Canine companions having ‘calming effect’

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The Central Otago District Council has not quite gone to the dogs, but a staff initiative means a few of them are strolling the council’s corridors.
The council’s chief executive, Leanne Mash, has brought in a dog-friendly policy for staff that has resulted in about 10 pet dogs spending time at work with their owners, and she says the initiative is already reaping benefits.
‘‘There is a variety of anecdotal and empirical evidence that having dogs in a workplace is a conduit for less stress, and they improve creativity . . . and anything we can do to bring more pleasant things to the workplace is a positive thing.’’
Ms Mash got the idea from a similar initiative she heard of years ago at the University of Queensland, when she was working for a council in north Queensland. She unsuccessfully floated the idea at her then workplace, but always wanted to trial it somewhere at some stage.
Fast forward to February this year and Ms Mash — supported by a CODC working group that drew up a series of guidelines — began a sixmonth trial allowing staff to bring their pets to the Alexandra council offices. The initiative is for dogs only at this stage, and pets must be mature, well-behaved house dogs used to being around people.
So Ms Mash’s own ‘‘big, chunky, hyperactive 37kg Dalmatian called Bo’’ will not be going to the council offices — ‘‘she’s not right for the space’’ — but other smaller and well-controlled pooches are already becoming fixtures.
Councillor Martin McPherson’s Jack Russell-Cairn terrier-cross Alfie is a regular presence, as are the dogs of various staff members, including Bern Scurr’s Jack Russell Si; Meredith Wheeler’s Labrador Zoe; Mick Sparrow’s border terrier Teddy; and Sarah Davidson’s Chesapeake Bay retriever She.
Ms Mash said she hoped the public would also like the idea, and staff said they [and their dogs] loved it.
‘‘I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of smiles,’’ MrSparrow said.
‘‘The dogs have a calming effect, and take away stress.’’