Perhaps the following scenario seems familiar. You’re out with your partner or spouse and you pass an adorable dog. You stoop for a quick pet and cuddle. When you look up, you see your mate frowning, shaking their head, or gazing disinterestedly into the distance.
You may have had this argument just once or many times. You want a dog, but your partner does not. How can you possibly resolve the issue?
Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, and author of When Pets Come Between Partners: How to Keep Love — and Romance — in the Human/Animal Kingdom of Your Home, says that compromising on dog ownership is often easier than partners would believe.
“For a lot of people, what works is just trying it,” says Dr. Gavriele-Gold. “It often turns out better than expected, and the dog ends up adored by the one who didn’t want it.”
Making The Case For A Dog To Your Partner
However, that doesn’t mean you should bring home a puppy from a breeder or rescue group without discussion, especially when you know there’s resistance in the home. A conversation should precede any action, and it should address why there’s reluctance in the first place.
“Explore with the person what it is about having the dog that upsets them,” Dr. Gavriele-Gold says. “If it’s the work — ‘I don’t want to walk the dog’ — then agree to take on the work.”
In other words, if you want a canine companion in addition to a human one, assume the responsibility and remove the roadblock.
Another good strategy is exposure. Take your partner to dog parks to observe the beauty of pups at play, or introduce them to friends’ exceptionally cute and friendly dogs. But, make sure to keep the factors known and under control. The last thing you want is a reluctant dog owner to witness a fight. Petsitting misbehaving dogs who may miss their humans is not the wisest plan of action either.
When A Dog Arrives Unexpectedly
Sometimes people inherit dogs from sick or deceased family members. In that case, a partner may have legitimate reasons for saying no. For example, they may have a deep-seated fear of dogs from childhood, or you may already have an animal in the home. When it’s clear that keeping the pup isn’t an option, Dr. Gavriele-Gold recommends looking for a new owner within your trusted circle of family, friends, and dog lovers.
“Look among people you trust, as people who lost a dog might be interested,” he says. “People who have lost a spouse are often a little hesitant to go out and socialize again, but are very open to accepting an animal.”
In the absence of a known entity, Dr. Gavriele-Gold recommends being “excruciatingly thorough” when asking around. If you do find someone that way, he suggests that you see how and where they live and what they do for a living before placing the dog. As a last resort, he advises placing dogs with vetted groups, as breed rescue groups are usually very concerned and dedicated people.
Of course, there’s a chance the dog might win your partner over, so be sure to talk the issue through thoroughly before deciding to give the pup to a new owner for good.
Introducing Your Dog to A New Partner
Sometimes, dog owners face the difficult scenario of beginning a relationship with a new, dog-disdaining partner.
“That’s the toughest one of all,” Dr. Gavriele-Gold says. If it’s a matter of getting a partner accustomed to living with a dog, that’s one thing. But if your dog doesn’t like your person, “get rid of the person,” he suggests. “The dog is trying to tell you something.”
Of course, it sounds like he’s kidding. But Dr. Gavriele-Gold, who owns two Bouviers and walks them around New York City, believes strongly in canine instincts. He trusts their innate knowledge of people. And if your dog intuitively distrusts a new person in your life, well, “I certainly wouldn’t give away the dog,” he says.
‘No Bones About It’ is a monthly relationship column about the ways dogs impact human connections. Dr. Gavriele-Gold’s latest book on dog-human relationships, When Pets Come Between Partners, is now available on Amazon. He also hosts a monthly “Comfort Conversation” on grief on the AKC Pet Loss Support Group on Facebook.