX are well behaved.

“If anything, the most disruption you’ll have is a ball come rolling through the office and four dogs chasing it,” Gault says with a laugh.

Gault’s Pomeranian Crumpet accompanies her to work many days.

“There’s a calming aspect of having them there. There’s humor, which helps keep you grounded and focused as well, I think.  Stress relief.  There’s a little bit of everything.  It’s like having a piece of home with you,” Gault says of the benefits of having Crumpet with her at work.

7th Generation in Burlington is another dog-friendly business, although canines there aren’t permitted to wander the halls.

Human resources coordinator Chrissy Lavigne  brings her Golden Retriever to work.  She says the dogs help build relationships between workers and, in some cases, boost productivity.

“I’m a 30 minute commute away and so on the days when I have my dog I can actually work later in the evening because I’m not rushing home to take my dog out,” she says.

Lavigne says the fact 7th Generation allow employees to bring dogs is a selling point in her recruiting efforts.

In addition to IBEX and 7th Generation, other well-known dog-friendly workplaces include Small Dog Electronics, where about 15 dogs go to work each day at the Waitsfield headquarters.  Dogs are also welcome at the company’s retail stores.

And at Burton Snowboards’ Burlington headquarters roughly one quarter of the employees bring their dogs along.  That’s nearly one hundred dogs reporting for work every day.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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