The bond between dog and owner grew stronger as a large number of workers worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from BARK that explores challenges dog owners face as they return to the workplace. The new Original BARK Company study reveals how American dog owners’ relationships with their pets have grown, as well as their feelings about returning to the office and what barriers exist when it comes to bringing their dogs to the office.
According to the American Pet Products Association¹, consumers spent $103.6 billion on pets in the U.S. in 2020, due in large part to the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders and increase in dog adoptions across the country. BARK’s survey reveals the main stressors dog owners have about returning to the office and identifies how employers can help with the transition.
Relationships strengthened during the pandemic
- Seven in 10 (70%) dog owners report that their relationship with their dogs grew stronger due to the pandemic. This is significantly more than those who say the same about their relationships with their spouses (49%), their kids (39%), their friends (31%), or their parents (28%).
- Women are significantly more likely than men to report they leaned on their dog for emotional support (36% vs. 26%) and spent more time with their dog (50% vs. 41%) this past year than ever before.
- Men are more likely than women to report that they grew closer to their spouse during the pandemic (52% vs 45%), and equal numbers of men and women assert their relationship with their dog grew stronger (71% and 70%).
- About one in three dog owners report that they relied on their dog over the last year to keep them company (33%) and for emotional support (30%) more than they ever have.
- Dog owners say that they grew closer to their dogs because of the pandemic (73% who returned to work, 70% of those still working from home and 69% of those who never worked from home).
Workers are skeptical about returning to the office with and without their dog
- About seven in 10 (71%) dog owners who are still working from home believe they will miss their dog. This is significantly more than those who report they will miss their spouse (42%) or children (39%) when they return to the workplace.
- About three in four (72%) dog owners who have already returned to work miss their dog while they are back at the office. This is greater than those who miss the savings from not commuting (37%), their partner (39%), or children (35%).
- About one in three (32%) dog owners believe that they would be happier and less stressed at work if they had their dog with them, and 28% feel that their life would be more convenient if they had this option.
- About one in four (24%) dog owners who’ve returned to the office check their dog camera during working hours.
- One in five (20%) dog owners shared that they’d be more productive at work if they had their dog with them.
Dog owners are more likely to want benefits for their dogs than their children, and seek workplaces that are dog-friendly
- Nearly four in five (78%) dog owners report that their current employer has not made any adjustments to their workplace policies on bringing dogs to work. Among this group, two in three maintain that dogs have never been and are still not permitted. Only 10% say their office has updated its policies to allow pets in the wake of the pandemic.
- 42% of dog owners believe that employers should offer dog benefits as part of the employee benefit package (vs. 37% who feel the same about benefits for children), such as bringing dogs to the office (28% vs. 15% who want to bring children to the office) and an almost equal amount who want doggy daycare (28%) and childcare (29%) at or near the office.
- Only two in five dog owners who are permitted to bring their pup to work say that their employer supplies the basics like food and water (45%) and treats (42%). Around one in three (34%) report that their employer currently offers dog walking services (38%) and even fewer report there is a dog-proofed environment, clear of exposed wires, toxic products, or open food (32%), toys (33%), or relief zones in or near the office (25%).
- About one in three dog owners that are permitted to bring their dog to work and have reported at least one instance in which they felt uncomfortable doing so admit they’d feel more at ease if their employer supplied a designated indoor area for play (37%), a dog-proof environment (31%), or even treats (36%).
To help ease the transition back to the office for employers and employees with dogs, BARK is offering 40% off when companies purchase 10 or more dog beds on BARKshop.com. Employers can select from Mattress, Platform, or Fuzzy dog beds in any size and combination. To receive the discount, use promo code BACKTOWORK.
“BARK is devoted to making all dogs happy, and we believe dogs and humans are better together. That’s especially true at the office,” said Henrik Werdelin, co-founder of BARK. “The past year and a half of people working from home with their dogs has only made their relationship stronger, and as offices reopen, there’s a completely understandable precedent that our dogs remain happy whether they stay at home or join their humans at work. At BARK, we welcome all dogs as long as they’re comfortable, and we have designed our office spaces to accommodate them. We encourage companies who are transitioning employees back to the office to consider welcoming dogs as well — everybody wins.”
¹ American Pet Products Association, “2021 State of the Industry,” Company Report, March 24, 2021