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The West Coast's Office Dog Obsession Is Spreading East

If you walk into a tech company headquartered in San Francisco or Seattle, there is a good chance you will see a puppy or two running around the office. But East Coast cities have been slow to embrace dog-friendliness in the workplace, something brokers and landlords say is beginning to change. 

GoCraft Brewing's CJ Cross
GoCraft Brewing's CJ Cross with his two dogs at a hot desk in WeWork's DC Chinatown location

One of the top brokers representing tech companies in DC, JLL senior vice president Andy O'Brien, said he has recently started to notice his clients wanting offices that allow them to bring dogs to work. 

 “More and more tenants want dogs," O’Brien said. “It keeps coming up. The newer, more progressive-type companies think dogs are extremely important for morale within the space.”

O'Brien said it has been a challenge getting DC landlords to come around to the idea of allowing dogs. Beyond the potential mess dogs can create, some landlords also worry about potential liability risks involved should a dog bite someone. 

For people at smaller DC companies looking to bring their dogs to work, WeWork has made some of its locations dog-friendly. When considering WeWork locations within the DC-area that allow dogs, including locations in Chinatown, Crystal City and Wonder Bread Factory, versus the ones that do not within K Street, White House, Tysons and Manhattan Laundry, it is clear that the more corporate-focused addresses are less likely to have puppies running around the office. 

Norman Jemal Doug Firstenberg Robin-Eve Jasper
Douglas Development's Norman Jemal, StonebridgeCarras' Doug Firstenberg and NoMa BID's Robin-Eve Jasper at the Uline Arena

The landlord of WeWork's dog-friendly Chinatown and Wonder Bread spaces, Douglas Development principal Norman Jemal, said it is part of a growing trend as DC becomes less of a buttoned-up office environment. 

"Business as a whole has become more casual," Jemal said. "It used to be suit and ties and now you’re going khakis and jeans. It has become much more casual and part of the casualness is people love their dogs and their companions and friends. Somebody running an organization that likes bringing their dogs to work is going to go to a building where they’re allowed to do it."

As for the hesitant landlords, Jemal said once they get a prospective 100K SF tenant wanting a dog-friendly office, they may quickly begin to change their tune. 

Thousands Of Registered Puppies?

Salesforce Puppyforce room
Salesforce's 'Puppyforce' room where employees can bring their dogs to work

While landlords within East Coast cities like DC are just now beginning to adjust to the idea of dog-friendly offices, it is nothing new for companies in West Coast cities like San Francisco and Seattle. Amazon, for example, has more than 2,000 dogs registered at its Seattle HQ. 

One of the top Bay Area tech brokers, CBRE vice chairman Dan Harvey, represents Salesforce, the creator of "Puppyforce," a dedicated room where employees can bring dogs to play while they work. 

Harvey said he began to see dog-friendly workplaces as an emerging trend in the early 2000s. Like DC today, Harvey said landlords were skeptical early on about allowing dogs.

"The perception was that it wasn’t professional initially," Harvey said, adding that as offices have become more Millennial-friendly, even accounting and finance companies have embraced a less stringent office culture. 

"We used to wear suits in San Francisco. Even the lawyers aren’t dressing in coats and ties anymore, you just don’t."

Office dog file photo

In addition to changing perceptions, Harvey said some landlords' have gone the extra mile to address tenant concerns regarding cleanliness. Many have established designated outdoor areas to avoid dogs creating messy situations in the office, and they have negotiated into leases where the liability would fall should there be a dog-related injury.

These issues were bound to get resolved because of how powerful tech companies and their employees have become in recent years. With sky-high market caps and smaller workforces than traditional corporate giants, West Coast tech companies like Amazon and Facebook account for more than $20M of the market value per employee, Harvey said, leading to an environment where employees end up getting anything they desire. 

"As tech companies have become such a force in the economy you’ve seen landlords completely shift," Harvey said. "It's all about value creation ... Dogs are just one piece of the story, which is 'how do I create a workplace experience for the most unbelievable workforce in the world.' That’s the bottom line."