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Forget the gym; walk the dog instead

THERE IS new hope for all those who never want suffer from a session in the gym again. "It may well be easier to reap the benefits of regular exercise from owning a dog than paying a gym subscription," says BUPA’s assistant medical director, Dr Annabel Bentley.

Margaret Mitchell, the head of care at a BUPA nursing home in Essex, follows this advice. She has taken Jessie, her Border Collie, in to work for the past five years. "Neighbours used to look after her when I was at work, but then they moved away. My manager was very understanding and said ‘why not bring her in?’ I couldn’t believe my ears. Now Jessie is almost on the payroll. It doesn’t impinge on my work and makes my job a home from home."

It’s a view echoed by staff at the website search engine Google UK. The 100-strong human team is augmented by canines Rufus, Frank, Eddie and Jasmine — with a new recruit, Floyd, due to join soon. Kate Burns, managing director, UK Adsales and operations, says: "It fits with our culture — we take our work seriously and do long hours and this is one element we use to ease the stress." That said, employees must abide by guidelines — and it’ s one strike and you’re out. "Not everyone is keen on dogs," Burns adds, "but after working here for a couple of weeks they grow to love them; they are very cute."

Companies and organisations as diverse as, John Brown Citrus Publishing and the RSPCA all have dog-friendly policies. At RSPCA headquarters up to 20 staffers take their dogs to work regularly. "You do occasionally hear a bark, but it is quite rare," says the Chief Veterinary officer Steve Cheetham. He’s not aware of anyone with an allergy to the dogs, nor has anyone been bitten. So would he recommend it? "Yes, because the evidence is that contact with pets is soothing. Stroking a pet lowers your blood pressure."

OUR DOGS Editor Bill Moores is often accompanied in to work by his faithful black labrador companion ‘Jack’, whilst Chief Reporter Nick Mays (who admittedly mainly works from home) pounds the keyboard with his Golden Retriever ‘Emma’ lying at his feet - or sometimes on them!