Emotional labour in multispecies workplaces

“Only certain types of dogs, and certain types of doggy behaviour, are deemed acceptable within the organization, and only within narrow confines of space, time and interaction. In this case, dogs are brought into the organization for a specific purpose, and aspects of ‘dogginess’ are valorized, such as apparent friendliness and accepting human touch, whilst other, equally ‘doggy’ behaviours (like barking, jumping, urinating) are unacceptable.”

Dashper, 2019, p. 5

Imagine a guide dog; You are likely not only imagining a dog guiding a vision impaired individual, but them doing so calmly and confidently. Were you to picture a police dog, you may envision an assertive and highly alert, responsive dog. It is quite unlikely that you would imagine a police dog chasing a fleeing suspect with a friendly, wagging tail – just as you would not expect a guide dog to bark and growl while guiding someone. Using these two well-known examples of dog work, of the many roles that we ask dogs to fulfil, it becomes clear that it is just as important, at times even more so, how dogs carry out the tasks they do as part of their profession as it is that they carry out those tasks at all. Humans expect dogs to develop the skill of managing their demeanour – in other words, to act professionally – while working in the presence of others. They often acquire an intensive education to do so successfully. 

However, we cannot isolate the dogs’ professionalism from that of the humans with whom they work. The human coworkers of dogs must also align with established rules concerning their professionalism. Much of their work efforts go into behaving professionally while teaching dogs to do so, as well, embodying both a teacher-student and co-worker relationship. In this way, the professionalism of dogs and humans, when working together in a wide range of roles, become incredibly interlinked and act as a complex element of work. This interspecies professionalism rests on social and organisational guidelines not necessarily concerned with how they genuinely feel, but the emotions they present to others (explained at length in: Warda, 2022, pp. 87–89). Managing one’s emotional displays in alignment with such rules becomes the backbone of an emotional labour practice: a fundamental process in the work done by, for example, humans and dogs. 

In performing emotional labour, an individual manages their emotions in one of two main ways: by inducing them cognitively, and/or suppressing and “faking” emotion displays behaviourally to present the required emotion displays for a recipient. Which of these strategies they employ will depend on each individual’s broader social, economic, organisational, and cultural contexts. However, placing a human or dog in a working role within which they suppress and/or fake emotion displays often and/or to a high intensity can detrimentally impact their well-being and working success (Warda, 2023).

At the dawn of emotional labour discourse, established by sociologist Hochschild (i.e. 1983) around three decades ago, “emotional labor in organizational sciences was like the back roads of a country town: relatively unexplored and hard to navigate, with some people telling you not to take that route” (Grandey and Gabriel, 2015, p. 324). Increasingly, however, interest has grown – not only in emotional labour, but in how it can be understood within multispecies workplaces. Indeed, attention paid to emotional labour has been, until quite recently, firmly anthropocentric. While still very much in its infancy, scholars, as well as practitioners working with individuals of other species, are establishing emotional labour as a fundamental labour process within multispecies workplaces (i.e. Coulter, 2020, 2019, 2016; Dashper, 2019; Warda, 2023, 2022). 

Project PAWWS aims to better understand the well-being of humans and dogs in their work together. Central to this, then, is not only that they perform emotional labour, but how, why, and in what contexts and environments they are expected to do so. There are countless complex, moving parts that can shape an emotional labour practice to move in a direction that is either more sustainable and ethical or detrimental and unsustainable. Human stakeholders need to develop deeper understanding and concern about interspecies emotional labour practices. Doing so will allow us to care with and take seriously the emotion management done by human practitioners and dogs, stakeholders themselves, to ensure the quality and sustainability of their overall work-lives and well-being. 


  • Humans and dogs manage their emotion displays while at work to perform the emotional labour expected of them as part of their job.
  • Individuals perform emotional labour by inducing emotions cognitively or suppressing and/or faking emotion displays behaviourally. 
  • Emotional labour discourse has, until quite recently, been firmly anthropocentric. 
  • To strengthen understandings and practices of improving the well-being of humans and dogs at work, critical attention needs to be paid to their emotional labour performances.

Some of Tiamat’s publications explore this topic in more depth (see Warda, 2023, 2022).


Tiamat Warda, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Lapland


Coulter, K., 2020. Toward Humane Jobs and Work-Lives for Animals, in: Blattner, C.E., Coulter, K., Kymlicka, W. (Eds.), Animal Labour: A New Frontier of Interspecies Justice? Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 29–48. https://doi.org/10.23984/fjhas.111345

Coulter, K., 2019. Horses’ labour and work-lives New intellectual and ethical directions, in: Bornemark, J., Andersson, P., Essen, U.E. von (Eds.), Equine Cultures in Transition. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 17–31.

Coulter, K., 2016. Animals, Work, and the Promise of Interspecies Solidarity. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY.

Dashper, K., 2019. More-than-human emotions: Multispecies emotional labour in the tourism industry. Gender, Work and Organization 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12344

Grandey, A.A., Gabriel, A.S., 2015. Emotional Labor at a Crossroads: Where Do We Go from Here? Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 2, 323–349. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-032414-111400

Hochschild, A.R., 1983. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Warda, T., 2023. Emotions at Work: Acknowledging interspecies emotional labour of guide dog mobility instructors. Society & Animals 1–19. https://doi.org/doi:10.1163/15685306-bja10125

Warda, T., 2022. Interspecies Emotion Management: The importance of distinguishing between emotion work and emotional labour. TRACE ∴ Journal for Human-Animal Studies 8, 82–101. https://doi.org/10.23984/fjhas.111345