General Question

deni's avatar

I don't want to live with my long term boyfriend - but only because of his dog. How do I tactfully approach this situation?

Asked by deni (23105points) November 25th, 2017

God, even asking this makes me feel like a real asshole.

Please, please let me preface this with this: I love dogs. I love animals, period! I am more of a cat person myself, but I grew up with dogs and I really do love them. At this point in my life I do not want the responsibility of owning a dog which is why I do not have one. I will love on any random dog on the street, and all my friends dogs as well, whenever I have the chance.

However, I cannot appreciate a shitty dog. DO you know what I mean? A poorly trained, asshole dog. Maybe its not the dogs fault? Maybe it is? I dont really know! But if i enter a room and a dog jumps on me and leaves a scratch on my stomach that is six inches long and takes a week to heal, thats kinda shitty in my opinion.

So, I’m already an asshole, but now I become even more of one. Ive been with my boyfriend for over a year. It doesnt really make sense for us not to live together. We live 1 mile apart and we each pay the same amount that we could be paying collectively living together. I have a cat. He has a dog. Otherwise there is nothing out of the ordinary about us.

The thing is….and I am not being biased, and I have no reason to want to hate this dog… but this dog really really sucks.. And yes, it is partially his fault for not training her. You know how in a trendy town like I live in, everyone wants a dog because its cool to have one? Well, here you go. So just recently we started discussing living together at the end of next summer. So this is about 7 months away. But the thing is, I cannot live with his dog. But it is a really hard subject to bring up. She doesn’t listen. She barks, she moans, she chews on herself, she misbehaves, she jumps on people when they come in the door. And she is a big dog – probably about 80 pounds. Shes not a puppy, but she still acts like one. And like I said before, I dont want a dog – I dont want to have to divert my plans to come home and let a dog out or take it for a hike – it may sound selfish, but that is exactly why i dont own a dog , because i know i cant give it what it would need!

The thing is, this is a really touchy subject, as anyone with a pet can imagine. A pet, in a way, is usually a reflection of its owner, so…..theres something to be said there.

How do i tactfully approach this? Its really really awkward, and I love my boyfriend a lot, but this dog thing, I’m almost willing to say I 100% know i cannot live with this dog. Aside from her behavior, she is huge, breaks things, knocks things over (recently broke his laptop) and I just dont have the patience or time for this in my life

Please dont tell me I’m an asshole. I already feel like one. HE knows how I feel about his dog. And to clarify – i am not the only one that feels this way. I am friends with his roommates currently, and also was friends with his past roommates, and they all absolutely dread this dog.

Has anyone been in this situation before? Do I just have to wait it out for her to die? Should we break up? Honestly, please, anything would help….I have asked numerous friends their opinion and mostly they say “Jeez….thats a tough one….sorry,...”

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23 Answers

Zaku's avatar

I don’t think you’re an asshole for that, as I agree. Also a cat person who loves animals in general and many dogs, I am not willing to put up with badly behaved dogs. I am not willing/able to behave like an alpha dog or whatever dog-master behavior is supposed to control hyper dogs.

(My own inclination is more to act like an alpha lion and defend myself against a dog that attacks me or people/animals around me, though I get there is a difference between aggressive dogs and untrained “insensitive” dogs, and it almost never comes to that, it’s still annoying.)

There is no way I would be willing to live around an obnoxious dog and have to deal with being assaulted at random times.

I would just be honest about your boundaries. Not willing to be assaulted by an ill-behaved dog is a reasonable one. If your boyfriend can’t understand that, then he has a social problem.

I would suggest that if he wants you to move in (and even if not, really), he should get the dog well-trained by a professional.

deni's avatar

To be honest @Zaku I was horribly afraid the first response would be telling me that I am a piece of shit. I dont know why I feel like my boundaries are so “unacceptable” by social standards. I know I am well within my bounds.

Its just that – she is an obnoxious dog, she has been poorly trained, it may be mostly his fault, but I do truly believe that some of it is due to the fact that she is just a fairly dumb dog. She is part doberman and part labrador – dont know if those breeds are usually smart or stupid, but maybe that helps you guys understand either way?

The thing is, I dont think he is going to get her professionally trained. I dont see it in his/her future. Maybe I should hold that against him? I dont want to….but I also do. If you dont want to train your dog/exercise it properly/care for it many times a day – you shouldnt have gotten a dog. Its too late for that now though.

Tonight this kinda came up, he wouldnt come over my house because she was misbehaving, and thats not really a big deal but i may have alluded to something regarding this issue while we were on the phone, and now he is apologizing for having a shitty dog that gets between us in our relationship. I cannot deny that its true. In fact I want to take advantage of the fact that hes admitting it – but again, I feel like an asshole doing this. Is there any winning?!

zenvelo's avatar

Care and training and discipline of a dog also says a lot about the person. So it is okay for this to be a dealbreaker.

I wouldn’t put it as you or the dog. I think you need to just tell him it isn’t working out, and it is time to break it off. Relationships end all the time; this one has reached its limit.

Zissou's avatar

Insisting he get the dog trained before you will move in would not make you an asshole. Insisting he get rid of it would (assuming he has bonded with it).

Not training a dog that size is irresponsible. Neither labs nor dobies are especially dumb or hard to train. Young labs can be a handful, though, which is all the more reason to train them.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Some people just don’t know how to train a dog. Lots of big box pet stores offer training sessions. Couple visits a week could do wonders. Labs, in particular, are very eager to please, and motivated by food/treats.

I won’t cast aspersions on your character, as we are in the general section. I would add, that this dog situation would be quite easier than a human child. Moving in with a SO, is usually a step towards getting married, and/or having kids. Kids could happen anyway, as there may be increased sexual activity from living together.
I highly suggest that you think deeper than the dog situation. I understand some of your concerns, but the two of you may have vast differences in your thinking. If you’re ready to potentially throw in the towel over a person’s fixable pet issue, maybe you just aren’t that into them…

As I read the full details of your thread, it seems like you want vindication for your feelings, more than a solution for keeping the guys pet. I wager your mind is already set on getting rid of the dog. If that’s who you are, give him an ultimatum. Keep in mind, this gives you no leverage if he asks you to get rid of your cat in the future, and how that might make you feel…

Mimishu1995's avatar

@MrGrimm888 While I agree with some of your point, I think it’s just necessary that @deni has a talk with her SO about the dog. Something like asking him to get the dog to behave better or at least get someone with experience to train her is ok. She just needs to tell him what she told us here and be honest with him about what the dog does to her. At least they will have a good talk and resolve some misunderstandings. After all he’s her SO, he has to at least listen to her view. If he dismisses her feeling and continues to let the dog misbehave then he really has a problem.

seawulf575's avatar

My thought is that if you can’t talk to your boyfriend and tell him your feelings and the two of you come to some solution, you don’t need to be living with him. Probably need to cut that tie and move on, in fact. How to talk to him? Tell him straight up. Don’t hint, don’t beat around the bush, just tell him.

canidmajor's avatar

Oh, @deni, it breaks my heart to read all the self-denigration in your details! Even if you didn’t like dogs in general, you are not an asshole. Even if you simply did not want to live with any dog, you are not an asshole. But a large, badly behaved dog is obnoxious and unpleasant.
You may have to tell him (more gently) what you just told us. That this large, destructive, untrained dog may be the deal breaker for you guys living together. I’d like to assume that he feels about you the way you feel about him, and he would be willing to make some compromises.
It’s important to note that you also don’t want the responsibility of a dog, any dog, right now, so maybe the training isn’t the only factor.
Choices have to be made. If he is willing to train the dog so that she can be responsibly rehomed, would he be willing to do that? (Cue all the people yelling about that)
And yes, you also need to look at his lack of responsibility about having this dog, in terms of your relationship.

I am so sorry you are going through this, but really, you are not an asshole!

flameboi's avatar

From personal experience, if you make your bf choose between family (considering he loves his dog as such), and you, I’m sorry but you are in for a nasty surprise.
You have four options here:
Let things be the same they are. Live apart and then let things go its course.
It’s just a year, take the exit and find someone else, it is a lot harder as more time goes by.
Let it go, stick together and deal with the bad element.
Wait for the dog to go to dog heaven, that could be a long wait.

Soubresaut's avatar

I agree that you’re not an asshole simply for not wanting a dog. Especially when the reason is that you don’t feel you can give a dog everything they would need to have a good life. However, since there is a dog in the picture, you’re going to need to make some compromises on that front.

You mentioned that you don’t want to have to divert your plans to let the dog outside, or take her for a walk. Are there any other options? Once the dog is trained, could you and your boyfriend afford a dog walker to take her out when you can’t/won’t be home for stretches of time? Is there a yard in the picture, and would it be secure if you put a dog door in? (If it’s sliding door access, there are dog door panels that you can put in the sliding door frame, so you can have a dog door without cutting holes in the wall, for example. Or if it’s regular door access, perhaps you can take the original door off its hinges and replace with a door that has a dog flap on it, and then store the original to replace if/when in the future you move out.) Once again, the dog would need training here—to learn how she can use the dog door to take care of her business on her own. She’d still need walks, but at least you’d know she’s not having to cross her paws for an inordinate amount of time, and that might allow you to do things more according to your own schedule/plans.

I did mention training with both ideas. Like @Zissou mentioned, it’s irresponsible not to train a dog. It’s also unsafe—for those around, sure, but also for the dog herself. For example, if she gets loose and is running towards danger, like a busy road, you want to be able to call her back to you, or at least get her to stop her forward momentum. You can’t do that unless you’ve already established good communication with her via training. She also shouldn’t be jumping on people, especially when she leaves such severe scratch marks. And breaking objects like laptops is expensive (assuming it wasn’t just a one-off accident).

I think if you frame the discussion that way, that you want to train the dog for safety and peace of mind, it’s a reasonable place to start the discussion. You would both need to be involved in the training. It can’t be one of you or the other.

Also, it’s not the dog’s fault. It’s never the dog’s fault. She also doesn’t sound like an “asshole,” as much as she sounds exuberant, high-energy, and unaware of the effects her body has on the people and things around her. The jumping, for example. It’s sounds like she’s excited to see you, and jumping is the way she has to express that. She doesn’t realize that it’s unwanted and hurting you. With training, you can teach her other, better ways to greet you.

I would also avoid anything that suggests this is your boyfriend’s fault, or phrases that might lead him to believe you’re blaming him for things. I wouldn’t mention the “dogs are reflections of their owners,” for example. I’m also not sure that’s completely fair.

If she’s bouncing off the walls in the house, she isn’t getting enough exercise and stimulation. So hikes are probably in your future—but do what you can to schedule them so they’re not interfering too much with other things. If you plan them right, they might even be nice ways for you and your boyfriend to spend some quality time together doing something, maybe destressing from busy days/weeks, and then they don’t feel so much like they’re cutting into your time as they are a part of your time? I dunno. That’s how I approach hikes. They’re as much for me as for my dog.

You can also work on things like teaching her fetch. Then you can bring her to a park and play with her, and she gets to run and chase and tire herself out and you haven’t made such a time and distance commitment that a hike would be.

Do you or your boyfriend run? (Whether around the neighborhood or on a trail or on a treadmill). If one of you can include her in that exercise—going on runs with her—that would be a great way to give her exercise and time with one of you, or perhaps both of you, without too much alteration in your schedules to include her. If that’s an option, I’d suggest finding a waist-attached leash for the runs. I run with my dog and that makes it so much easier. I have easy access to the leash when I want to guide him a certain way, but I have my hands free the rest of the time.

Etc. I just mean, hikes aren’t the only way a dog can get exercise. Certainly your dog would enjoy hikes, but it doesn’t have to be a hike every day if that doesn’t work with your schedule. Just some form of exercise to help her burn off some of her energy. You can be creative here.

This has become a bit long. Sorry about that. Basically, I think you should talk with your boyfriend about training, and that you can come up with ways to meet the dogs’ needs without totally giving up your own needs. Compromise, creativity, and a bit of flexibility are key.

There’s a jelly on the site who’s a dog trainer, and she’s probably got some good advice on the type of training you should look for. I agree with those who mentioned finding a professional trainer/training class for you and your boyfriend and his (though if you’re moving in together, she’s your dog, too). Not only will a good trainer have up-to-date, research-based methods of training, having a trainer teach you guys together how to work with the dog will probably alleviate some of the tension. You telling him, or him telling you, how it’s “supposed” to be probably won’t go well when there’s already tension surrounding the dog’s behavior. Bringing in a third party can put both of you on level, neutral terrain, side by side.

And @Zaku or anyone else, if you’re curious, the concept of an alpha dog and a pack structure based on dominance is, actually, false, and has been rejected by the scientist who first proposed it (David L. Mech). You can probably find a lot online if you search “alpha dog myth” or something similar, or search Mech himself and his research. The concept arose from a study in the 70’s that looked at how wolves interacted with each other—but the wolves were captive in an enclosed, artificial environment, and they were unrelated to each other (strangers to each other). In that environment, the wolves competed against each other for scarce resources and formed a dominance-based hierarchy. However, the scientist who first observed that behavior later observed natural wolf packs in the wild. He discovered that wolves actually organize in familial packs, where the “leaders” are the leaders because they’re the parents to the rest of the pack members.

Dogs bond strongly with their human families, and have evolved over 15,000–30,000 years (depending on where we date the first dog-human contact) to understand human communication cues better than any other nonhuman animal. Although they respond to dominance tactics (out of fear,) there’s no reason to use that as a means to control them, and the chronic stress it induces (which isn’t healthy already) can actually make them more reactive (which can be problematic for everyone).

Soubresaut's avatar

Also, do the dog and cat know each other? Do they get along? Their relationship is probably something you’ll want the trainer to help you with, too, if it’s not already established and working well.

janbb's avatar

You’re not an asshole. This dog’s behavior wold be a dealbreaker for me in living together. You need to talk to him about it. See what solutions you can come up with together.

deni's avatar

THanks everyone so much for your responses – youve all allowed me to see quite a few things I didn’t see before.

I wanna add a few things: @Soubresaut you talked a lot about the dogs exercise, and this is an issue that makes things kinda difficult- yes she is a large dog and very energetic. A year ago she cut her paw very badly on some broken glass in a park and was in a cast for a while. I’m not totally sure if I can tell you exactly what happened but from what I gather the vet did a surgery he maybe shouldn’t have done, and her leg is messed up for at least the time being but maybe forever. If she runs a lot, or plays hard, she can barely put weight on the leg the following night/next day. Its pretty sad. So yes, we hike a lot and we both run, and he does take her on runs, but because of this issue it is pretty limited what she can do. Of course she wants to run around all the time, but in turn she will be in pain and crying a lot and clearly uncomfortable the following like, 12–24 hours. So its like a double edged sword, do you guys know what I mean? Its like you cant win. If you dont run with her shes crazy, but if you do shes in pain at night. Also, please, this isnt my dog, yes he has talked to the vet about wtf he did wrong and if theres anyway to fix it and as far as I can tell there isn’t. More on that later maybe.

In addition as a few of you mentioned, I have of course talked to him about most of this. I haven’t said exactly what I’ve said here, because it is a touchy topic. I know I need to come out 100% with it soon and i will, but coming to you guys first allowed me to kind of brainstorm and maybe not say some things that would be more hurtful. Its funny, I have actually been on the other side of this issue once before – I had a pretty troubled cat, he had a rough life and I got him when he was 8, he was the love of my life but sick from the beginning. He threw up and had accidents a lot and my ex boyfriend straight up told me he didn’t want to live with the cat. It was so hurtful because I knew it was a problem but him saying that made me really see it more clearly than ever. Of course it wasn’t the cats fault, and we did end up living together, and the cat later was diagnosed properly and did better in time, but still, it was a difficult hurdle in our otherwise pleasant relationship. So I’m hesitant to now be the one saying that, except about a dog, to someone else. I know it hurts, and I also know he knows how I feel, and that hurts him also.

@Soubresaut yes they know each other, my cat really likes dogs and gets along with any dog, but she is so high energy she mostly just annoys him in the end. She will chase him and be a little rough to him which he has no tolerance for. He is definitely the boss of the dog lol.

deni's avatar

Also, this is a little hard for me to admit, and I know that in this very basic understanding of the situation that I have given you all, it will make him look very bad, but this is something that makes the situation especially confusing and frustrating for me:

I clearly believe this dog to be obnoxious and unpleasant to be around. No way around that. But from what I can tell, he kind of does too. I don’t really want to go into detail about this. But I am 95% sure that I am at least partially right about this. I don’t think he has an easy time admitting this, I think he knows he made a lot of errors “training” her and now is stuck with this big dog that he can’t really handle and doesn’t really listen. When I’m frustrated with something she’s doing, he is already frustrated as well. Its tough because obviously it is most likely “his” fault, but now its like hes just stuck. He’s too “proud”? to give her to a better home or someone who can train her, so he just has to stick it out.

For instance last week he was taking her for a bike ride (which he doesn’t do that often but I guess used to a lot) and she got distracted by something and pulled on the leash so hard he wrecked his bike pretty severely. His wrist turned out not to be broken but he couldn’t work or lift anything for three days. He had some choice words about her. This is the second time this has happened with her while he’s been biking. I really had a hard time understanding why he chose to bike with her anymore after the first time she took him down but, you can only ask so many questions about these things.

Zaku's avatar

From an outside perspective, it seems like whatever you do, he has a problem with his dog, and he should get some pro training for it, which might work best in a good class where the owner participates. Some good dog trainers have said that the owners generally need to be trained and are harder subjects than the dogs.

Another thing to consider is maybe it’s ok to not move in with him. There are nice things about having your own space, even in a committed relationship.

And as others have said, it’s an opportunity to look at your own communication blocks and the tendency to jump to it being something that makes you or him look bad. That doesn’t have to be the case at all. The dog (and owner) just could use some better training, is all. Maybe clear communication with him about it could get him to accept that and do it.

Soubresaut's avatar

I’m sorry about her foot issues. That’s sad to hear about :( ... And I can imagine how difficult it would make the exercise… Could she do something lower impact, like tug of war? (If that’s lower impact the way she would play). Or does she like water? (And do you have access to a place she could swim/fetch in the water?). Just some ideas. Maybe you’ve thought of these, too. I didn’t mean to make it sound like you hadn’t been doing things, if that’s how it read before. I just wanted to give some examples in case they were helpful.

I would try to get your boyfriend away from the guilt/fault mode of thought, especially if he’s already feeling responsible for, and frustrated with, her behavior. I just don’t think that kind of thinking is going to help you guys move forward, assuming that’s what you want to do. He can always learn new training techniques, and she can always learn new behaviors. “Old” dogs can learn new tricks. It might take a little longer since they both first need to break old habits they’ve established together…. but in no way is he (or you, or her) “stuck” with the current situation. He (and probably you, too) just need some determination and patience. And probably a good dog trainer to offer some guidance/outside advice.

I think the fact that you’re coming to this discussion knowing how it feels to be on his side is an asset. Since you know what it feels like to be on the receiving end, you can probably imagine what you would have changed in what the ex-boyfriend said to you, and then find ways to apply that to this different situation. I won’t try to guess what that might be.

Asim_Wolfy's avatar

Just don’t move in straight away, give it time….and hopefully within time, the dog will die which gives you two the chance to move in.

longgone's avatar

Dog trainer here.

Neither of you are assholes. It sounds like you’re both rather anxious. Dogs that chew on themselves are usually not doing too well.

How old is this dog? How much time does she spend cooped up in a crate (if she has one)? How many hours of sleep is she getting, on average? Does she wear a collar or a harness? Does she eat her meals from a bowl?

I ask all this because there’s often more to an excitable dog than lack of exercise. There might be tiny adjustments you can make that will calm her down considerably, and they won’t come with work.

There’s some excellent advice above. @Soubresaut especially has some really good ideas about how to improve everybody’s lives. I only disagree on a small point: I think it certainly is possible for you to train this dog by yourself. The reason that’s usually not advisable is that the results will be applied only to yourself – but if you can make the jumping and scratching stop for yourself, maybe your boyfriend will feel inspired to try some training too?

As you’ve given the example of jumping up when you enter the room, here’s a quick way to solve that:

For the next 50–100 times you enter a room with the dog present, be prepared. You will need a handful of treats and (for best results) a clicker, available for two dollars or so in every pet store, as well as large grocery stores.

You’ll enter the room, click before the dog can jump, and scatter a whole handful of extra-yummy treats on the floor. While the dog is busy eating, get down on her level (assuming that’s safe to do) and greet her calmly. Make sure your posture is relaxed and that your voice sounds like you’re falling asleep.

When she’s done eating, expect another burst of energy. Be prepared for that, too: Ask her to get a toy or hand her some small chew before she can jump.

Over a short period of time, dogs treated (pun intended) like that learn that calm greetings are much more fun than the jumping. Sniffing around for hidden treats releases serotonin, which might even help counter some of the other issues, if they happen to be stress-related.

deni's avatar

@longgone Yay! Let me answer everything youve asked: She is almost four years old exactly. She doesn’t have a crate. How much sleep she gets….I’m honestly not sure…probably plenty? But when I sleep at her house, she sleeps in the bedroom, and she is pretty disruptive at night, lots of moaning and she comes and wants attention or wants to go out and he tries to tell her to go lay down because she just went out and its 3 am or whatever, but it takes at least a few tries for her to listen….so maybe she isn’t sleeping enough? Its hard to say. I also rarely spend the night at his house because she is so annoying. She lives with another dog who is very well behaved and they have a fenced in back yard, often in the mornings one of us will just open the back door and they have free range of inside/outside. I guess I assume she should want to run around outside with the other dog, but instead she just comes inside and whines in our faces. And yes she eats out of a bowl.

I suppose I feel like if I only see her once a week, will these adjustments (even if I do try to make them personally like when I enter the room) even help if he doesn’t do them? I do feel like he kind of makes her anxious – I have long felt this way, but I don’t know really how dog – human relationships work necessarily. I do know that people who are crazy and anxious tend to reflect that in their dog or whatever and the dog ends up being anxious too but. I again don’t wanna jump to that and tell him “hey….you’re making your dog crazy”...

longgone's avatar

@deni It’s important to keep track of a dog’s sleeping pattern since many behavioral issues can be traced back to (chronic) lack of sleep. I recently had a case like that. This particular dog was mouthing his owners’ legs and could not be persuaded to settle down. After they had caught up on the sleep debt by staying home with her for three days straight, she turned into a calm and content dog.

Yes, adjustments you make will have an effect. It sounds like you’re dealing with a smart dog, and she will definitely get that not all humans are the same. To create an overall calmer dog, your boyfriend does need to play along. I would suggest:

1) Feeding strictly through frozen Kongs or trick training. No more food from a bowl – that’s the least stimulative and enjoyable way of feeding a pet. Maybe you can get excited about clicker training or buy a toy like this.

2) If she wears a collar, changing to the Sense-ation harness. It will give you more control (on or off a bike), while also being much safer and healthier. In addition, collars can lead to health issues that make behavior problems more likely. Read this.

3) Buying an Adaptil dispenser. Some people report a huge change in their dog’s ability to sleep through the night once those are plugged in. It would be worth the twenty bucks to me.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Two and a half years have passed. @deni – what happened? Did you dump the guy? Did you kill the dog?

deni's avatar

@elbanditoroso Haha! Wow logging into Fluther after so long is a real treat! We broke up, after we spent a while in Thailand together as our relationship crumbled, he got Dengue Fever on our way home and I couldn’t bear it any longer. Yes I sound like a cold hearted bitch but it was already ending, at least we got to lay on some nice beaches together while it did. Anyhow, we broke up right after that, but remain very very good friends still! He moved away for a while, moved back, we work together again and have a wonderful friendship. His dog is like 8 now and he says shes calmed down a bunch, but I have not seen her in a year or two. Shucks ;)

deni's avatar

I also want to add, because it’s just his luck, and it’s kinda funny now that he’s recovered, but he also got Coronavirus pretty much immediately.

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