The 6,000 Dogs 'Working' at Amazon Get Access to Some Cool Perks

Story at-a-glance -

  • Employees working at the Amazon headquarters in Seattle get to take their dogs to work as part of the company’s perk package, which has multiple benefits that make the policy a win-win-win for everyone involved
  • The dog-friendly atmosphere at Amazon started early on with Rufus, a Welsh corgi that everyone loved and who opened the door to creating a pet-friendly environment
  • Amazon provides plenty of perks for the dogs: a doggie deck complete with a fake fire hydrant where dogs can run around, poop bag stations, designated dog relief areas and dog-friendly water fountains
  • One study showed that when dogs in the workplace were included in office-related dialogue, humans were more cooperative, comfortable, friendly and enthusiastic
  • Stress relief, collaboration in the workplace and a more balanced work-versus-home life was observed as some of the unforeseen benefits for employees

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Believe it or not, more than 4,000 dogs are registered at Amazon's headquarters, where canines of every size share the human employees' workspaces. As the retail giant's blog wittily announces, "When it comes to company culture, Amazon is barking up the right tree." That's because employees working at the company's mother ship in Seattle get to "rub elbows," so to speak, with even more dogs than are on the HQ roster.

While all of the roughly 6,000 dogs aren't present every single day, as they show up on a rotating basis, the fact that they're accepted as part of the "atmosphere" is huge to employees. These dogs arrive at their owners' workplace to do what some of the luckiest dogs in the world get to do: run, play, and get plenty of love and exercise. It's what their faithful humans agree may be one of the greatest perks the company provides. As Amazon's "Woof Pack" manager Lara Hirschfield explains:

"Amazon has been dog-friendly since Day 1. Our dogs add to the fun, dynamic energy of our workplace; our employees love bringing their dogs to work and love meeting their co-workers' dogs. Having dogs in our workplace is an amazing treat — they make employees smile, and we're proud this is such a uniquely Amazonian tradition — it's truly ingrained in our company culture."1

The dogs at Amazon are more than just on site to certify to their owners that they're not home alone. Sometimes they're literally the "face" of the company — a friendly, furry face that perks up employees in a way that brings a whole new meaning to "human resources"; it's at least partly "canine resources."

For example, when Amazon surfers navigate the site and encounter one of those annoying "error 404" pages, the face of an adorable canine (with an equally adorable name) breaks the news that you've reached a nonexistent site, but brings a smile instead of a frown.

In fact, error pages even provide wandering web browsers with a link to a "Who's Who" of the dogs at Amazon, which Forbes observes is "a cool way to handle customer dissatisfaction, and also promotes Amazon culture as extremely cool, making the company look like an awesome place to work."2

Dog-Friendly Since Day One

The dog-friendly atmosphere at Amazon started with Rufus. In the early days of the company, a Welsh corgi belonging to a husband and wife team began arriving at work with his pet parents. Before long, everyone fell in love with Rufus, who became more of a valuable team member than the couple's office-bound pooch.

Staff members liked saying Rufus had a "hand" in the decisions being made, as they sometimes used his paw to click the mouse on some of the memorable pages that helped launch the company to stratosphere status.

In the South Lake Union community where Amazon makes its home, there's even a building that bears Rufus' name. Although Rufus eventually passed away, his legacy included three other dogs stepping into his furry footsteps: Lucy the Labrador, Sherriff the golden-Aussie mix and Martini the papillon, CNBC says.3

Beyond the fun provided that's all in a day's work for both Amazon HQ employees and their best buddies, there are also activities the "Amazon dogs" participate in to support the cause of rescuing dogs.

Ohana Animal Rescue in Tempe, Arizona, an animal shelter and pet adoption provider, staged a fundraising event recently. Ninety Amazon employees, along with local retailers and volunteers, raised enough donations for the organization to fulfill its entire "wish list." Renovations included a new medical exam room, a new meet-and-greet space and a 1,000-square-foot thrift store. Three volunteers even adopted dogs that day.

Perks for Pups — and Their Amazon-Employed People

Hallways as well as cushy office chairs in conference rooms and cubicles are where you're likely to run across pups with adorable button eyes, wet noses, a stuffed toy to nap with or a tennis ball to chase. Any dog needing a treat can usually find one at any of the company's numerous reception desks. Pet perks don't stop there:

"In addition to hanging with their beloved pet parents and getting fussed over by other Amazonians, there are plenty of fun things for dogs to do on campus. On the 17th floor of one of our buildings (Doppler), there's a doggie deck — complete with a fake fire hydrant — where dogs can run around. The neighborhood has no shortage of poop bag stations, designated dog relief areas and dog-friendly water fountains."4

One of the newest innovations is the provision for dogs and their humans to walk, off leash, in a nearby neighborhood, and it's for the community, not just for employees and their dogs. Local dogs and their owners are also included in special dog-related events, such as Halloween costume contests for dogs, called Barktoberfest. Even in the beginning, company founders' determination to make dogs one of many on-the-job perks soon paid off.

It became clear that allowing pets in the workplace was more of a boon for business than anyone had anticipated. Employees reported that, overall, stress was lower and morale was higher. In addition, dogs meeting dogs around the 8.1-million-square-foot Amazon campus became an "unexpected mechanism for connection" between humans, Hirschfield says, encouraging more frequent networking and fostering a comfortable, relaxed work environment.

Study Shows Pets in the Workplace Have Even More Benefits

A study at Central Michigan University reveals that dogs can do more for employees than one might first think. Where dogs were included in meetings and other office-related dialogue, even if all they did was sit there, "Behavior in dog-present groups was rated as more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic and attentive" than when no dog was present. The study authors explained:

"Because the presence of a dog has been shown to have positive effects on mood and dyadic interaction, we expected that the presence of a companion dog would also have positive effects on people in work groups. One reason for this is that a companion dog is likely to elevate positive emotions, which often promote prosocial behavior."5

As often happens, the successful dog inclusion enterprise at Amazon became one to copy in other companies — not a lot, but a few. The Society for Human Resources Management notes that a spirit of cooperation between dogs and their favorite humans' workplaces has risen to a significant degree: from 4 percent to 7 percent since 2014. In fact:

"As organizations look to provide perks that will attract and retain key talent, many are coming to realize that offering pet-friendly benefits — whether that means take-your-dog-to-work days, pet insurance or animal-related volunteer excursions — can be an effective tool for improving recruitment, morale and even wellness."6

Tech companies, especially, seem to recognize the merit of opening their doors to employees' dogs, especially for millennials. Etsy, Salesforce and Google are pet-friendly corporations, and job search website Glassdoor7 lists five top reasons it works:

  • Stress relief. Petting a dog boosts the stress-relieving hormone oxytocin and lowers the production of cortisol, dubbed "the stress hormone."
  • Better balance between life and work. Employees don't feel the need to rush home to let their dog out, and they're more comfortable working later if necessary.
  • Collaboration. What's more fun than meeting your coworkers' pets, and what's more conducive to a positive working relationship when you know so many are also dog lovers?
  • Employee wellness. Taking a break from work for a few minutes throughout the work day helps boost productivity, as employees return relaxed and refreshed.
  • More successful retention and recruiting. More work applicants nowadays are asking about prospective employers' pet policies, and 82 percent of them report a greater feeling of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, Banfield Pet Hospital reports.8

One of the greatest things about the dogs at Amazon and other companies that encourage their employees to bring their beloved pets into the workplace is that they represent and celebrate some of the best things about dog-and-human relationships. As a HuffPost blog notes:

"Loneliness is not only an emotion — it's terrible for the health … Having a dog is a light comedy, and an infinitely rich, deeply serious enterprise. They're at the center of things, as you will see in any dog household. To paraphrase an old commercial: How could something so good be so good for you?"9