For many of us, our dogs are like our children, and we would do anything for them. So when you start dating someone who doesn’t see your dog as the perfect creature he is, your red flag radar might go up.
However, your partner’s inability to understand the deep connection you and your pup share doesn’t instantaneously make them the wrong person for you. Their disregard for your dog might be because of a traumatic childhood incident, they never grew up with pets, or they just aren’t into dogs.
If your partner doesn’t fawn over your pup like you do, don’t immediately give them the boot. But you shouldn’t brush it under the rug either, especially if you’re in a long-term relationship. Indeed, studies have shown that a dog can cause roughly 2,000 family feuds during its lifetime, equating to three arguments a week.
Here’s what to do if your four-legged friend and partner don’t see eye to eye.
Understand Why Your Partner Doesn’t Like Your Dog
If you’re a dog lover, the mere idea of disliking our canine companions may seem absolutely ludicrous. But there are people out there who dislike and are even scared of them.
A fear of dogs, or cynophobia, is often caused by an unpleasant encounter with a dog during childhood. Whether the person suffered a dog bite or was simply knocked over by an energetic puppy, that experience could shape their current feelings toward your pooch.
Other people may dislike dogs because of cultural conditioning or a lack of exposure to them. In many areas of the world, dogs aren’t popular pets. Whereas the United States has 225 dogs per 1,000 people, in other nations, like Saudi Arabia, the pet-dog-to-human ratio is a mere 20 to 1,000.
Other reasons could include they think they are dirty, they are allergic to them, or believe they should be an outdoor pet, among other rationales.
Regardless of the reason, we recommend taking things slowly to help your partner and dog bond.
Making the Initial Introduction
If your partner doesn’t like or is afraid of your dog, how can you ensure both your person and your pup are comfortable in each other’s presence?
It all starts with a well-behaved dog. An rambunctious, loud, or poorly-trained dog can quickly trigger a person’s dislike or fear. Showing your partner that your dog follows basic commands and isn’t aggressive can put them at ease.
Shelby Semel, a canine behavior expert and trainer, suggests doing a training session with your partner if they’re uncomfortable around your pet.
“It can be very assuring to see that your dog will happily listen when asked to come over to you, lay down, go away, etcetera,” she says. “That provides peace of mind for many who are uneasy around dogs.”
If your dog has never undergone professional training sessions and needs some help in the manners department, do so before you introduce him to your partner.
Also, to ensure your dog isn’t a rambunctious ball of energy when first meeting your partner, provide him with plenty of exercises. Go for a long, vigorous walk or play fetch in the backyard to tucker him out.
“A tired dog is a well-behaved one. If your dog is more tired, he is less likely to jump and bark, behaviors that are normal for a dog but undesirable to someone who is fearful of them,” Semel said.
You should also give everybody plenty of space. Never allow your pup to jump all over your partner during the initial introductions.
“Have your dog crate-trained, comfortable behind a gate, or on a tether. By using management techniques, you can make sure nobody is forced to be with the other 24/7,” says Semel. “Space can provide comfort and getting to know each other from a distance in small doses.”
After the initial introduction, talk to your partner about the experience. How did it go? What was he or she feeling? What should be the next steps? Understanding where your partner is coming from can help future interactions be positive ones.
What About Living Together?
The introductions went well, you’ve been dating your partner for a while, and both of you are thinking about taking the relationship to the next level by moving in together. So how can everybody comfortably cohabitate?
To ensure everyone – including your dog – is happy, ongoing training is essential. This applies to both people and pups.
“Making sure your partner knows what not to do will be very important,” says Semel. For instance, she says staring at a dog, making sudden movements, being loud, and teasing your dog, can all make your four-legged friend uncomfortable.
As with any healthy relationship, communication is also important when living in a happy home with your dog and partner.
“Discuss your partner’s wants and needs regarding the dog and cohabitation,” says Semel. Sit down and talk about things like, if your partner feels okay splitting duties, what responsibilities he or she would feel comfortable doing, where should your dog sleep, and what to expect when you are not at home. “Have the expectations set out in advance so you can each make some compromises to suit the other,” she says.
If your dog is a good candidate to go on walks, hikes, or to daycare with a third party, schedule some alone time with your partner, sans your third-wheeling pooch.
When Things Aren’t Going As Planned
It’s also important to know when things aren’t going well and how to best handle the situation to keep everyone comfortable. This is especially true if your partner has a deep-seated phobia of dogs.
“If your partner is truly fearful and living with a dog is anxiety-provoking, I would suggest seeking therapy before the move-in to get prepared,” says Semel. “Exposure therapy won’t work if they have to live in close quarters right away. It’s always better to take advanced steps.”
Being in a relationship with a person who doesn’t like dogs is possible. Ongoing training and communication are key to keeping everyone happy. However, if your partner truly fears your pup, therapy is essential before the relationship can progress.