Okay, so here’s the problem. You love your dog. And you also love your boyfriend or your girlfriend. Your dog, however, has other ideas. You just can’t get the two of them to warm up to each other.
If the problem is just disinterest, that’s not a biggie. If there’s a bit of tension between the two of them, that is probably also not a huge issue. But what if it’s outright hostility? Someone could get hurt. So what are you going to do? Obviously, you want the two living beings that you care about most in the world to get along. Can it happen?
Well, probably. But you have to identify the source of the dislike, and then, you have to work on it. Sometimes it’s simple jealousy, and that’s usually easily dealt with. Other times, the source of the animosity may run deeper, and you might have to get creative.
The following are some reasons why your dog may be reacting badly to your significant other:
1. Jealousy and Fear
This is a no brainer. Your dog wants to bond with you. Much of the time, you and only you. So, you have to find out if this issue is due to jealousy, or due to fear of other people.
Often, dogs will react fearfully to people because of bad socialization. Imagine, for instance, that your puppy was raised in a household of women, and never exposed to men. Usually, men are bigger and taller than women, and they have deeper voices. All of this can seem very strange to a puppy who has been raised with women. Your dog is a) jealous of the intruder and b) fearful because the intruder does not look like the people that he is used to.
Dogs often perceive aggression where none is intended. If your significant other leans forward when approaching the dog, the dog might react fearfully. Adopting a more neutral position can help.
3. Inconsistent or Improper Discipline
If you discipline your puppy in one way, and your significant other uses another method, it can confuse the dog. I don’t want to slag men, but the fact is that often a man will see a means of correcting behavior as involving punishment. A woman is more likely to use positive reinforcement.
If the dog is confused, then it is likely that he or she will react badly to the person who is causing the confusion. Consistency is the key. Oh, and by the way, I really don’t recommend punishment as a means of training or disciplining. Positive reinforcement is always best – catch your dog doing something right, and then offer praise. Don’t be confrontational, and make sure that your partner understands that he or she can’t be confrontational either.
Now that you understand some of the potential causes of conflict between your partner and your dog, you need to know how to help them get along.
Helpful Tips to Improve the Relationship Between Your Partner and Your Dog
If you really want your significant other to get to know your dog, and have them learn to love one another, then you need to help them interact effectively. Here are some tips:
1. Show Them How to Play Together
One of the best ways to create a good relationship with a dog is through play. Does your dog already know how to do a trick? Can he sit and wait for his toy to be thrown to him? Show your SO how to do this. The dog knows what is expected, and so does your SO, so they can interact together. Later on, they may want to learn other tricks together.
2. Use Praise and Bribery
Most training sessions involve liberal use of treats and praise. Dogs love hearing their name, so every time your partner says “Good boy, Rocco,” in response to the dog successfully doing a trick, the dog associates the words with something that is already pleasurable. Also, it’s usually pretty easy to “buy” a dog’s affection. The dog thinks, “Nasty boyfriend/girlfriend says ‘Rocco’ and gives Rocco treats! Maybe not so nasty after all?”
3. Deal With Petting Problems
If your dog shies away when your significant other is petting him or her, work with words. You already know how you touch your dog, so add words to the interaction. Say “pet” when you stroke him. Then, have your significant other approach him using the word “pet.” If your dog hears familiar words, he or she is more likely to respond favorably.
Now that you have an idea of how to help your significant other and your dog interact in a way that’s favorable to both, it’s important to understand that this isn’t the only relationship that may need work. You and your partner will probably also need to fine-tune your relationship.
Working With Your Partner
Usually, when problems occur between a dog owner’s partner and the dog, it’s because the relationship is new and neither party quite knows what the other wants, what’s a deal-breaker, and what can be negotiated. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. Open the Lines of Communication Early On
You figure you’ve found “the one,” and you hope that he or she feels the same way. However, you’re already in a relationship – with your dog. Before you invest any more time and effort into this new relationship, you have to make sure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to your dog.
Issues like whether the dog sleeps on the bed or is allowed on the furniture, permitted to swim in the pool, and so on, need to be dealt with at the outset. If they’re not, they could lead to trouble later on (see 2.).
2. Be Honest and Expect Honesty
Often, in the early stages of a relationship, one partner will suppress his or her preferences, only to have them fester and surface later on. Usually, this happens during the course of an argument (and all couples have them) when your SO says something along the lines of “Oh, and by the way? I’ve always hated having Rocco sleep with us!”
At the beginning of the relationship, be completely honest with your partner as to what you expect, and insist that he/she do the same. Set expectations early on, and don’t change the rules in the middle of the game.
3. Be Specific
You need to be specific about what you expect in the context of your partner’s relationship with your dog, and you have the right to demand that your partner do the same. If your partner tells you “I hate that dog,” that’s not specific, and it’s probably not even true. More likely, there are aspects of your dog’s behavior that your partner hates.
Find out what those behaviors are. Is the dog poorly house-trained? Is he destructive? Is he barking at all hours of the day or night? Getting on the furniture after repeatedly being told not to? Find out what needs to be corrected, and then correct it. If necessary, consult an animal behaviorist or trainer.
4. Tolerate Differences
In any relationship, there are going to be differences of opinion and different personality styles. Think of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger of “Odd Couple” fame. They were polar opposites, and yet somehow managed to live together in relative compatibility. You and your SO may never agree on every single thing when it comes to your dog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to make it work.
This is the single most important thing you can do, and usually, there’s a lot of room for compromise. Most of us compromise in different ways every day of our lives. You can’t stand your teen’s messy room, so we say “Just close the door so I don’t have to see it every time I walk by.” You hate coming home to find our SO’s car parked in such a way that you can’t get into the garage, so the two of you agree that henceforth, the SO will park in the street. You hate anchovies on pizza, and your partner loves them, so you get half anchovies and half pepperoni. You get the idea.
You might also have to compromise where your dog is concerned. Maybe in exchange for him/her allowing Rocco to sleep on the bed, you agree that he won’t be ruining the other furniture? Or, if your SO has problems with Rocco’s hair clogging up the pool filter, you buy Rocco a wading pool of his very own?
There is almost always room for compromise. You just have to work at it.
6. Talk About Money
My grandmother always used to say that there were only two things that would ever cause trouble in a relationship – money, and in-laws. She was a smart woman.
If you find yourself in a relationship where you’re going to be pooling resources, you absolutely have to talk about money, and not just how to divide household expenses. You have to talk about what will happen if that dog your partner isn’t crazy about needs expensive medical attention.
If you’re anything like me, you’d be saying “I don’t care what it costs; I’ll take out a second mortgage. This is my dog, my whole world!”
Your partner might not feel the same way. You need to ask hard questions. “If Rocco gets cancer, and needs treatment that will cost $4,000 or more, are you going to give me a hard time, or agree that I should spend the money?”
Then you have another decision to make. If he/she says that Rocco will have to be put to sleep, is that okay with you? Or is it a deal-breaker?
Perhaps a compromise here would be buying pet insurance.
I believe that compromising is the most important thing you can do in ensuring a loving, healthy relationship between your significant other and your dog. Much of what I’ve suggested here is just common sense, but let me offer up one final suggestion.
Think Like Your Dog
Sometimes, it can be well-nigh impossible to understand the source of the problem your dog and your partner are having with one another. Your SO is a nice person, and your dog is typically good with everyone he meets. What could possibly be wrong?
The thing is, dogs always have a reason for their behavior. It might not be obvious, might not be easily understood, and might not even make sense to you, as a human. This is where you have to put your detective hat on, and start digging. Is there something in the dog’s background that you don’t know about? You have to think like your dog.
Here’s a really funny story that illustrates the point. A friend of mine had an English Mastiff named Oberon, Obie for short. He was basically a sociable dog, but my friend had a bit of a problem with him. One night she invited her boyfriend over for a spaghetti dinner and a nice bottle of wine, and Obie, who was usually just fine with visitors, positioned himself between my friend and her boyfriend, showed all 97 of his teeth, and made it very clear that there had better not be even one more step forward.
My friend’s boyfriend sat down on the sofa, and as anyone with a grain of sense would do when faced with 200 pounds of snarling English Mastiff, didn’t move another muscle for the rest of the night. Obie kept snarling, and the boyfriend just kept on sitting like the smart guy he obviously was.
So, what was the problem with Obie? It was wine. My friend had handed her boyfriend a glass of wine, and that’s what set Obie off. Of course, she didn’t know it at the time, but in a conversation with Obie’s previous owner, she found out that a family member had once become overly inebriated at a Christmas party, and frightened Obie by being loud. Obie was afraid that my friend’s boyfriend might also become loud and obnoxious, so he was reacting accordingly.
The Final Word
Most of the time, differences between your partner and your dog can be resolved with a bit of work. However, it might be that your dog and your significant other are just never going to get along. Maybe your dog is perceiving something that you don’t see. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but from my perspective, I’ll take my dogs over a romantic relationship every time. It’s like they say – you can always get another partner. A good dog is harder to find. Just something to think about when you’re deciding who you really want to snuggle up with on a cold winter night.