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Posted on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11 a.m.

Dogs can seem to be the root of a relationship problem, but in some cases they're a magnifying glass

By Lorrie Shaw


In the middle

flickr photo by saratogajean

Getting a dog is one of the most common endeavors that a couple decides to undertake when they meld their lives together. In many ways, it introduces a whole new side to the relationship. It's not without its challenges, needless to say, and the experience in most respects can reinforce the union.

The challenges — or what some view as challenges — of dog ownership can, for some couples, cause rifts on a regular basis.

A British study had some findings that really piqued my interest.

According to the study, during a dog's average lifetime — one that spans 12.8 years — a couple will have an average of roughly three arguments related to pet ownership per week.

So, Fido would then be the root of 2,000 disputes. It seems so unfair, yet not really that surprising.

Let's face it: living with another species can prove to be a challenge in itself.

Trying to get two humans to agree on something like how a dog should be cared for or training (15 percent of the couples in the study noted that this a problem) is generally enough for two people to deal with.

If you add in a bone of contention like who should be handling walking responsibilities, if the pooch should be allowed to sleep in the bed and how to handle pet care when traveling — which was one a problem high on the list for most couples — the rifts can widen.

These impasses are especially true when a dog is exhibiting behavior problems.

17 percent of the couples indicated that one of the pair had slept in a spare room after an argument relating to their pooch.

That got me thinking about a lot: chiefly about the idea of how much we need to get to know our significant others — and ourselves — before getting a dog.

There needs to be a lot of dialog about just how much life will be impacted by the inclusion of a canine. They're wonderful companions, but they're a different species, for Pete's sake.

Dogs do things that stir us into worrisome fits, and needlessly so for the most part.

The problems associated with our relationship with dogs are usually induced by our need to possess, control, cling, mold like clay; our unwillingness to establish boundaries, to be consistent in our behavior, accepting and most of all, patient.

Ironically, many of the habits we get into are why human relationships begin to fracture.

Sometimes, despite the fact that our relationship might be healthy, we have the misfortune of experiencing the chilly effects of a relationship that a new-to-us dog was in the middle of. (Our household has firsthand experience with this, and let me tell you, it's awful seeing an otherwise happy-go-lucky pooch cower in fear at the sight of you picking up a broom, shovel or rake.)

In any case, for the betterment of our relationships, it might serve us better if we're reasonable in not only in the acceptance of limitations (even our own), but our expectations of the ones that we choose, human and canine alike.

Lorrie Shaw is lead pets blogger for You can follow her daily pet adventures as owner of Professional Pet Sitting on Twitter and subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Didn't The Onion cover this years ago? <a href=",403/" rel='nofollow'>,403/</a>

The Picker

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

After a second glance I think that look is &quot; The cat did it &quot;

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

It might be!

The Picker

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

I can't tell if the look in this poor dogs eyes is anguish or I need a treat ?

The Picker

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Shallow, narcissistic, nit wits should not have children either !


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

I have had dogs for fifty years. They are part of the family. You have to treat them as so. Doctor appointments with shots. You get flu shots so why not get shots for the dog. Good food and lots of walking. The big secret is to take them to a trainng class when they are young. It will pay off. If you leave lots of toys laying around it will do wonders. Nothing like a dog on your lap or sitting by you waiting to be petted. It takes commitment.

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Words of wisdom, Mort - I love that!

sun runner

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

I caved in after years of pressure and my husband and I got a puppy. I knew within the first week after we brought her home that I had made a terrible mistake. Nothing was ever the same, and it wasn't in a positive way. I grew up in a cat family. I have always had cats in my life. I was used to their independence, low maintenance upkeep, and minimal intrusion into daily life. The transition to the vastly amplified requirements and household &quot;footprint&quot; of a dog were a harsh, jarring lesson. I grew to resent absolutely everything about the dog. My ex-husband, meanwhile, thought the sun shone out of her behind. We had some terrible, awful fights about the dog. Fighting had never been part of our relationship before the arrival of the dog. In the end, my husband and I divorced, due to a host of reasons. When he left, there was no question which pets were going where. He took the dog, and I kept the two cats. I think we're all happier. It took living with a dog to convince me I never want to live with one ever again. I'm happy being a crazy cat lady.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

I own both dogs and cats, and I admit they both have their good and bad aspects, but between them both I get the best of both worlds that make me happy. Dogs keep me active, while cats keep me warm and content. I wouldn't want to live without either one. I also think I've had arguments with my husband about both rather equally.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

@sun runner, you might feel different when you get older. Often a pet for an elderly person gives them good companionship as they become more homebody and helps them stay with it longer.

sun runner

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

LOL...yes, I think there are Dog People and there are Cat People and never the twain shall meet! The thing is, I don't *dislike* dogs...I just don't want to own one. I get my &quot;dog fix&quot; when I visit my brother by encouraging his three dogs to climb all over me, sit in my lap, lick my face, etc. (Nothing like a 50-lb lap dog!) I leave his house covered in dog fur and very happy. I'm happy because I got to love on some puppehs, but I'm also happy that they aren't coming home with me.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

clearly a case of a dog and cat person marrying. I was once engaged to a man (years before I got my dog) who admitted to me that he had lied about being open to having a dog, he had just said it hoping I would &quot;forget&quot; or &quot;let it go&quot;. Well I for one could never forget wanting a dog! Having always grown up with one it seemed like a natural idea to get one once I lived in a suitable place to have one. The idea of never having a dog or at least not having one for a long time caused a physical pain of loss and heartbreak that was the same feeling I later had finding out I couldn't have children. Luckily by then that pain didn't last long as I had my dog who I feel often came from my own womb, I love him so much and he is so in tuned to me. I love the household &quot;footprint&quot; of a dog.

Lorrie Shaw

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

sun runner: I so appreciate your honesty on this issue, and am glad that you took the time to share your story. I often wonder if people steer away from saying things like this because of the kind of culture that surrounds pets today. It's a shame, really, because I think that it could open up more dialog on the keeping of companion animals. Cats are unique creatures, just as dogs are and do have very different household &quot;footprints&quot;. (I love how you put that, by the way!) Thanks for sharing your experience.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

for a couple getting a dog can be like having a baby. That is it is a good test for one partner to see how the other partner would do as far as rearing and responsibility etc. As a female I am aware of how well a man treats my dog. I had had my puppy for only a few months when I started to date a new guy. His idea of how I should deal with MY dog (in all sorts of respects) was not how I was raised to treat/interact with a dog. This boyfriend was completely jealous of my puppy! Needless to say the boyfriend was not around for long. Although he &quot;liked&quot; dogs his idea of pets was quite different than mine. You can learn a lot about someone from how they are with animals, especially with house dogs. How they deal with things like care, food, walks, playing, affection. From my perspective a man that can hit a dog (not talking a whopp on the butt either) can hit a woman or a child. If someone shows rage towards a household pet this is not someone you want to stay in your life. Often fights involving pets are regarding CONTROL issues over the other person and not necessarily the pet.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

Get a cat.

Lorrie Shaw

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Oddly enough, shrewdrealist, felines have their own problems as a result of the things that humans do in their relationships with them. They tend to be less overt because we have a tendency to not recognize them. (Yet another one of our shortcomings.) Thanks for chiming in!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

&quot;The problems associated with our relationship with dogs are usually induced by our need to possess, control, cling, mold like clay; our unwillingness to establish boundaries, to be consistent in our behavior, accepting and most of all, patient.&quot; Almost all of these traits are the antithesis of what I understand Buddhism strives for. It would be interesting to hear from some Buddhists who own a dog how they deal with the problems of which you write.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

...or Buddhists who WERE a dog in a previous incarnation.

Lorrie Shaw

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

DBH: You're exactly right. And, I'd be interested in hearing from a Buddhist's experience as well. These problems are so rampant in our society, much to the misfortune of our furry friends. The practice of mindfulness can go a long way. I really appreciate you making that point - and all of your comments!