CEO of Boxpark, Roger Wade, recently sparked a widespread debate on LinkedIn when he shared a question with his connections: “One of my staff has asked for paternity leave because he has a new puppy. What do you think?”. 61% voted against the idea, arguing that a new puppy doesn’t compare to a newborn. However, as research suggests that puppy owners lose as much sleep as new parents, averaging a mere 3 hours per night, some agree that support in the workplace would be a step in the right direction.
Should ‘pup-ternity’ leave be a thing? How are dog owners really impacted after bringing a puppy into the home? Do new owners underestimate the realities of pet ownership? How could employers support staff during this period? Anna Bain, an expert from ProDog Raw, a leading raw dog food brand, and CEO Heidi Maskelyne, share their insights to help inform the question of ‘pup-ternity leave’ in the modern-day workplace.
1. Few dog owners really understand their new reality…
According to Heidi, ‘puppy training starts from day one and this is often underestimated by new dog owners. In reality, you’ll be feeding and providing stimulation straight away, whilst trying to crate and toilet train from 8 weeks. This really is a ‘full on’ process! You also often won’t know exactly how your new dog will change your life until you welcome them into the home. ‘Preparing’ for this new addition is near-on impossible in many ways and so receiving external support is truly invaluable for new dog owners.’
2. Dogs require hands-on attention.
Heidi continues: ‘The worry and concern for a puppy is, I would imagine, not dissimilar to having a newborn in many ways; you’ll be on high alert and go through a controlled crying stage, although this is shorter for dogs. Your new puppy will require attention that’s equally hands-on – unlike babies they’re able to walk around and put all kinds of choke hazards in their mouths! After all, puppies have their paws on the ground from day one.’
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Anna adds: ‘A puppy is as dependent on its owners as a baby is on its parents. As such, becoming a puppy owner comes with the huge responsibility to care for another life – something that brings with it an inevitable adjustment period. The impact of rehoming a dog or bringing a puppy home can be significant to our basic routine, meaning added flexibility would make this even fractionally less challenging. ‘Pup-ternity leave’ would provide new owners with some much-needed respite and, thankfully, it needn’t be long-term! This adjustment period is much shorter for dogs – you can leave them home alone before they turn 13 unlike children! With dogs, there’s a smaller window which is particularly challenging and hugely significant in their lives.’
3. Flexibility does come more quickly.
Anna continues: ‘As previously mentioned, dogs adjust much more quickly than babies. In this sense, ‘pup-ternity leave’ would be vastly different to paternity leave; it needn’t be as long and could incorporate hybrid working instead of distinct time off.’
4. ‘Pup-ternity leave’ boasts mutual benefits.
Finally, Anna discusses the mutual benefits of offering ‘pup-ternity leave’: ‘Pup-ternity leave brings with it obvious benefits for dog owners; it gives them time to introduce their new addition into the home, to train and get to know their new dog whilst they experience the biggest transition of their lives.
However, it is also beneficial for employers. There is so much research demonstrating the emotional and physical health benefits of being a dog owner; being a forward-thinking, supportive employer who cares for their staff’s pets will help to attract and retain talented, loyal, happy staff. Meanwhile, demonstrating equality of support across staff teams is vital.
Not everyone chooses to have children, whilst not everyone chooses to be a dog owner; some people do both, in any instance, these are personal life choices. If an employer is willing to support any combination of these life-changing decisions, this will make their business a more sought-after place to work.’