- 25 Ways Your Relationship Can Change When You Get A Pet
- What You Should Know Before Getting a Pet With Your Significant Other
- Is your dog affecting your relationship?
- How Getting a Pet Changes Your Romantic Relationship
- The Pet Expert: Having Pets Can Affect Your Relationship
- 3 Surprising Ways Dogs Make Your Relationships Better
- Can Pets Improve Your Relationship?
25 Ways Your Relationship Can Change When You Get A Pet
Once you decide to get a pet with your partner, your relationship will change pretty much instantly. From having those initial conversations, to picking up your pet, to finally starting your lives together, there's no doubt the process will change your relationship dynamic in a million positive ways.
But it's also important to keep in mind what the commitment really means not only for your pet — but for your relationship as a whole. While you should try to focus on the positives, you might want to consider the added stress you'll encounter, as well as all the responsibilities, and any potential conflicts you might have so you'll both be on the same page.
You can also chat about how you plan to handle things, such as new chores, who will be in charge of what, and so on — so it'll be a good experience for all involved.
“A new pet can mean a big change in your daily life,” Jessica Char, a cat behavior consultant, tells Bustle. “But if you go in ready to make the changes and deal with the challenges, a pet can bring a new joy to a relationship.
The shared activities and experiences that come with a pet can turn a couple of people into a family.”
Here are the ways your relationship might change when you get a pet, according to experts.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
“Getting a pet is a sort of pact,” therapist Katie Leikam, LCSW, LISW-CP, tells Bustle. You're agreeing to be there for its entire life span, which could be decades. “That's a big deal in the scheme of things of how long you feel your relationship will last,” she says.
As a result, adopting a pet can make you stop and think about the overall health of your relationship, as well as where you see it going in the future.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
Once you get a pet, brace yourselves for a life that's a little less spontaneous.
“Spontaneity requires freedom from responsibilities and pets rely on their humans for all their needs,” Kelly Kandra Hughes, PhD, a professional pet sitter, tells Bustle. “You can't jump in the car and go to the beach for the weekend when you have a dog waiting for you at home to let them out and feed them.”
Of course, there are ways around this, such as taking your dog with you. But it can definitely be an adjustment.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
Once you get a pet, “each person will have to change their life in some way, which can lead to resentment if everybody isn't fully on board,” Char says.
So before you make the commitment, have that all-important talk about what a big responsibility it will be, and make sure you're both up to the task.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images News/Getty Images
If you have a dog running around the house, or a cat doing hilarious things, there's no doubt your life as a couple will be more fun.
“Pets bring a lot of fun and play into relationships,” Hughes says. “They give their humans something to laugh at together and reminisce about in the future.”
“While you would do anything for your pet […] your partner may not be so inclined,” Caitlin Ultimo, resident pet expert at Chewy.com, tells Bustle. And yet that won't change your expectations, or your desire to have them care just as much as you.
Since this can lead to resentment, it's important to make sure you're both on the same page before getting a pet. “In these situations, it’s better to have clear discussions over responsibilities,” Ultimo says.
Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images News/Getty Images
There's no denying owning a pet means getting more exercise, especially if you have a dog. “They serve […] as a reason to get exercise or explore the community together,” Bruce Silverman, VMD, MBA tells Bustle.
While that can be fun, if you're used to lazy mornings in, this can mean a pretty big change for the pace of your relationship.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
From deciding who will let the dog out, to who will pick up more cat food, “the communication between the two of you needs to rise to the occasion,” Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. “Nobody wants to feel they’re doing all the heavy lifting in the relationship.”
Believe it or not, there may even be a feeling of jealousy in your relationship, from one or both sides. After all, “it’s hard to compete with the cuteness of your pet,” Backe says.
But often all it takes are a few small adjustments, so nobody feels ignored.
If your relationship didn't feel serious before, getting a pet will take it to a whole new level. “[It] signifies a certain level of commitment to one another,” Backe says. “The dynamic shifts from just having fun with one another to taking the commitment between the two of you more seriously.”
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
While kids and pets are obviously very different, they both require tons of time and attention, which is why many people view pets as a stepping stone to parenthood, Dr. Silverman says.
They can be a good test, too, to see how you function as a couple with more stress and responsibility — especially if you see yourselves having a baby someday.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images
As Dr. Silverman says, “This dependent living being […] becomes a tangible bond that requires shared love and nurturing.” And as a result, you may find that you and your partner feel closer than ever.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
Due to the major lifestyle change and all the new responsibilities, getting a pet can, unfortunately, reveal some negatives in your relationship.
“Pets can bring out the unexpected best in a partner or reveal a negative side that is truly an unwelcome surprise,” Dr. Silverman says.
If your partner isn't helping out, for example, you might be seeing a lazy side you wouldn't have witnessed otherwise — and that can really make you think.
If one of you isn't making a big enough effort, don't be surprised if it leads to more arguments.
“A new pet will almost inevitably bring new conflicts into a relationship,” Char says. “For example, whose job is it to scoop the litter box or who has to skip happy hour to get home and let the dog out?”
You'll need to figure these things out, so everything remains fair.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images
You two may not see eye-to-eye when it comes to raising pets. “Disagreements may arise about many issues including discipline, structure, and even the simple idea of whether or not to sleep with the dog in bed,” Robert Cabral, Wag! advisory board member and top dog trainer, tells Bustle.
If you can't find a way to agree, those aforementioned arguments might ensue.
On the plus side, taking care of a pet can teach you both how to handle responsibility, work together, and sort out your differences.
“The relationship shifts to team work in caring for and training the new dog,” Cabral says. And other types of pets, too.
Since it's not uncommon for couples to disagree when it comes to raising a pet, compromise will be key.
“Oftentimes one parent will want the dog to be structured and trained and the other will want the dog to be free and untrained,” Cabral says.
You may want to visit a pet trainer for this one, in order to find a middle ground so you'll both be happy.
“Doing something together [ getting a pet] connects you and your partner in shared experience,” therapist Carrie Krawiec, LMFT, tells Bustle. You might find that you feel closer to your partner, since you'll be going through all these ups and downs together.
Taking care of a pet together can even provide more meaning and purpose in your lives, and add to what you already have in common. As Krawiec says, “Having a shared description of what you do — and why — means the story you have about your life is connected.”
In order to make the experience a good one, you'll have to figure out a few mutually agreed upon roles and rules, such as who is the dog walker, who picks up the poop, etc., Krawiec says. Once you do, it'll be a sign you're working together and communicating effectively.
“Greater job functions of the household may mean more stress or more to negotiate, navigate, resolve, disagree about,” Krawiec says. Basically, even if you figure out who will be doing what, there will still be an added layer of stress that you'll have to sort out as a couple.
“A new pet means a change in your schedule (walking the dog, getting home to check on a new kitten, etc.) that can mean more time together,” Char says. So if you were looking for something to do together, getting a pet may be it.
On the flip side, having a pet can also mean spending less time together due to all the care and responsibilities — and even unexpected emergencies.
“When you add a pet to a relationship, it’s having a new member of the family enter,” Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “Time with your partner might not be as devoted or present because you’re cleaning up the cat litter.”
“Sleeping can change when you add a pet to your shared space,” Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, Senior Manager, Veterinary Outreach, PetSmart Charities, tells Bustle. “Some pets are nocturnal, meaning they stay up (and play) at night. Are you or your partner a light sleeper?” If so, you might find that your usual bedtimes are affected.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Even if you plan ahead, pets can end up costing more than you think, which can lead to more stress in your relationship — as well as disagreements.
As Krawiec says, there may even be a disparity in which expenses you each determine necessary, such as whether or not your pet needs to go to the vet, receive certain treatments, etc.
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
“Even if you’ve been a couple for a few years, you can feel two ships passing in the night sometimes,” Ultimo says. “A pet really can help connect a couple and merge your lives. The joint responsibility and admiration for your pet can bring you closer and unite the two of you in a more official way than you anticipate.”
For better or worse, getting a pet can change your relationship. There's added stress, and tough convos to have. But the benefits still outweigh the negatives — especially since pets inevitably bring you closer together.
“,”author”:null,”date_published”:null,”lead_image_url”:”https://imgix.bustle.com/uploads/image/2019/1/16/6bfadd62-a64f-4db3-b63a-409163a710cb-shutterstock_660336781.jpg?w=1200&h=630&q=70&fit=crop&crop=faces&fm=jpg”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”https://www.bustle.com/p/25-ways-your-relationship-can-change-when-you-get-a-pet-15733060″,”domain”:”www.bustle.com”,”excerpt”:”Once you decide to get a pet with your partner, your relationship will change pretty much instantly. From having those initial conversations, to picking up your pet, to finally starting your lives…”,”word_count”:1744,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}
What You Should Know Before Getting a Pet With Your Significant Other
“It’s practice for children!” Getting a pet with your partner is a big step—so big, in fact, that many couples joke it’s a test run to becoming parents.
But even though we may think of pets as a type of parenthood light, we still often underestimate the effect that getting a pet can have on a relationship.
Just having children can’t actually fix a broken relationship (in fact, it will often bring any issue to the surface), getting a pet is not going to automatically bring you closer. Sure, getting an animal can be an incredible bonding experience, but you have to have a strong foundation to begin with.
If you and your partner are getting a pet—or even considering it—it’s really important that you understand the huge undertaking it can be and that your relationship is strong enough to take that on.
In some ways, a pet can make you feel a real little family—but you’d be amazed at how one tiny little creature can reveal every relationship crack and turn your world upside down if you’re not ready.
Here’s what you need to consider.
Taking care of a pet is a team effort—or at least it should be. If you’re getting ready to take on a pet, you want to make sure that both of you are ready for the challenge.
This idea that one of you will magically transform from a someone who’s kind of irresponsible into a mature, fastidious pet owner just isn’t realistic. If you already have relationship tiffs because one of you never does the laundry or cleans up, then expect those to be exacerbated by getting a pet.
Do your research, have a long talk about the responsibilities and how you’ll divvy them up, and make sure it seems realistic before you get a pet.
It may be that you’re both decidedly dog people or cat people, but you should also take your position into consideration when choosing to get a pet.
Puppies are a ton of work; they need to be walked constantly and watched very closely in the first year or two—and some breeds are especially needy.
Unless you hire a dog walker to be constantly on call, your whole life may start to revolve around getting home after work in time to take your dog for a walk. If that doesn’t sound doable, you may want to choose a more low-maintenance pet.
Just any potential relationship pitfall, you want to make sure that your communication is strong. If you have any underlying tensions, there’s a good chance that getting a pet will bring them out.
Make sure you’re ready to communicate about your needs—and your pet’s needs—and that you’re both ready to navigate this together.
If you tell yourselves to expect the unexpected and know that it may be stressful, especially in the beginning, you’ll be in a much stronger position to take on the challenge.
Pets are expensive—far more expensive than you might realize if you’ve never owned one as an adult. In fact, the average cost of owning a cat or dog is over $1,000 in just the first year.
It’s not just the food, the medications, the potential dog walker you might have to hire—pet owners can be hit with huge expenses if your pet has an accident or even just eats something it shouldn’t. Pet insurance can help, but that can be expensive, and it doesn’t always cover the full cost of emergencies.
If you’re both financially strapped, then getting a pet may make the problem worse. Make sure you’re in a strong position financially or, at the very least, can put aside the money you need for the newest member of your family.
They say that a puppy isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life—and the same mentality should apply to your pet ownership.
As much as you might want to get a pet to bring you and your partner closer together or as a test run for having children, it’s important to remember that this is a living, breathing being that is going to be affected by the choices you make. Above all, you have to be sure that you and your partner are ready to really make this commitment.
Don’t think of this as a test run, think of it as an active choice. You may want to come up with a backup plan in case you and your partner don’t work out, but always make sure you’re considering your pet’s welfare for the long term.
See more: Do Friendships Really Change After You Have Children?
Choosing to get a pet is a huge decision, one that can make you and your partner feel closer than ever.
But if you’re choosing to expand your family with a pet, make sure that you’re ready—because a pet won’t erase your relationship problems. So start with a strong foundation, think about the consequences, and make a plan.
If you go into it with thoughtfulness and a little planning, getting a pet can be an incredible addition to your family.
Is your dog affecting your relationship?
by Lucy Moore | 23 April 2015
Now I'm all for having a dog, so long as you can take care of it and love it, but how can having a little (or big!) ball of fluff around affect a relationship? We find out!
Relationships on Female First
You would think that their impact is minimal- but actually- forget other women- there is a new threesome affecting lots of couples out there- an affair of a different kind, according to Vetsure Pet Insurance. They have found that 75% of dog owners favour their dogs over partners.
We talked to Jed MacEwan of ErgoFlex UK and asked him just how much negative impact a pet can have on a relationship; 'there can often be resentment from a partner.
If a dog is the apple of the partner's eye then jealousy can get in the way if they feel second best.
If you give more attention to your dog, then don't be surprised if your partner sometimes feels a bit left out.'
59% of Brits spoil their dogs with presents every month, compared to 25% who buy nothing for their partners. And forget your partner being your best friend- dogs are taking up that role too.
In their defence, they say that they are an important part of the family- although that might be true- are dogs worth sacrificing your relationship for?' The beauty of having a dog is that their love is unconditional. Dogs tend to act you're the most amazing person in the world.
Do our partners always do that? Occasionally maybe, but for the majority of us; I'd suggest it's not as consistent. When was the last time you had an argument with your dog?' says Jed.
There is a mutual loyalty among dogs and their owners- show them love and they will ly show it back- but let's not forget that our partners also need nurturing too.
Letting your dog sleep in bed with you could be affecting your sex life, for 14% of the nation who admit that their bedroom antics have taken a hit because of their furry friend.
Having a great big dog in bed between you doesn't exactly scream- 'come here to me!' does it?
But are dogs better bed companions? 'Dogs tend to be smaller than people, so space is definitely a factor. Snuggling up to your dog at night can be reminiscent of having a hot water bottle in bed that doesn't cool off.
Even the rhythmic breathing of a dog can provide a comforting sense of security for some owners.
A duvet-hogging, snoring or fidgeting partner on the other hand doesn't tend to offer the same level of calming relaxation', says Jed .
We asked Jed, if people's sex lives are taking a turn for the worst why do they continue to still sleep with their animals?; 'A habit, especially one that results in deeply restorative sleep night after night, can be difficult to break.
If sex is important for both partners then this would be an unusual one to justify, but perhaps in a lot of relationships, one partner might be keener than the other.
In which case 'the dog is watching' might seem a more valid excuse than 'I have a headache'.
Ashley Gray, vet and founder ofVetsure Pet Insurance says:”This research highlights that the special relationship we have with our dogs is becoming ever closer and more complex.
As dog owners we are benefiting more and more from our pets on an emotional level – in ways that our 'non-furry' loved ones just can't replicate.
Dogs don't judge us; they are incredibly forgiving of our faults and usually give more than they get from the relationship. How can any partner compete with that?!”
Clara Guzzardi lives with her husband, five dogs and two cats in Surrey.
The findings certainly reflect the goings on in her household, Clara says: “I'll call the dogs the love of my life and my husband says are you talking to the dogs or me?! Our affections go towards the animals, then whatever we have left to each other! When I have spare money, I often spend it buying the dogs treats. The dogs are also on a specific diet which is only available in a few shops, so sometimes I get the dogs food but haven't got anything for us to eat!”
So we ask the ultimate question- can dogs and partners live in harmony, without it making a detrimental effect on the relationship? 'Dogs provide love and companionship for millions of people and with such widespread pet ownership; I don't believe it should affect relationships to such a degree that it becomes a real problem.
A balance should be easy enough to establish. Maybe have a dog's basket at the foot of the bed? Or, shutting the bedroom door might be easier.
You try telling them where to sleep! If the situation becomes particularly troublesome for your relationship, then it's ly time to set some boundaries and make alternative sleeping arrangements for your dog.'
by Lucy Moore for relationships.femalefirst.co.uk
find me on and follow me on
How Getting a Pet Changes Your Romantic Relationship
A lot of relationships look this: First comes moving in together, then comes adopting a pet. Maybe you've argued over whose day it is to walk the dog (do you really have to pick up poop again?) or maybe you realized what a great dad your dude will be one day thanks to his pet-parenting skills.
Taking care of an animal is a good way to gauge how well you work as a team and to find out what makes your partner tick. It might even be something that helps you decide if you want to take the next serious step in your relationship.
Here, nine women divulge what happened when they and their partners added a furry friend into the mix.
“After about two years of dating and one of living together, my boyfriend and I decided to get our cat Janis as a way to relieve any tension in our tiny, practically studio-sized New York City apartment. It turned out Janis was just what we needed.
She is the perfect distraction when one of us is occupied or just needs some alone time—and it's great having another cuddle buddy in the house! Just a year after getting her, we welcomed her little brother, Jimi, into our tiny apartment so she wouldn't be lonely while we were at work.
Now we're one big happy family.” —Jenn S.
RELATED: 9 Beauty Lessons I Learned from My Cat
“When my boyfriend and I got Bailey, we immediately fell in love with her. It may sound strange to non-pet owners, but she is legitimately our child.
The first time she got sick, my boyfriend rushed right home from work, made her a special meal with chicken and rice to help calm her stomach, and cancelled his plans so that he could stay home and keep an eye on her.
It really spoke volumes about how my boyfriend would be as a father and how he would step up to share the responsibility of real children someday. He is the most caring pet owner, fiercely defends her if anyone makes a negative comment about her, and loves her more than anything—besides me.
Raising a pet together really took our relationship to the next level. It helped both of us to see the other in a parenting role and facilitated discussions about how we would raise our kids someday.” —Brianna S.
“I rescued an abandoned dog on New Year’s Eve. He's been a point of contention in my house because he's so attached to my boyfriend. We've fought because the dog wants to take my place.
The dog wants to take my place in bed, and he snaps at my hand if I try to move him. He also pees on my clothes. He loves me, but he also wants to replace me—classic doggy Oedipal complex.” —Tonya R.
“I got Elliot, a peach-faced lovebird, when I was living in California back in October 2011. I brought him to New York with me the next year when I moved back here. Ben, my then-boyfriend and now-fiancé, picked us up at the airport and was the first person that Elliot saw in New York City.
Elliot is four years old and loves Ben. When I am at work and Ben is home, he will spend time with the bird, feed him bagels, pizza, or whatever carbs he can find him. Ben really cares for the bird. I’m lucky—not loving Elliot as much as me was not an option.
Elliot has such a personality for such a small bird, and sometimes you do need patience with him. Even when he has a fit, Ben will still kiss him or give him food. I'm lucky that I have a man that understands my love for my pet.
He knows I will never abandon my baby bird and that I’ll take care of Elliot no matter what.”—Flor A.
“All my terms of endearment, pet names, baby voices, and cute-speak are directed at my cat, not my boyfriend. Plus, I prefer to sleep in my own bed with my cat than sleep in my boyfriend's bed with no cat.” —Sandra Roldan, WomensHealthMag.com senior web producer
RELATED: The Scary Way Your Cat Could Be Changing Your Personality
“The boyfriend tried to declare a ‘no cats in the bedroom’ rule in our new apartment, which I couldn't get on-board with. Needless to say, the cats won!” —Elizabeth A.
“My boyfriend and I have been living together for a while now, and we thought the next logical step would be—no, not a baby—but something it. We got a husky in January. We had spoken previously about how much of a commitment it would be, so we got him while I was on break from school, and fortunately, my boyfriend was able to work from home.
We've been super hands-on, and it’s brought us closer. We go for long walks now and are more active because of him. It's gotten to the point where we alter our plans for him. If we're out, we make sure to be home for his feeding time and potty time or we just take him with us.
We also find ourselves going on a bunch of puppy dates, which is fun and tires our dog out.” —Kathy D.
“Around the time that I moved my parents' house three years ago and into my own apartment, my mom got an adorable orange tabby cat. On the weekends, I force my boyfriend to hang out at my parents' place so that we can both play with her.
He was never an animal person, but Zoe changed his mind. We’ve lived together for a year and are planning to get a kitten of our own when we move into a new apartment.
Even though we don’t have one of our own yet, spending time with my family’s cat and planning to adopt one of our own has brought us closer.
We’ll e-mail each other photos of kittens that are up for adoption at local shelters, and we’ve talked about what we want to name him or her it's a baby—my top pick for a boy is Zeus. We just can’t agree on the breed—I love orange tabbies, but he wants a gray one.” —Christina Heiser, WomensHealthMag.com senior associate editor
RELATED: Science Says There Really Is a Difference Between Dog People and Cat People
“Getting a puppy changes a lot. Greg and I had been dating for more than two years, and three months after we moved in together, we rescued our dog Milhouse, a lab mix and 50 pound full-grown boy.
I know you should never compare your dog to a baby, but really, it's good prep! This past March, we met up with his neighborhood dog friend Link—we let the two of them off their leashes together, and as myself and Link's owner went to get the dogs, they started to get very devious, walking out onto a frozen pond.
After 10 minutes of yelling at both dogs to come back in, we finally got them both on a leash and I took Milhouse back into the apartment. He then had a much-needed bath, and Greg kept him from jumping the tub while I scrubbed him down.
Greg and I have become better at working together, discussing problems with each other, and adjusting our schedules. We work really well as a team, and that makes me feel good about our relationship.” —Angela W.
The Pet Expert: Having Pets Can Affect Your Relationship
The important role that pets play in potential new relationships is vital, yet often unspoken. A recent survey found that approximately 86% of pet owners would break up with a new romantic partner who didn’t their pet.
For longer-term relationships existing one year or more, almost all respondents participating in the survey confirmed their pet would still take priority, and they would end a relationship if it meant choosing between a pet or partner.
The same survey also found that a potential partner not liking someone’s pet was worse than having a poor sense of fashion, being a bad tipper, or even not wanting kids.
Though the survey looked specifically at relationships where the pet was in the picture before new relationships began, many believed that, in the instance of bringing a new pet into a relationship and discovering their partner didn’t it, would also be grounds for a break up.
For pet lovers, this information may come as no surprise; our pets are among our dearest family, and we do everything in the world for them. In the eyes of pet lovers, we wouldn’t give up a child for the sake of a new relationship, so why would we give up our fur baby?
On the other hand, potential new partners who don’t a certain pet may have a plethora of reasons as to why. Many people simply aren’t animal lovers to the same degree as others. Some may prefer only cats, while others prefer only dogs. And sometimes, that cat or dog may not them back.
Among the study participants, the most glaring concerns between partners in a relationship are disputes about boundaries. A 2015 survey found that about 70% of pet owners allow their pets to sleep on the bed. That means only 30% of pet owners would prefer to have Fido on the floor at night. For a new partner, especially a romantic one, they may not want a third wheel in the bed.
Being spontaneous can be an exciting part of new relationships, too. However, as pet owners, we know that we have a responsibility to be there for our pets, and to take care of them every single day.
This can make spontaneous trips and romantic weekend getaways somewhat of a hassle. If a potential new partner loves to travel and explore on a whim, the responsibilities of having pets can lead to a variety of complications.
This may lead to jealousy or resentment, as some may feel as if their partner’s pet’s needs are more important than their own.
Pets can also be expensive. Due to veterinary visits, food, and other essential pet expenses, a potential partner who doesn’t own a pet may feel as though they’ll have to take on more financial burden in a long-term relationship. While most pets are relatively inexpensive, this can change in an instant if illness, injury, or medical emergency arises.
Interestingly enough, it has been found that when two people start dating, they can experience a deeper bond in a shorter amount of time if they both have pets. This is especially true if they both have the same species of pet. Being animal lovers is something that many people have in common, and something that brings us all together.
Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert – is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford.
He has over twenty-five years of experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles.
Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.
3 Surprising Ways Dogs Make Your Relationships Better
It's no wonder that dogs are man's best friend. Although we've been co-evolving for only 15,000 years or so (hardly any time at all in evolutionary terms), our lives are deeply intertwined. Any dog lover will tell you that dogs improve the quality of human life; research backs this up.
The ability dogs have to make us feel less alone and to reduce our stress has been well-documented. Their kisses can boost the health of the human immune system because their saliva is thought to contain “good” bacteria. Studies have shown that dogs can even sniff out serious health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer.
But there are other ways these cuddliest of companions bring joy to our lives—specifically, to our relationships with other people. Here are just three:
1. A dog can help you get a date (if you're a guy).
Research reveals that people find dog ownership attractive, and this tends to be more true for women than for men. A recent study surveyed 1,210 individuals looking for love online who had registered with Match.com. The researchers found that women in this group were more sensitive to how men interact with their pets, via their profiles, than the converse.
This supports the idea that women see the way a man treats his dog as an indicator of what kind of caregiver he will make, whether he's worth dating, and if he might be a good long-term partner.
It's important to note that dogs act as better “social barometers” in the dating world than cats, perhaps because canines are more social than felines and require more care.
2. Dogs make people nicer.
Studies suggest that dogs can encourage humans to socially interact with each other—and in more positive ways. For example, one study comprising four experiments sought to test whether the presence of a dog can promote closer relationships between humans.
In the first experiment, a male confederate (an undercover researcher) asked people for money on the street. In the second experiment, a female confederate did the same. The third experiment had a male confederate drop coins on the ground to see if anyone would help him pick them up.
And in the fourth experiment, a male confederate asked young women on the street for their phone number.
The twist in each of these situations: The confederate was sometimes accompanied by a dog and sometimes alone. This allowed the investigators to compare whether the presence of a dog influenced human behavior.
The researchers found that people tended to be more helpful in the first three experiments when a dog was present—and the male confederate was more successful at getting women's phone numbers when he had a dog with him.
3. Dogs can improve your relationship.
Couples that have pets (yes, cats or dogs) are more ly to be happy in their relationship than those without one, and they're less stressed.
Consider research which revealed that couples that have a pet show lower stress levels when dealing with conflict, compared to couples that do not have pets.
In a study of 100 couples, in which 50 had pets and 50 did not, it was found that the couples with pets had lower blood pressure on average.
Moreover, in stressful situations, blood pressure rose less and returned to normal more quickly for people with pets as opposed to those without. And couples with pets interact with each other more than non-pet owners. Social interaction is good for your health, and it may be that people who have pets are more ly to be social—or that pets provide much the same benefits as human social interaction.
Vinita Mehta, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., and an expert on relationships, managing anxiety and stress, and building health and resilience. She provides speaking engagements for your organization and psychotherapy for adults.
She has successfully worked with individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, and life transitions, with a growing specialization in recovery from trauma and abuse.
She is also the author of the forthcoming book, Paleo Love: How Our Stone Age Bodies Complicate Modern Relationships.
- Research presented by Karen Allen, Ph.D. at the American Psychosomatic Society, March 12, 1998.
- Gray, Peter B., Shelly L. Volsche, Shelly L., Garcia, Justin R. and Fisher, Helen E. (2015). The Roles of Pet Dogs and. Cats in Human Courtship and Dating. Anthrozoos.
- Guégen, Nicolas and Cicotti, Serge. (2008). Domestic Dogs as Facilitators in Social Interaction: An Evaluation of Helping and Courtship Behaviors. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 21(4).
Can Pets Improve Your Relationship?
In fact, if there is any criticism, it is the verbalized wish to receive the kind of love and attention the pet is getting.
“I only wish she was as affectionate with me as with our dog!”
“You should hear him speak to this animal – he never speaks to me that way.”
What happens between people and their pets that accounts for this emotional outpouring of love?
Most will answer with the responses you have heard or given:
“The dog demands nothing from me – he just gives unconditional love.”
“The cats are a predictable source of comfort and soothing – they want to be near me.”
Pets? Not demanding? Predictable? … Really?
What’s interesting is that most pets are loved in a way that makes us minimize or even deny the reality that they definitely have demands we simply accept. Some will only eat certain food; many wake people in the middle of the night; most get sick on the rug; some eat furniture and a vast majority end up on the bed no matter what anyone says.
In one case, when the dalmatian was found eating the steak that had been marinating on the counter for dinner, the husband’s only reaction was “Might as well give him the vegetables and potatoes, and let him finish off the meal.”
Can we learn something from our relationship with pets that might enhance our relationship with partners?
Yes, if we are willing to take a closer look at ourselves.
The old expression “you get what you give” may apply here. Maybe you give something very positive to your pet that invites the unconditional love and connection that makes you feel so good. Maybe it has potential to enhance your relationship.
Can you credit yourself with any of the following?
No matter how you feel or what mood you are in, you greet your pet with a positive, even animated, hello and often with a display of physical affection.
With pets, maybe it’s your lack of expectation that makes the difference. You probably rarely predict that your pet will be angry if you are late. As a result, you don’t head home defensively angry in preparation for the reaction you expect to face.
When you do return home to find that your cats have redecorated the room with shreds of every tissue they could find or the dog has eaten some of the mail, you may well react with a choice expletive but you are not ly to hold a grudge. You are still going to be petting Donatello or cuddling with Thor the next day.
Assuming the Best
There is a natural tendency to forgive pets their trespasses – after all, the dog wasn’t trying to torture you by eating the mail. Was your partner really trying to torture you by putting it in such a safe spot it can’t be found?
Few pet owners personalize their pets’ reactions to others to an extreme that makes them so embarrassed that they fear their image is tarnished or they become resentful of their pets.
The fact that the dog is licking every part of the arriving guest’s body is cause to pull him away or laugh it away.
The cat that will not come hiding or the parrot that is screeching is left without judgment or excuses. That’s them!
For Better or For Worse
In most cases, pets are home to stay. People love and care for pets of every size, shape and disposition. “She’s not exactly a watch dog; she’s loving but easily frightened.” “He insists on sleeping on the bed – we have given in.
” “She steals food from the other dogs, she’s pretty hyper, but cute.” Few pets live with the fear of being betrayed or with the implication that things are just not working out.
Of course they don’t – but just consider how the absence of such fears enhances the trust and connection you feel from them!
So think about what you give your pet and maybe how — in addition to improving your health — your pet can improve your relationship!
Listen in to Carol Novello on Psych Up Live to Discuss Mutual Rescue:How adopting Homeless Animal Can Save you, Too
Can Pets Improve Your Relationship?