For travelers who desire a professional work setup, co-working spaces can be a helpful solution when a coffee shop just won’t do. And given increased demand from pet owners, some spaces allow you to bring your pooch along.
I took my sister’s dog Frankie to a co-working space in DC to see if it was worth the money and the hassle for remote workers caring after 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 the front desk at Workhorse, a co-working space in Edmonds, Wash. 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 have to put down a refundable pet deposit to cover any damages, and your pet needs to be suited for the environment.
For example, Kidwell’s puppy would be too disruptive. Dogs prone to barking should also stay away.
“Most of the dogs are very quiet, but we did have one larger dog who would bark every time new people would walk in,” Kidwell says. “And of course, when you have people on calls, that’s kind of disruptive in the background.”
Not all dogs have the temperament for a quiet office where people are trying to focus. A WeWork spokesperson put it to me this way: “We always encourage members to be mindful of others when deciding to bring their pet into a space, and have policies in place to ensure every member feels comfortable in a WeWork location regardless of their fondness for furry friends.”
If a co-working space isn’t right for your dog, you may have to accept working from a cramped hotel room, a pet-friendly apartment rental or a cafe with outdoor tables.
For my DC experiment, I went with Bond Collective. For $40 (the same price for people without pets), a day pass includes use of the dog-friendly space plus complimentary snacks, coffee and craft beer, among other amenities. Bond emailed me a pet agreement to sign that included information on what pets are allowed at their facilities.
For example: “Dogs must be housebroken, safe, and have all required vaccinations (with evidence thereof), domesticated, not vicious, and has not bitten, attacked, harmed, or threatened any person or animal.”
With that information, I decided I could only bring one of my sister’s two dogs along (the other one’s kind of a wild card). Frankie isn’t a stranger to travel. We have gone on little adventures, such as road trips and camping. Plus, he is friendly to strangers and very calm — perfect for laying low at a co-working space.
Call ahead to confirm requirements
Even if a co-working space looks like a millennial magnet (free beer, fiddle-leaf figs, etc.), many work hubs do not allow pets. Search online for one that does, then get in touch with the staff to check on the specifics.
“For travelers, it never hurts to call ahead,” Kidwell says.
Bond’s pet agreement requires customers to submit a photo of their dog and a copy of their pet license as well as a proof of standard dog vaccinations. I had to call Frankie’s vet to get those official documents, and then I sent them to Bond, confirming I would keep Frankie monitored and leashed at all times, clean up after him, and keep him off rugs and furniture.
Kidwell has seen dog owners bring in the “the whole gamut” of equipment to make their pets comfortable during their remote workday. Along my essentials (laptop, chargers, etc.), I packed a small bowl for Frankie’s water, a handful of treats and — in case of any accidents — a ragged old towel (circa 1994) that did not match Bond’s chic aesthetic.
When I got to the office, it dawned on me that Frankie would have to sit on the cold hard floor. In hindsight, it would have been nice to bring a little dog bed, his travel crate or, at the very least, a nicer-looking towel.
How to commute with a dog
If you’re planning a trip, you may want to book accommodations near the pet-friendly co-working space so you can walk. You may also want to find a co-working space near a nice place to take the dog out for a bathroom break, such as a grassy park.
I considered taking Frankie on the DC Metrorail or Metrobus, but the rules state that a dog must be “carried aboard in a secure container from which it cannot escape.” I was running late, and didn’t have time to find Frankie’s travel crate. I nixed the Metro idea and hailed a dog-friendly Uber Pet. (Note: It’s safest to transport a dog using a carrier, car seat or safety harness.) I arrived covered in dog hair.
How effectively you can work
A co-working space is supposed to be a place where you can tune out distractions and get your job done. It’s not just a backdrop for taking hundreds of photos of your dog, despite what my camera roll looked like by the end of the day.
After we checked in at the front desk, paid our fee and got a tour, Frankie and I set up shop in a corner booth. I put his horrible towel on the ground by my feet, filled up his water bowl, gave him a treat and started on my work.
Actually that’s a lie. I kept looking down at Frankie, wondering if he was okay and seeing how he was adjusting. It took about a half-hour for him to relax and start fitfully napping. Then I really dove into work.
There were periods I forgot he was below me; he’s a very quiet dog. Then he would get up and pace around, his nails pecking on the polished cement floor. Bond was silent, and I wondered if the other members were distracted by the little taps.
Packing treats was essential, both for rewarding Frankie’s good behavior and socializing with other workers. I worried we were about to blow it when traditionally sweet Frankie growled at a well-meaning member who walked by and said, “Hi puppy!” I apologized, and the member said, “I would growl at me, too.” I grabbed one of the treats out of my bag and offered it to the guy so he could snatch his way to the dog’s heart. Frankie took it out of the man’s hand with palpable suspicion, but he accepted the peace offering nonetheless.
Having the dog at my feet did kill my motivation to get up and go do things; it felt like too big of a hassle. Just like in my three-floor, walk-up apartment, it was not easy to take the dog out of the co-working space.
Going outside would mean packing up my belongings or leaving them behind—this place felt safe enough to do that—gathering Frankie, then heading down the hall to the elevator and through the lobby.
I waited until I really needed a break to undergo the mission. Because you have to have your dog with you at all times, I had to take Frankie with me into the restroom, which felt weird.
Overall, the day went surprisingly smooth. It helped that the facility I thing was nearly empty the entire time. There wasn’t a lot of action going on that disturbed Frankie, and only a few people tried to pet him. Most people seemed to not notice him at all.