Amazon's new dog park shows companies can be pet-friendly even outside their walls.
Animals at Work

Amazon’s pro-dog strategy puts other companies to shame

Amazon, while it’s building the future, is making the present very friendly for dog owners. There are reportedly 4,000 dogs registered at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters— 500 report to work with their owners every day, on average, according to Yahoo Finance. The publication also reported that among other amenities, a 1,000 square-foot dog park opened in April next to The Spheres.

But pets are only allowed among 7% of employers, according to the SHRM 2016 Employee Benefits research report, which surveyed 3,490 HR workers and looked at more than 300 benefits. That number was 8% in 2015 and 4% in 2014.

But Amazon is going a little broader, offering use of its enormous dog park even to neighbors and the public in Seattle.

Dog-filled days at Amazon

One Twitter user — who apparently works at Microsoft — posted a photo at The Spheres with his dog.

Another Twitter user even tweeted a video of dogs in action at The Spheres.

A Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Waffles with a passion for tennis balls. An American Labrador retriever named Bailey who enjoys “morning snuggles.” A Lab named Lucy who loves grabbing the newspaper.These are some of the “dogs of Amazon” featured on the company’s website.

Rufus, the groundbreaking dog

So how did Amazon get here? It all comes down to a four-legged companion named Rufus, who got the ball rolling on dog culture at the company. A post on Amazon’s website details what he did before he passed away in 2009.

“During his tenure, Rufus could be found strolling our hallways, sitting in on meetings (he loved a meeting), or catching a few z’s in his crate. He was a master of the hallway tennis ball chase, and had everyone snookered into giving him too many treats,” the post says.

The dog has been called “Amazon’s shortest volunteer worker,” and Amazon’s former editor-in-chief and principal engineer were his owners.

Amazon pups are one of the highlights of a good social media feed, with a few on Instagram handsomely posed in front of the Spheres.

 

The company even profiles employees’ dogs, with their favorite toys and things they love.

Wait, but what if you can’t work with dogs?

But it seems like the dogs can’t just run wild at Amazon.

JP Mangalindan, a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance went to see the dog park and talked about how dogs are expected to act at Amazon in a video. He said the animals can’t make a lot a of noise, that workers with allergies can “probably” have a seating arrangement that gives them some distance from the dogs, and that “there’s like an unofficial chief canine officer” who he didn’t get to meet.

But not everyone is a fan of the company’s approach to dogs, which in some cases are treated better than humans.

But a  2015 blog post by former employee Corina Zappia—who is allergic to dogs– titled “I Was an Amazon Chew Toy” painted a different picture of what it’s like at Amazon in Seattle for people who are allergic to dogs.

“The company did grant my request for a dog-free room — the only windowless office on my floor, and unfortunately, four more poor Level 4s were picked to share the room with me. In lieu of windows, the L-shaped room had wipe boards spanning two of the walls, plus a quote painted in crimson from Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You Will Go. ‘Seuss’ was misspelled. (‘Suess.’) Short of the bookshelves crammed with textbooks and tech manuals we were promoting that year, we had given up on decorating,” Zappia wrote.

She later wrote that she signed a 2-year contract at the beginning of her time at Amazon, and would owe them her pre-tax bonus if she left before time was up, so she “stuck it out for as long” as possible, adding that, “when I left six months later, it was not because of the dogs, but for the lack of work-life balance that the dogs were meant to cover up.”

Benefits of having a pet at work, for animal lovers

But having a pet at work could be an advantage, if you’re able to be around them for long periods of time.

Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center who aids patients with with sometimes fatal conditions, commented on how dogs can help patients in a 2009 NIH News in Health article.

“You can see the difference it makes in so many of these patients when the dog is at their bedside…Our patients are often here for a long period of time. I think the dogs add a bit of normalcy to a very difficult situation. The dog will sit calmly, and the patients don’t have to talk to anyone. They can just pet. I think this helps with some of the suffering,” Berger said.

Having a pet around might make you feel better. A 2009 article in Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, said that “pet ownership, or just being in the presence of a companion animal, is associated with health benefits, including improvements in mental, social, and physiologic health status.”

Dogs aren’t allowed in every office, but for those who can work with them and have the option to bring them in, they can provide much-needed support throughout the day.