The power of the dog


by Ellie Hughes 

Another monthly SLT meeting, another discussion about office culture. How can we make sure people are enjoying their time in the office, thus enabling their creative juices to fully flow? How can we get everyone socialising across the agency – juniors with board members, creative with account management? Sound familiar?

One answer: make the office dog-friendly. On a River office day in mid-August, several team members are freshly back from holiday. But it’s Mr Delancey, our Strategy Director’s cavapoochon – rocking a dramatic fresh trim – who’s effortlessly owning the room. As he bounds in, delighted to be here, people can’t resist leaving their desks and gathering round for a quick cuddle and a chat about his new look. It’s easy to see how dogs give us permission to relax and step out of our normal roles. Keeping a joint, general eye out for Toffle, the MD’s elderly mini schnauzer, to make sure she doesn’t get stuck in a meeting room or lost outside the ladies, helps build team rapport. Not forgetting our OG office dog – and agency Happiness Officer – our CEO’s sausage dog River, who is a guest star only these days but paved the way well before we all hit peak dog. 

As an ex-cat person and relatively recent evangelical dog convert (yes, lockdown made me do it), I genuinely struggle to see the downside to dog energy so long as the owners behave reasonably and responsibly – like adults, basically. Love, positivity and diving yourself headfirst into opportunities. ‘Be more dog’ still works. 

And the science agrees. There’s a heap of studies on how dogs reduce stress – even just petting one for a few minutes boosts oxytocin. They increase teamwork and morale, remind us to take regular breaks – and make us more productive when we come back from that break, refreshed and ready to go. There’s even research showing dogs can increase employee retention and decrease absence. 

Here at River, it’s fundamental that we do have enough meeting rooms to keep some free for those, including clients, who are not dog people. (Although it is far more frequent that clients specially request dogs are in the office for their meetings.) We have enough room for dog beds and bean bags where the dogs can feel secure in their own space. 

And, on balance, the dogs have more than pulled their weight. They’re always up for a cuddle or a play, they’re great at social events – they’ve ‘fetched the ball’ at office rounders, paid their respects to the late Queen’s flowers, look forward to the monthly River Ramble and (unlike some of us) are always happy to appear on the River socials, possibly sporting their branded coats. 

So if River is known for being the boutique agency that goes the extra mile to understand our clients, delivers outstanding, surprising creative AND is the one with the frankly adorable dogs – well, that sounds like a pretty good branding to me. And now I’m off for a dog walk around the park. 

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