For many couples or families, deciding to get a dog is an easy choice. However, agreeing with your partner on what size or breed of dog to acquire can be a lot more difficult.
Part of what makes this choice potentially fraught with conflict is that dog lovers often don’t use rationale, according to Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold, clinical psychologist and author of When Pets Come Between Partners: How to Keep Love — and Romance — in the Human/Animal Kingdom of Your Home.
“Any decision is based on emotion,” says Dr. Gavriele-Gold. “That emotion often stems from having a family history with one particular breed, and wonderful memories associated with it. Or, on the flip side, having bad memories associated with another breed.”
One partner may have emotional ties to Golden Retrievers, having grown up with them. Whereas the other might have a similar attachment to a much smaller dog like a Pomeranian. So, how do you compromise on your canine choice without splitting up? Or, settling for a pet fish, instead?
Make Rational Assessments
The first order of business is to assess the living situation for the potential pet. Be honest with yourself about where the dog will be spending the majority of the time. Living in a high-rise is far different than a house with a backyard or a condo complex filled with other dogs.
Restrictions on space might force one or both parties to rule out larger breeds requiring lots of exercise. On the other hand, if you intend to let them out in a fenced backyard, some determined dogs may slip through cracks and escape into surrounding streets. Meanwhile, some breeds are more territorial or bark more often than others. This may be a problem if neighbors are nearby, or if exercising the dog has limitations.
Do Your Research
All of the above factors should enter into the decision-making process if you can put your emotions aside. If so, such concerns may lead you into a third choice you hadn’t previously considered. Dr. Gavriele-Gold declares the best way to really decide on a breed, no matter whose preference it is initially, is “to do the work.” That means talking to friends who may own the breed of dog you desire, visiting breeders, and reading the literature to find out what your desired dog requires in terms of socialization, veterinary care, grooming, and more.
Often, if you’re conflicted or undecided as a family, a trip to a local breeder can help answer questions and provide meet-and-greet options. For couples or families who want to learn more about purebred dogs (and cats), AKC Meet the Breeds events provide an excellent opportunity to understand the attributes and characteristics of a myriad of breeds of canines.
Don’t Override Objections
Dr. Gavriele-Gold also warns about disregarding the feelings of other family members who live with you, especially your children. For instance, if you have a child who is afraid of large dogs, don’t make the mistake of assuming that they’ll outgrow it eventually.
“If you do, it will haunt you later in life,” says Dr. Gavriele-Gold. “It’s very important to take all the family members into account.”
Finally, don’t use your children by lobbying them. Taking them to see the type of dog you want, and sabotaging your partner’s dream breed, will likely ultimately backfire.
Talk It Out With Your Partner
As always, Dr. Gavriele-Gold notes, the key to successfully adding the right dog to your family without drama is communication. While you may have a valid reason for wanting one breed or size of dog over another, it’s important to listen to your partner and/or your children if they have very different ideas.
“My personal belief is that we don’t choose dogs,” affirms Dr. Gavriele-Gold. “They choose us.”
‘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.