Change can be hard. This is true for people and dogs alike and as we progress through our lives with inevitable changes along the way, we may encounter some interesting situations with our loved ones, whether human or canine. Dating or embarking on a new relationship can be one of those times. Relationships are complex and if there are animals involved, things can get more complicated. A study published in a British newspaper in 20121 suggested that dogs can cause more than 2,000 arguments in a household over the dog’s lifetime. In a poll conducted in October 2010 by the Associated Press-Petside,2 approximately 14% of people would choose their dog over their own spouse. These remarkable statistics prove that Shakespeare was not wrong and “the course of true love never did run smooth.”3 If you’re reading this and seeing some parallels with your own life, what can be done to make things a little less choppy?
Is your partner a dog lover?
Whether your partner is a dog lover or not is a question that ideally needs to be answered at the beginning of a relationship, because if he is not and you are, there could be trouble ahead. Some people cannot possibly imagine being without a dog in their home, whereas others cannot imagine sharing their home with a pet. It can be very difficult for someone who does not like (or is perhaps afraid of) dogs to adjust to having a pet in his or her space. If your partner is allergic to pets, it can be downright disastrous. A dog sensing fear or dislike from your partner does not make for a comfortable situation. Determining what will work for you both at the outset, could be a smart move in the long term.
Introducing a new person into a household can be extremely confusing for dogs who are pack animals and enjoy the comfort of knowing where everyone sits in the pecking order. Your dog’s home is his territory and he will protect that territory as much as possible. Introduce a partner gradually with initial contact being on neutral ground. By the time you get to the moving-in stage, your partner and your pet should be very used to being around one another. When the partner does move in, try to make sure that the pet’s normal sleeping areas are not compromised, as dogs are creatures of habit and will not necessarily feel comfortable with lots of change. If you are blending households that both contain pets, you have another variable to add to the equation. Again, make sure that initial pet introductions are done on neutral ground. The pets should be very familiar with each other before living under the same roof.
For many dog owners, the dog is often treated like a substitute child or grandchild, but just as parents would with regard to raising children, owners should discuss how they both feel about dealing with training, behavioral issues, and how much time, money, and attention should be devoted to the dog. As with any relationship, compromises should be made while respecting wishes on either side. Disputes over the dog can include who should walk the dog, where the dog sits in your vehicle, money spent on the dog, feeding the dog from the table, or damage caused by the dog, to name just a few. Sit down with your partner and determine what the issues are in your household and how you can resolve them. For example, pets on the furniture may be acceptable to one person, but not to the other. This is particularly an issue if you like your dog to share the bed, but your partner doesn’t. Talk about what you can both tolerate and when you decide on a household rule, stick to it.
Don’t expect your partner to love your pet as much as you do. As long as your pet is treated well by your partner and your pet is friendly in return, that can be OK. Try to share out tasks involved in the care of your pet between you, but if your partner is just not keen, be prepared (and content) to take on the lion’s share of the work.
Coping with jealousy
You mean everything to your dog and you mean everything to your partner! Sometimes it can be difficult for your dog and for your significant other to see affection being directed elsewhere. Don’t neglect to spend time with your dog after your partner has moved in and try to ensure that your partner also builds a relationship with your dog by spending time, giving treats and other attention.
Tackle issues before they escalate
If your normally well-behaved dog starts acting out or behaving badly, that could be a sign that your pup is not happy with the new situation. Don’t allow your dog to get away with bad behavior, and try to tackle the issue as soon as possible. It may be that you need to call on the help of an expert, whether a trainer or a veterinarian, to see if there is an underlying concern that needs addressing.
Whatever the problems that you encounter, don’t just let them fester. Communicate with your partner so you are aware of each other’s feelings. If you are comfortable talking with friends about your situation, they might be able to assist in problem resolution. If this doesn’t help or is not a good option for you, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who will be familiar with these kinds of issues, could help steer your relationship to a better place.
If you’ve had some pup-induced relationship challenges, why not share how you were able to resolve them?
Sending love to all our Pet Barrier blog readers this Valentine’s Day.
- http://www.apgfkpoll.com October 2010.
- Shakespeare, W. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 1, Scene 1. 1600.