Dear Dog Lady,
My girlfriend and I each have dogs, but the dogs have gotten into two huge fights–one resulting in my hand being bitten really badly once. The dogs cannot be near each other. They both have dog friends, but for some reason, they just didn’t like one another the first few times they met. This kind of limits the time my girlfriend and I can spend with one another as we always have to go back to let our dogs out. We live on opposite sides of the city. It would just be much better if we could all spend time together. Any insight?
A: You may be forcing a double date not of the dogs’ choosing. The canine world is unabashedly social, with all sorts of signals and alliances. And there are just some dogs that don’t like each other – for whatever mysterious reason such as a wayward smell, a bad wag, whatever. You want these two dogs to get along for your own romantic purposes but it obviously isn’t going to happen easily or quickly.
For now, you and your girlfriend should walk the dogs outdoors together. Carry treats to reward each pet for good behavior. Make it a fun time with lots of praise. Go to a park, for instance, where you can let them off-leash together. Dogs get along much better outdoors than indoors where competition kicks in over space and food. After weeks and months of walking outdoors without incident, you can slowly introduce them to the indoors but always back off from forced merriment if they show any signs of fear or aggression – especially over food.
You rushed too much doggy togetherness too soon. And, sure, all this four-legged foreplay may put a crimp in the smooth course of romance but, remember, if it’s meant to be, you and your girl will manage to make it work.
Dear Ask Dog Lady,
How many times do you need to walk a 65-pound dog? My boyfriend walks Stinky five times a day. On weekends, we can’t be together for whole eight hours without him going home to walk the dog every three hours. He baby talks his dog, has a picture in his wallet, an oil painting hanging on the wall of his house. His house and his car have dog’s hair all over and he just doesn’t care.
Even if he denied it, I feel his dog is his priority. She’s 10-years-old now and they’ve been together for six years before we met. He said he’s just taking care of a creature that is totally dependent to him. But I think he’s taking the responsibility way too seriously. When she passes away, will he make me his priority? Isn’t that unfair? I’m so confused already. I think he is obsessed with this dog and I want to break up with him. I’m not a dog lover and I don’t think I can handle getting up every morning with dog’s hair all around me if I move in. What shall I do?
-Yanni, Cleveland, OH
Yanni, don’t take your frustrations out on your boyfriend’s dog. You can’t waste time in a relationship waiting for a guy’s dog to die. Stinky has become a smelly excuse for you to sniff out reasons why the entire liaison is tainted.
Sit down with your boyfriend down and talk to him. Tell him exactly how you feel about his attentions toward his dog and his romantic evasion. It sounds to Dog Lady as if he’s avoiding a deeper relationship with you by transferring his affections to Stinky. That’s OK, but it doesn’t help you at all.
Before you have this little chat, make sure you are prepared to hear what he has to say. Open your ears, eyes, and heart to the possibility he may tell you he doesn’t want to pursue the relationship any further. Then, you can tell him with candor and without rancor your own doubts. He may be relieved to hear them.
At the end of the day, any healing discussion should be about you two. Bickering or horse-trading over Stinky should be off the table. For your boyfriend, the bond with his dog is non-negotiable.
Dear Ask Dog Lady,
I have a wonderful boyfriend who owns a wonderful Golden Retriever. I love the boy and the dog, but she sheds a lot and I find it unclean to have her in our bed. My boyfriend is so used to sleeping with the dog and he’s become accustomed to having her fur all over the place. I just can’t stand it. I always wake up with dog hair in my mouth. Is it as unsanitary? Or should I shut up and stop complaining?
-Jocelyn, Peabody, MA
Jocelyn, obviously, you’re not wild about hairy.
Shut your mouth and you won’t wake up with dog hairs, but you also won’t smooth things over with your boyfriend. As far as Dog Lady knows, fur from the dog is not unsanitary — except for people who are allergy-prone and those in fledgling relationships. You should speak up. Cottonmouth in the morning is annoying enough without throwing in a dollop of dog dander. For people who are not used to lying down with shedding dogs, it’s a big adjustment.
If your boyfriend is as wonderful as you say, he will understand your need to be bed queen, but don’t mount a campaign to ban the dog completely. Perhaps you could suggest canine crib visiting hours. Spin it positively.
Tell him how much you love the dog. Stress how you don’t want to interfere with his relationship with her. But speak up about how you need your private space with him. You might also mention that dog hair in the sheets bothers you. He might not have any idea of your discomfort.
Your attentive boyfriend will understand he must change his mattress manners now that you share his bed. He can place a dog bed nearby so his pet will be close while allowing you enough breathing room not to breathe hair.
Jocelyn, in time, as your relationship with your boyfriend gets stronger, you may come to luxuriate in Golden Retriever fluff. Fur now, you’re entitled to a period of adjustment.
Dear Ask Dog Lady,
I know this sounds crazy but I judge my dates by how well they treat my dog.
Let’s see, there was Tom. He got miffed when I cooed endearing nicknames to my darling pooch Cleo. And, lo, the shaky alliance lasted 13 dates. Then there was Bob. He pretended to like my dog by stiffly petting her behind the ears for a few seconds each time he came to pick me up. But he banned Cleo from the bed, the sofa, or any reclining surface where Bob was inclined to recline — even though it was my house. The relationship lasted 8 months.
Am I too unyielding and unromantic in these matters? Does Cleo’s opinion count?
-Sarah, Boston, MA.
Sarah, lighten up. Sure, it matters if Cleo likes a man you bring into her house, but you’re the one who must be pleased – and pleasing. You’re trying to be Alpha in your dating world. Actually, you’re allowing Cleo to be Alpha. You should understand that no guy wants to play second fiddle to his girlfriend’s girl dog — or boy dog, for that matter. Your dates are merely trying to mark their territory. They want you to pay attention to them. So let them lift their legs freely. You seem to be using Cleo as an intimacy excuse. Eventually, you’re going to have to give a man the unconditional chance to court you. If you fall in love, then Cleo will too.
Dear Ask Dog Lady,
My husband and I separated three weeks ago after 10 years of marriage. It was his idea. I was shocked and devastated. We have a 15-month-old Portuguese water dog named Macy. I was unable to have children so Macy is like a child to both of us.
Since my husband left, Macy is very nervous and uneasy. She has become my shadow and will not leave my side. She’s now timid around people she always loved seeing. When my mom reached over to pet her, she ducked behind me like she was scared.
Macy’s behavior since my husband left saddens me deeply. I feel so bad when I see her act this way that I just want to cry. It breaks my heart. I have had good days and bad days. On my bad days I do get upset and cry.
Do you know why Macy has become so nervous around everyone? Will she ever go back to being her old self? I would love my husband to still be able to see her because we both love her, but will this be too hard on her?
-Amy, Phoenix, AZ
Amy, your Macy is also going through a period of adjustment. The dog has become a cling-on because she worries you might disappear too. She senses your melancholy moods as well as the upheaval in the household. This makes her skittish. The best thing you can do for her is give her lots of quality playtime and bestow many hugs.
Please attempt the impossible: Pretend as if nothing has changed. Around your dog, hold your head high and don’t let her see you sweat. Manage this, Amy, and you’ll also do yourself a world of good. If you carry on for the sake of the dog, you’ll soon be carrying on for the sake of you too.
Dog Lady applauds you for not letting your anger stand in the way of a joint custody arrangement. You don’t want to deprive your ex of the joys in Macy’s company. It will also give you a break to begin taking independent steps toward a new life. If the two of you can muster sane regularity, your pet will adapt more easily to the changes. Generally, dogs of divorce adjust quite well to shared custody arrangements – as long as the food and fun flow in both households.