Should you bring a dog to a co-working space? I discovered.
For travelers who want a professional work setup, coworking spaces can be a useful solution when a coffee just isn’t enough. And given the increased demand from pet owners, some spaces allow you to bring your doggie.
I took my sister Frankie’s dog to a coworking space in DC to see if it was worth the money and hassle for remote workers caring for a pet. After consulting with experts and going through my own experience, here’s what I learned.
First, determine if your dog will be calm and comfortable
Katherine Kidwell works at the front desk of Battle horse, a coworking space in Edmonds, Washington. She says she sees regulars who often bring pets and travelers who bring a dog for the day. The rules are the same for members and visitors: you must pay a refundable deposit to cover any damage, and your animal must be adapted to the environment.
For example, Kidwell’s puppy would be too disruptive. Dogs likely to bark should also stay away.
“Most of the dogs are very calm, but we had a bigger dog that barked every time new people came in,” says Kidwell. “And of course when you have people on the phone, it’s a little disruptive in the background.”
Not all dogs have the temperament for a quiet office where people try to concentrate. A WeWork spokesperson explained to me this way: “We always encourage members to be considerate of others when deciding to bring their pet into a space, and have policies in place to ensure that every member feels comfortable in a WeWork location, regardless of their penchant for furry friends.
If a coworking space isn’t suitable for your dog, you may have to agree to work in a cramped hotel room, a pet-friendly apartment rental, or a cafe with outdoor tables.
For my DC experience I went with Collective Leap. For $40 (the same price for people without pets), a day pass includes use of the dog-friendly space plus free snacks, coffee, and craft beer, between other amenities. Bond emailed me a pet agreement to sign which included information about the pets allowed at their facilities.
For example: “Dogs must be clean, safe and have all required vaccinations (with supporting evidence), domesticated, non-vicious and not have bitten, attacked, injured or threatened any person or animal.”
With this information, I decided that I could only bring one of my sister’s two dogs (the other was kind of a wild card). Frankie is no stranger to travel. We did little adventures, like road trips and camping. Plus, he’s friendly to strangers and very quiet – perfect for laying down in a coworking space.
Call ahead to confirm requirements
Even though a coworking space looks like a millennial magnet (free beer, fiddle leaf figs, etc.), many work hubs don’t allow pets. Search online for one that does, then contact the staff to verify the details.
“For travelers, it never hurts to call ahead,” says Kidwell.
Bond’s Pet Agreement requires customers to submit a photo of their dog and a copy of their pet license along with proof of standard dog vaccinations. I had to call Frankie’s vet to get these official documents, then sent them to Bond, confirming that I would keep Frankie supervised and leashed at all times, clean up after him, and keep him away from carpets and furniture.
Kidwell has seen dog owners bring “the full range” of gear to make their pets comfortable during their remote working day. Along with my essentials (laptop, chargers, etc.), I packed a small bowl for Frankie’s water, a handful of treats, and – in case of an accident – a tattered old towel (circa 1994) that didn’t fit Bond’s chic aesthetic.
When I got to the office, I realized Frankie would have to sit on the cold, hard floor. Looking back, it would have been nice to bring a small dog bed, her travel crate, or at the very least a nicer towel.
How to get around with a dog
If you’re planning a trip, you might want to book accommodation near the pet-friendly coworking space so you can walk. You might also want to find a coworking space near a nice place to take the dog for a bathroom break, like a grassy park.
I considered taking Frankie on the DC Metrorail or Metrobus, but the rules state that a dog must be “carried on board in a secure container from which it cannot escape”. I was late and didn’t have time to find Frankie’s travel crate. I rejected the subway idea and hailed an Uber Pet that accepts dogs. (Note: It is safest to transport a dog using a carrier, car seat or safety harness.) I arrived covered in dog hair.
How effectively can you work
A coworking space is meant to be a place where you can eliminate distractions and get your work done. It’s not just a backdrop to take hundreds of photos of your dog, despite what my camera roll looked like at the end of the day.
After checking in at reception, paying our fees, and taking a tour, Frankie and I settled into a corner booth. I put his ugly towel on the floor at my feet, filled his bowl with water, gave him a treat, and got to work.
In fact it is a lie. I kept looking at Frankie, wondering if he was okay and seeing how he was adjusting. It took him about half an hour to relax and start taking a restless nap. Then I really immersed myself in the work.
There were times when I forgot he was below me; he is a very calm dog. Then he would get up and pace, his fingernails pecking at the polished cement floor. Bond was silent, and I wondered if the other members were distracted by the little taps.
The treat-wrapping was essential, both to reward Frankie’s good behavior and to socialize with other workers. I was worried we were about to blow it when the traditionally sweet Frankie growled at a well-meaning member who passed by and said, “Hi puppy!” I apologized and the member said, “I would growl at it too. I took one of the treats out of my bag and offered it to the guy so he could bribe his way to the dog’s heart. Frankie took it from the man’s hands with palpable suspicion, but he accepted the peace offering nonetheless.
Having the dog at my feet killed my motivation to get up and go do things; it was too complicated. Just like in my three-story walk-up apartment, getting the dog out of the coworking space wasn’t easy.
Getting out would mean packing my things or leaving them behind – this place felt safe enough to do that – rounding up Frankie, then walking down the hall to the elevator and across the hall.
I waited until I really needed a break to undertake the mission. Because you have to have your dog with you at all times, I had to take Frankie with me to the bathroom, which was weird.
All in all, the day went surprisingly well. It helped that the install I chose was almost empty all the time. There wasn’t much action that bothered Frankie, and only a few people tried to pet him. Most people seemed not to notice it at all.