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Gen Y Dogma: 4 Ways A Puppy Tests Your Relationship (And What To Do About It)

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Pet parenthood comes with its own set of everyday challenges. To get through them all, you and your partner need to work as a team. Christina Peden talks about what you’re in for and how to minimize the bumps in the road.

Alright, so everyone knows that kids can be one of the biggest tests your relationship will face… but what puppies? I’m sure most people think (and I was totally guilty of this!) that it’s all going to be sunshine and cuddles and puppy breath when you bring home your new furry friend. And it is… until reality sets in. Just like any relationship isn’t rainbows and unicorns 24/7, neither is pet parenthood. This week, I’ll be talking about the many ways having a puppy can test your relationship and what to do when the going gets “ruff”.

Walking Woes

gen-y-testing-relationship-2It’s raining. You’re exhausted. You’re grumpy. Blah, blah, blah. You can come up with a million different excuses, but the dog still needs to go for a walk, so someone’s going to have to suck it up and take her. Ryan and I have been lucky thus far since he’s been working from home and could take Matilda out for an afternoon jaunt to the dog park, but he just started a new job at an ad agency. That means no more midday playtime for poochie, which also means one of us will need to take her to the park after work. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I feel like doing after hopping off a packed, roasting pan-like streetcar is grabbing the dog and getting even sweatier by going for a long walk (Toronto’s summers are oppressively hot and humid). But like I said, someone’s gotta do it.

So, we came up with a plan. I keep saying I want to take up running again, so I’m going to start getting off my lazy butt and going for a morning run — with Matilda. She has mountains of energy in the morning and will make a great running buddy. Plus, it’ll get her nice and tired before we go to work, so she won’t be bouncing off the walls all day (which would be totally unfair to her). Ryan is going to take her to the dog park in the evening, while I make dinner (though I’m sure we’ll switch it up sometimes). We also have a friend who runs a dog walking service, so we’ll likely have her take Matilda out with the pack a couple times a week.

And that would be my advice to you, too — sit down with your partner, take a look at your schedules and budget and make a plan for your pup. You can always switch things up if your original plan is a bust, but the key is to have a system in place so you’ll have an idea of what works for you.

You Forgot? Again?

gen-y-testing-relationship-1When we’re not home, Matilda gets a little antsy and will chew whatever’s handy and easy to destroy, so we have to be careful not to leave out anything that’s potentially chewable. We’ve lost countless pairs of shoes, a coaster set, all our cork trivets, and even a hydro bill because we’ve gone out and left them within the puppy’s reach. I like to think I’m better when it comes to remembering to put stuff away, but Ryan and I are both probably equally guilty.

Still, when you come home and find your coasters in a thousand little pieces all over the living room because your partner left them on the coffee table… let’s just say it can be easy to point fingers and get frustrated. (Side note: Try not to do this; it really doesn’t help.) If you’re having a tough time remembering to put things away, try setting up a reminder on your phone that goes off before you leave for work in the morning. Pretty soon, it will become second nature to give your place a quick onceover before leaving. I know it’s made a big difference for us.

Playing Favorites

It’s true for pretty much any pet in a household of more than one human. There’s going to be a “favorite”, and in our house, it’s Ryan. We also have a cat, Oscar, who’s now 7 — Ryan had him long before meeting me. Obviously, Ryan’s he considers Ryan his “Daddy”. He likes me a lot, but he’ll never love me more than he loves Ryan (of course!). So I guess I was hoping that when we got Matilda, I’d end up being her favorite. Did it turn out that way? Nope!

Like I said, Ryan has been home with Matilda since we got her. And while she loves me to bits (and I her), Ryan’s got just-this-much of an edge over me in the “fave department”. The childish, immature part of me feels a little slighted by this. (Pouty internal dialogue: “But, but … I’m awesome. I should be the favorite!” — told you it was childish). My advice here? Get over yourself! Your dog still loves you, even if they might have a slight affinity for your partner. It’s not a competition, so don’t treat it like one.

GOOOOO TEAM! (Or … not)      

It probably goes without saying by this point that you and your partner will need to work together when it comes to this whole pet parenthood thing. Inevitably, there will end up being some points of friction as you both adjust to life with a dog. When those tough moments hit, it’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, you’re on the same team.

It can be easy to, say, get mad at your partner for leaving something out that the dog ends up shredding. It’s harder to admit that you’re also only human, could have made the exact same mistake and cut them some slack. Like with most other points of contention in a relationship, always strive for the empathetic and understanding approach.

What do you do if you’ve gotten a puppy and then realized that the two of you aren’t such a good team after all? (Thankfully, this isn’t the case with us, but dogs are a huge commitment and can definitely bring any existing relationship issues to the fore.) What happens if you break up? Who gets the dog? What about “joint custody”? In my next column, I’ll talk about how to work out the all details (spoiler alert: you should really have this conversation before puppy comes home).

christinamatildaChristina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada’s all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city’s numerous parks or curled up with a good book.


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