When your Partner Loves the Dog More Than You

Canine companions of humans have long been considered one of the truest friends that mankind could possibly have. In recent times though there has been a surge of obsession with pet dogs to the extent that pet handlers have to remind the owners that they are animals and should not be indulged on the same level as human partners. This phenomenon may owe to the disintegrating family structures in modern societies and increasing physical isolation among human beings but whatever the cause, so much is clear that love for pet dogs often takes an extreme form. If you are concerned about the same in your partner so much so that he/she appears to love the dog more than you, here are a few tips you can keep in mind.

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Signs to watch out for

Before you issue an ‘either-the-dog-goes-or-I- go’ kind of ultimatum to your partner, make sure that he/she is actually obsessed with it and you are not merely letting your jealousy of your partner’s attention on the dog get in the way. The most obvious sign of a pooch-obsessed partner is that he/she would spend more resources on a pet dog than on you or even themselves. Your partner will think nothing before buying fancy dog furniture or checking into a high-end salon for an expensive pet-grooming session. That things are not right should be pretty evident when your partner happily splurges on organic pet food while settling for dinner out of paper boxes on a date night for you both.

Yet another way to evaluate whether your partner’s love for the dog has crossed reasonable limits is to see if he/she is spending more time with their dogs than with you. He/she for instance would not think twice before planning a weekend picnic with the dog rather than a day trip with you to the nearest beach or a museum.  Finally when you find your partner’s bond with their pet dog supplanting all forms of human interaction especially with you, you know you have a problem at hand. He/she may be sleeping on the couch so that the dog can have the bed or worse asking you to rough it out too at his/her place so that the dog’s routine is not disturbed. This can go to the extent of turning down party invitations or avoiding vacation destinations where dogs are not allowed.

What you can do about it?

While it is perfectly understandable for you to feel exasperation and annoyance at your partner’s preference of his/her dog over you, there is no point in making a scene about it. Indeed if you start yelling and calling names, you will be up against two adversaries – the pooch and your partner – instead of one. So keep your cool and do what you have to in a calm, orderly way.

Set boundaries

One of the first things you can do when negotiating your partner’s obsession with his/her pet dog is to mark clear boundaries. You can have a 'me-and-no-doggy' zone if you share a home with your partner so that your comfort space is not mucked up with doggy drool, mud prints or doggy hair. You can also separate your bank account if you have been holding a joint one with your spouse if you don’t want to watch your hard-earned money being spent on luxury pet spa sessions, gourmet doggie cookies and $30 dollar doggie toys. Make it clear to your partner that while they are welcome to indulge their pets, you are not to be expected to share your dinner or your bed with them.  

However don’t force your partner to choose between you and the dog since for all you know, he/she may just as well settle for the pet. Instead try to work on the core cause of the situation – the dog and your partner’s concern for its welfare. Explain to your partner that pampering a pet dog can nurture its insecurities and lead to behavioral problems like house soiling, separation anxiety, excessive barking and sometimes even territorial aggression. Persuade your partner to take the help of a dog trainer so that the pet can be trained to understand who the boss in the house is. This will not only make the dog better behaved and fun to have around but at the same time allow your partner enough leeway to show it off to friends and family.

Seek help for your partner

Many times though a person’s obsession with a pet dog may stem from deeper emotional causes which may not be in your power to redress. It is possible that a messy divorce and the loss of children in the past left a gaping hole in your partner’s life or he/she has been suffering from the empty-nest syndrome after kids moved out to college. And the only way he/she could cope with the loneliness was to transfer all his/her love and attention to the dog. So despite your best efforts if you are unable to bring things into perspective for your partner, it would be better to see a relationship counselor or even a therapist. This will not only benefit your relationship with your partner but ultimately that of your partner and their pet as well.