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Taking dogs to work Friday; Event recognizes their importance and encourages adoption

Taking your dog to work may seem like a way to land in the doghouse with your employer, but businesses are encouraged to open their doors to their employees' furry friends Friday for Take Your Dog to Work Day.

The event was started by Pet Sitters International in 1999 to recognize how important dogs are and to encourage adoptions. It has grown to include thousands of companies nation-wide, said Beth Stultz, spokeswoman for the pet sitters group.

"It was created as a way to give back to the pet community," she said. "To experience, to really celebrate, the companions dogs make."

The day supports adoption in two ways, Stultz said. People see the bond their co-workers have with their pets, and many groups collect money for a shelter or an animal rescue agency during the day.

There are dozens of places to adopt dogs in the Buffalo Niagara region, including the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, the SPCA Serving Erie County, Mutts and Mitts of Buffalo, and Buffalo Humane.

"Adopting a dog or cat from a rescue or shelter not only saves one life, but two, the one you take home and the one that survives because now there is space to house them," said Clara Miller, Buffalo Humane vice president.

There were 1,217 adoptions from the SPCA Serving Erie County in the first half of 2010 and 1,168 in the first half of 2011, said Gina Browning, director of public relations.

Sherry Sutton adopted her "golden doodle," Porsche, through the SPCA about two years ago. Sutton, Sassy Design Group president, takes her dog to work every day.

"I adopted her, but I would not have adopted a dog if I couldn't take her to work," Sutton said. "It's added a little bit of informality to things, in a good way, in a happy way."

Sutton said Porsche has not had problems with customers or other employees. Having her dog around has increased morale, she said.

Synacor, a Buffalo-based internet technology firm, will participate in Take Your Dog to Work Day for the first time this year, said Julia Culkin, vice president of Human Resources.

"We just have a lot of people in the company who have dogs and love their dogs," she said.

The company allows children to come to work, and employees who have dogs, not children, asked if they could bring their pets to work, Culkin said.

Since then, employees have brought their dogs in for short periods of time, such as overnight jobs when computer software is being updated, she said. They help the employees stay upbeat.

There is not much concern in the office about the many dogs who will be there Friday, she said.

"We just told everybody they have to have their dog on a leash," Culkin said.

Your dog's skills and behavior should be a factor in accepting an employer's invitation to participate in Take Your Dog to Work Day, said Victoria Misuraca, customer service manager at Dog Days of Buffalo.

"They would have to be people- and dog-friendly," she said. "They should also be what we generally term 'well-mannered.' "

Well-mannered dogs do not nip or jump on new people, Misuraca said. There is no age range for well-trained dogs.

A critical skill for dog workplace success is sitting and staying, said Tyler Muto, owner and training director at K9 Connection.

"The most valuable skill for something like that would be a very powerful down-stay command," he said. "I also think it'd be really useful for the dog to be able to walk nicely on a loose leash."

Misuraca recommends walking your dog before their first day at work.

Bringing a toy it is comfortable with can also make a dog more calm in new situations, Muto said. Don't feed your dog at home but bring food and snacks to reinforce good behavior.

He said it is most important that the dog is comfortable around people. Do not bring your dog to work just because you want to if it stresses the dog, he said.

e-mail: mtighe@buffnews.com

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