Gen Y Dogma: 4 Ways Getting A Dog Changes Your Friendships

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Adopting a dog changes your life in a ton of significant ways. If you’re in a relationship, it definitely re-works the existing dynamic with your significant other. But what about your friends, the ones you’ve known for years? It probably isn’t something you’ve even thought about if you’re considering puppy parenthood, but changes to your social life are part and parcel to life with a dog. That’s what this week’s column is all about —the litany of ways getting a dog changes your existing friendships.

You will see your dog-less friends less

It’s kind of unfortunate, but also kind of inevitable. It’s a lot harder to go out as a couple and do ‘normal’ friend things like a Saturday night on the town when there’s a dog at home. It does get a little easier as your dog gets older; they’re slightly less dependent on you than they were when they were little munchkins, but they still need their pet parents.

But the truth is, when you do have a night out, you miss them and can’t wait to get home and see them. I’m sure it’s the same way once you have kids. That initial freedom of “Oh my gosh, we’re getting adult time together minus the kids/dog!” feels great, but after a while, you just want to go home and snuggle your babies, be they the human or canine variety.

You become that person — you know, the one whose Instagram feed is ALL dog pictures

Guilty as charged. I admit it — I love social media and my accounts are littered with pictures of Matilda and other dog-related material. It’s gotten especially ridiculous now that I write for PetGuide on a regular basis, but I figure… who doesn’t like pets? Right…? (I suppose there are some Grinches out there who don’t. They don’t count.)

You have no concept of how much is too much when it comes to sharing your pet on social media, just like your friends with new babies have no filter for sharing pictures of their human offspring. It simply doesn’t compute with them (or you) that everyone in the world — or at least everyone on your friend list — doesn’t want to see a steady photo stream of your precious baby, furry or otherwise.

Five years ago I would have felt differently, but I must be getting soft in my old age because I love that my social feeds are now chock-full of friends’ bouncing babes and furry critters. Can you say CUTE OVERLOAD? I digress…

You make friends with fellow dog parents

Yep. At the park, on the street, at your local coffee joint — you’re going to be out walking a lot more, and that means you’ll be running into a ton of other pet parents. Living in a big city, we don’t regularly talk to “strangers” when we’re out in public, but when you have a dog, you’ve instantly got this major “life” thing in common with a lot of other people; people who you’ll be running into over and over again while you’re out and about with your canine companion.

If you’re like me and not generally a huge fan of small talk, the dog thing makes it super easy. Everyone loves to talk about their dog, and you’re all going to have your share of war stories (probably involving poop and/or weird things your dog has eaten) to share.

Even if you meet someone through a friend or at work and you find out you both have dogs — boom — instant connection. Again, it’s the same with people who are parents to tiny humans. It suddenly becomes so much easier to relate to new parents in the same boat as you, and you’ll probably find yourself spending less time than before with child-free friends. It’s not intentional and it’s not a reflection on those friends, but it definitely happens.

Everyone becomes an expert

Oh man. This is the classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Everyone you know who owns or has owned a dog in the past is suddenly an expert on how you should train and parent your pooch.

I can’t say all the advice we’ve received has been terrible, but seriously? You have to be discerning. Take your friends’ advice on board, but also only give it the same weight that you would a grain of salt. Dogs, just like children, have distinct personalities, so what worked for your friend’s dog may not work for yours.

When Matilda was very young and still had super sharp puppy teeth, everyone told us that we should yell “OW!” as loud as we could if she hurt us with her teeth. This is supposed to startle your puppy enough to make them stop and eventually, realize they’re hurting you. But Matilda? Shouting only got her more excited and she’d keep doing the very thing we wanted her to stop doing — with 10 times the gusto. We eventually found a strategy that worked, and unsurprisingly, it’s one that plays right into Matilda’s personality. (In case you curious: anytime Matilda would play-bite/hurt us, we silently leave the room and close the door behind us for 30 seconds. She really doesn’t like being alone, and she soon learned that biting mummy and daddy means they will leave. Problem quickly solved.)

So when your friends give you advice on how to raise your dog? Smile, nod and continue on with your day. I’m not advocating a “no training” approach; just one that works for you and your dog.

How about you? Did your friendships change when you got your very first dog? How did you handle it?

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.