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Dogs for Welfare

Dogs for Welfare

Bringing pet dogs into the workplace to enhance wellbeing.

Student and staff wellbeing are paramount when it comes to receiving a well-rounded and effective education. Our School is always looking for ways we can enhance wellbeing and help manage the stresses of everyday life. In 2018 our own first year students listed their pets as the thing they miss most. We know that interacting with animals can have lots of benefits.

We decided to explore this within the School of Psychology. We set up the Dogs for Welfare scheme which lets our staff's dogs visit the department on designated days. Staff and students can interact with these dogs and join them on their daily walks. 

Our Scheme

We began the conversation in October 2018 which started a 9 month consultation period. Firstly we looked at similar schemes that exist, especially the Purina’s Pets At Work Scheme. They offer suport to others via the Pets At Work Alliance. 

We drafted an initial framework of rules and guiding principles and discussed them at a departmental meeting. You can view our framwork and presentation in the resources section below. An anonymous ballot found the majority of people were in favour of the initiative. 

We set up a steering group to discuss how to take the proposal forwards. This included both people who were for and against the scheme. Through this we identified specific issues that needed to be resolved, you can read about these in full below: 

  • allergies
  • dog Phobia / dislike
  • dog welfare
  • cleanliness
  • injuries
  • liability 

We reached out to lots of knowledgeable people in our University, and consulted relevant stakeholders:

  • people services
  • health and safety
  • estates
  • wellbeing
  • insurance  

We then conducted a full risk assesment. This is available in our resources section below. We took baseline measures of workplace quality of life, work friendship and trust between colleagues. These are all factors that the presence of dogs are suggested to influence. 

Our first dog, Sammie underwent a temperament assessment and began visiting the department one day a week. 

Outcomes

The scheme has been popular, Sammie has an average of 22 visitors per week, mostly students. Visitors often comment that seeing the dog helps them feel more relaxed or happier. It has increased social interaction between staff in the department too. In October 2019, Sammie featured on BBC1’s ‘Look North’, which reported on some of the wellbeing initiatives at the University that involve dogs.

So far there have been no untoward incidents or complaints. There has been no extra mess or noise as a result of the dogs coming in. Things we have learned: 

  • colleagues need to be aware of their identity lanyards when bending down to say hello, as they tend to swing towards the dog’s face
  • the dogs have needed time to acclimatise to strange things including:
    • strange textures, like lino covered stairs
    • lifts
    • automatic doors
    • the sound of people walking past offices 

Our dogs

Sammie

Sammie is a four-year old female border terrier. She was the first dog to start coming into the department in June 2019. She enjoys tummy tickles and chest rubs, chasing balls and sleeping in the sun. Her hobbies include dog agility and drama - she has starred in a number of plays. Sammie visits the department on Tuesdays. Anyone can visit her or join her on her lunchtime walk along with her owner Lucy. 

Sammie sitting in an office

Penny

Due to the popularity of the scheme we have introduced a second dog. Penny is a 7 year old male Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Penny loves attention, particularly having his ears rubbed. You can visit Penny on Wednesdays and join him and his owner, Barbara-Anne on a lunch-time walk. 

Penny the dog relaxing on a cushion