If Your Boyfriend Doesn't Like Your Dog (Or Vice Versa!), Here's How To Cope
My brother-in-law once asked what I would do if Puff, my beloved Pomeranian, morphed into an independently wealthy human man. Without hesitation, I said, "Ask if he's single." Yeah, sure, this is probably something I should address with my therapist, but the moral of the story is that I love Puff more than most (if not all?) human men. And if you look at your dog with the same fervent — albeit mildly unhealthy — adoration that I do, but your boyfriend doesn't like your dog (or vice-versa), it can be a major problem.
My first boyfriend didn't dislike my dog, per se, but he was always making snide remarks — he questioned Puff's masculinity and claimed his lion's cut did not flatter his figure. Puff's got a heart of gold, so he never held this against First Boyfriend, but I could tell he never fully trusted him, either. Our relationship eventually unraveled for a variety of reasons, but I'd be lying if I said that Puff's lack of approval didn't play a role in that breakup.
And I'm not alone. A 2017 study conducted by dog-walking and pet-sitting network Rover.com found that 54 percent of pet owners would end their relationship if their dog didn't approve of their significant other. Woof.
(By the way, that same study also found that 65 percent of pet owners take more pictures of their dogs than of their partners, which brings me more joy than I can really express with words).
But you didn't come here for dismal statistics about pet-related breakups, did you? No, you came for solutions. And I've got them! Well, Marissa Miller — the freelance journalist and editor behind this 2015 Cosmpolitan.com essay on the struggles she faced dating a cat-owner despite her terrible allergies to cats — has solutions!
Not long after penning that piece, Miller and her cat-cuddling boyfriend tied the knot, and they've since adopted another cat together. So, if anyone can help you navigate this pet-partner dissonance, it's her.
Here's a look at exactly what to do if your partner and your pet aren't seeing eye-to-eye, and you don't want to sacrifice either relationship...
If Your Pet Hates Your Partner
All right, scenario number one: Your pet dislikes your partner. Now, if they like, really hate your S.O. — like snarl-and-growl-when-they-walk-in-the-room kind of hate —my go-to advice is to call a priest because they probs need to be exorcised. (Your partner, that is.) But Miller's got some slightly less aggressive and substantially more sensible counsel.
"Bonding starts with understanding to the best of your abilities how cats [or dogs] work, otherwise they’re creepy enigmas," she explains. "Then, gradually start participating in the care for the pet with your partner so you’re bonding with both of them at the same time. That said, cats really dictate the parameters of your relationship, versus the other way around, so it’s important to reward them when they do something good with food, treats, or back rubs so they develop positive associations."
The key takeaways here (if you're pretty sure your boyfriend or girlfriend is not a secret demon)? Help them care for their pet, and throw lots of positive reinforcement the pet's way. Treats. Head scratches. Taking out the litter box. With time, they'll grow to appreciate both you and your belly rubs. And, if you're lucky, maybe they'll even return the favor by presenting you with a few dead mice or lizards (one can only hope!).
If Your Partner Hates Your Pet
Scenario number two: Your partner hates your pet. Before jumping to the conclusion that they're a sociopath (another dramatic leap I might make, TBH), remember that it's likely because they've never had a pet of their own, and are therefore struggling to bond with yours.
"If your partner doesn’t love your pet, don’t push them to get along," says Miller. "This will only cause resentment. Those who don’t have pets have no real way of understanding just how deep of a bond you can forge with an animal."
With this in mind, try to slowly but surely build up the relationship between your pet and your partner. Miller suggests sharing cute stories and videos of your pet with them, as "they might be curious to see what about that pet exactly makes you light up so much. Also, it might light a fire under their [butt] to make you as happy as the pet makes [them]."
And hey, if it comes down to it and you really can't make this bond work, maybe the problem runs deeper than the disconnect between your partner and your pet.
"At the end of the day though, if your partner hates your pet, ask yourself if that relationship is worth it," says Miller.
After all, you wouldn't want to date someone who all of your best friends hate, right? And, as we all well know, dogs are (wo)man's best friend.
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