Dog In The Middle: Avoiding Relationship Problems

Husband and Wife enjoy camping trip with calm and relaxed dog outside

By Cesar Millan

According to a recent survey from the Associated Press and Petside.com, 14 percent of people would choose their pet over their significant other.

That’s a pretty amazing statistic, and only serves to reinforce how much many of us love our furry friends. After all, they can’t cook dinner for us, earn an income, or plan a romantic evening, but human partners still fall short for many people. More importantly, as some in the survey point out, their pets won’t ever let them down, either.

Unfortunately, the survey isn’t asking the right question. It’s not “who would you choose?” but rather “how in the world did it get to that point?”

Identify The Problem

One of the first things to consider is where the problem is coming from. Does your significant other have a problem with your dog (or the way you treat your dog?) or is it the other way around? Whether the problem is on the human or canine side, here are some things that you can try.

Have Play Dates

Okay, maybe not play dates exactly, but give your spouse and your dog some time alone together. You probably had them get to know your parents and friends in this way when you started to become more serious, right? Well, your dog may be even more important because they’re essentially a roommate that your spouse may have “married into.”

Set up time for your partner to walk, feed, and in general just get to know your dog when you’re not around to get in the way. This will help them to solidify their bond and hopefully lessen jealousy issues on both sides — although it could possibly make you jealous of your spouse and your dog!

Set Ground Rules

If you were alone for a while before finding your spouse and you’ve had your dog for a while, there’s a good chance that you and Fido have become quite close. He or she is probably the first creature you see when you wake up and the last before you go to bed. You eat together, walk together, watch TV together (or at least snuggle on the couch), and may even sleep together.

But just because this is the routine you and your dog have, that doesn’t mean that your spouse is comfortable with all of it. Sit down and have a discussion about the rules, boundaries, and limitations, so you’re both on the same page. Expressing a desire to not sleep with your dog when they’re sleeping with you is a completely reasonable expectation, for example, and if you adopt a “take it or leave it” approach, the relationship (the human one) just isn’t going to last. Which brings us to the next point…

Compromise

This is the hallmark of every long-lasting human relationship, and you need to talk about issues as early as possible. Maybe your spouse hates having the dog on any of the furniture. That’s probably not going to fly if you let Fido anywhere and everywhere at all times, so that’s where compromise comes in — no more sleeping on the bed, but the dog can still cuddle on the couch, for example.

Insurance for Your Dog

It’s also important to work out things like doggy medical care with your spouse. Though it may seem obvious to you that you’d go into extreme debt to keep your best friend alive, your spouse might not share that opinion. Maybe you can split the difference and find catastrophic pet insurance.

Follow Through

If you decide on a household rule together, don’t let it slide — even if your spouse isn’t there to see it. Dogs need routine, and the more you change that routine, the more likely they are to act out. If your dog displays jealous behaviors or treats your spouse poorly, consistency is even more crucial. Remember, the more that you can comfortably include your dog in your relationship, the happier you all will be.

Of all of these, compromise is probably the most important, because your goal is to keep both your dog and your spouse — at least, we hope so! When you want someone in your life — human or dog — you have to take their needs into consideration and work hard to ensure their happiness.

Has a dog ever caused a problem in your relationship? Have you ever successfully dealt with such a problem? Tell us about it in the comments!


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