Should Your Pet Be Allowed in the Office?

“The dog ate my homework.” That excuse may have worked in school, but when it comes to being a professional working at home, blaming the pet just won't fly.

While some say having pets around the home office provide a soothing element that keeps one sane when dealing with multiple deadlines and various other work stresses, others warn that one has to work to keep the animal distractions at a minimum to be productive.

According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households – or 71.4 million homes - own a pet. Groups like the American Pet Products Association point to studies that show, among other things, that pets help lower blood pressure, stress, as well as the risk of heart disease and depression. Those reported benefits aside, setting certain parameters for your pet's behavior while working from home is a must-do.

Lisa Kanarek, founder of and author of “Working Naked: A Guide to the Bare Essentials of Home Office Life,” advised that barking dogs should be kept out of the office during phone calls. And if barking isn’t an issue and your pet spends much time in your office space, she said to give them plenty of chew toys to keep them from gnawing on more important office items.

Kanarek learned that latter lesson the hard way after her dog literally ate her hard drive.

“Fortunately I had backups of everything that was on it, but I had to transfer information to a new flash drive. That was the last thing he chewed,” Kanarek said. “He didn't die ... the taste must have convinced him to stick with his toys!”

Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto is a fulltime writer/editor/author who has worked from home for years – many of them with various pets at her side. Although a previous cat caused her all sorts of aggravation while working, she said her two current cats and hamster aren't so bad. Cookie the Hamster, however, chirps loudly while she's on the phone, so she moves its cage during phone conversations.

Zelinsky-Syarto also often keeps the office door closed to keep her cats at a distance. And she said working at night can be a nightmare, since that is prime playtime for the hamster. But despite all these annoyances, it would be hard to work sans pets, she said.

“Do I feel like having pets in a home office is a good thing?” asked Zelinksy-Syarto. “Well, it certainly helps to keep me from feeling totally isolated, but they can be every bit as annoying as having coworkers in the next cubicle!”

While having pets in your home office clearly is a decision that has to be made based on one’s own preferences and patience level, if you decide it’s right for you, here are some other tips Kanarek and other experts offered:

No 1: Consider getting a second pet to keep the first one busy.

No. 2: If your pets have fur or hair, vaccuum often to keep the material out of your equipment and off of clients when they come to visit.

No. 3: Keep the office door closed to keep the animal racket out when you are on a conference call, interview, or any other communication that involves clients or employers.

No. 4: Take breaks throughout the day and play with your pet; it will be good for you and him or her.

No. 5: Keep plenty of food and water nearby to keep your pet from whining in the middle of a brainstorm session.

No. 6: Keep a pillow or pet bed in your office so it understands where it can sleep. It will save your wear and tear on your office rug.

No. 7: Keep anything and everything of importance to your business off the floor and out of reach of any sized pet.

No. 8: Keep your pet “toilet” - i.e. litterbox or any other device – out of the home office. You'll likely agree that this one requires no explanation.