Puppy, oh puppy...
July 22, 2010 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Help my fiance and I come to a compromise on when to get a puppy. I have grown up with dogs- he was never allowed to have one growing up. I had a puppy of my own for 10 years until she passed away last October only a month in to our relationship- so he never got to know her. We recently moved into a small house with a large fenced in back yard. We have 3 cats. He says the house will be too crowded with a dog. I don't think so.

He says we can have one after we are wed and have a child. That is 3 or 5 years from now. I believe we need to have the dog before we have the child. He does not care that the house would be crowded with the child- just with the dog. Any tips on compromising when to get the puppy? I am not happy waiting another 5 years for a dog, but I am not going to just run out and get one and make him deal with it. This house is ours and I want to respect his wishes, but this house is OURS so I want to have a little more say in the matter. Please do not give me the how-much-work-puppies-are speech because I raised my last dog from a puppy so I already know what I am getting in to. He of course, has no idea because he has only heard horror stories about what a pain in the butt puppies are. What have you and your significant other done in this situation?
posted by MayNicholas to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you try dog-sitting for a week or two so he can get a feel what having a dog is like? My wife and I just did this for a friend for two weeks and now she definitely wants a dog. It would unlikely be a puppy, but it may be a good introduction.

If he survives that, how about adopting a 2-3 year old dog? Something just out of the puppy phase.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:04 AM on July 22, 2010

You seem to really love dogs. Please think about the dog. It would be unfair to push your fiance into getting a dog (or go out and get a dog and just make him deal with it!) and then have him resent the dog, try to talk you into giving it away, etc. If the dog is going to be living with both of you, both of you need to want him.
posted by sallybrown at 6:11 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

It might help to talk with your fiance some more, just looking at the situation from every angle rather than pushing for a decision right now. If he's waffling between 'never' and 'after we have a kid,' then it sounds like his mind isn't really made up. I'm guessing that he feels some trepidation and wants to proceed with caution, and is mostly resisting the pressure he's feeling from you. It's a bit of a Chinese handcuff situation -- the harder you pull, the more stuck get. Try talking about this only when he's willing to talk, and be sure not to push your agenda while you're listening to his concerns.
posted by jon1270 at 6:22 AM on July 22, 2010

Having a baby and then getting a puppy is possibly the worst idea I've ever heard in my life. First of all it sounds like a recipe for suicide, and second of all there is no way you can give a puppy the training or attention it needs while looking after the needs of a newborn or infant.

The fact that he thinks the house will be crowded with the dog but not a kid seems un-logical to me. It sounds like he's what he's really saying is "I'm willing to make room in my life for a kid but not a dog." That's a perfectly reasonable position to hold but if that's his point he should just say that. (It's also possible he's saying something more charitable like "I want to enjoy this time just with you" but that isn't what he's communicating either.)

The compromise is that you both adjust your ideal schedules. You get a puppy in a year or 18 months and plan your wedding and family for after that. If reaching a compromise on something that's very important to you isn't going to work for him, then you have a much bigger problem.

I note you also asked this question. I assume it's the same guy. You may want to examine the puppy issue to see if there is a pattern of your SO putting up barriers when asked to move outside his preference or comfort levels. I only have your posting history to go on.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

A small dog can be roughly the size of 2 cats, and on a pure numbers scale is one whole *less* animal to deal with in the house. Suggest a trade-in scenario.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:30 AM on July 22, 2010

Sweetie, having a dog is really important to me. You may not realize how much I miss Pupsterina, but it's been a big hole in my life. People think that kids and puppies are a great combination, but I think it's a lot of work to train a dog properly, and I think it makes more sense to train a dog without a small child in the house. When I had Pupsterina, I was a responsible dog owner, and will continue to be a good dog owner with a new dog. This is a big deal for me, and I want you to reconsider.

Dogs live in dens, and small houses are less of an issue than bad dog owners who don't exercise their dogs. No matter how big your house is, your dog wants to be in the room you're in. My dog wants to be in my lap, even when said lap has a laptop in it. The large, fenced yard is a really big plus.

Also, please consider adopting an adult dog from a shelter. You miss the puppy cyootness, but you gain a housebroken dog that needs a home, and is a lot more settled. Although I dare anybody to say my shelter dog isn't insanely cute. He dares ya, too.
posted by theora55 at 6:41 AM on July 22, 2010

Maybe your fiance doesn't like dogs?

We had dogs and lots of other animals in our house growing up, but at this point I just really don't care for dogs. People who love dogs seem to find it difficult that I don't like being licked and jumped on by their pets.

Three cats and two dogs strikes me as a lot of pets. My wife and I ended up giving up our cat six months after our son was born because the cat was so demanding that it was hard for us to have time with our kid. Really. The cat would stalk us and jump in our laps over and over again when we were just trying to hang out with our young baby. When we persisted in trying to get just a little space the cat became very unhappy. We didn't want it to have an unhappy life so we found another home for it.

You should ask yourself whether this is a dealbreaker for you, and you should ask your fiance whether he likes dogs at all. But I don't think it's wise to start your relationship by foisting a fourth pet on someone who isn't psyched about it.
posted by alms at 6:44 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

He doesn't want a dog, but for some reason isn't telling you this. Alternately: he is okay with a dog, but not a puppy. You need to speak to him to find out whether he really ever would be okay with a dog, and you need to decide whether you are okay without a dog, or whether you'd be okay starting with an already-trained animal.
posted by jeather at 7:06 AM on July 22, 2010

It sounds like the real issue here is how decisions get made and how much power you have.
posted by salvia at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you explain to him how important it is to you and ask him to talk more about his reasons for rejecting the idea ("wait 3 to 5 years until we have a child" is essentially saying "I don't want a dog", from what I am reading.) I think it's valid to non-confrontationally ask him why a dog would crowd the house more than a child (really?).

I am not sure from your earlier question if your one-year anniversary is coming up this October - if so, and you all are engaged and have moved in together, adding a puppy might just be a little overwhelming right now, with a lot of significant events happening in a relatively short time.

Is he open to adopting an older dog instead of a puppy? If you think it would help ease some of his concerns, are you willing to try fostering a dog for a bit (assuming he would be willing to give it a shot and help you, that the cats and dog would get along, and that you wouldn't get so attached you'd want to keep the foster (I know I would), etc)? Is there something he has been wanting to do or have that you have been resisting that maybe you would be willing to give on if he would compromise on this?

("He says we can have one" is phrasing that concerns me, as it's more how I would talk about asking my parents rather than discussing things with my life partner - forgive me if that is overstepping boundaries and/or off base, I just wanted to mention it.)
posted by mrs. taters at 7:14 AM on July 22, 2010

"He says we can have one" is phrasing that concerns me

In my own relationship, we both have veto power over Big Issues (dogs, kids, large purchases, etc). If I want something that falls into one of these categories and my wife agrees to it, I would say "she said we could have [it]." I wouldn't say, "we decided to get [it]," because it wasn't her that wanted it in the first place. And I wouldn't say, "I decided to get [it]," because the decision wasn't completely up to me.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:26 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I second the dog-sitting experiment and looking into adopting a fully grown dog. My then fiancee now wife grew up petless and her mom always claimed to hate pets. My wife was sold the first time we met our little guy, and my mother-in-law coddles him nearly as much as her grandchildren. A few months ago she tried to seat him at the table for dinner.

Some people think they hate dogs because they've never been around them. Some people just hate dogs - you need to figure that out. If it is the latter then don't get a dog.
posted by JPD at 7:27 AM on July 22, 2010

Yeah, I don't think he wants to have a dog from the sound of it. That's the noise I make when I don't want to have a dog and I'm trying not to piss off the person I love who clearly cannot see that I don't want to have a dog. At all. It's tough: you can't force someone to like dogs. Sad to say, if you don't like dogs, they are a major imposition.

No suggestions; someone is going to lose here.
posted by umberto at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Another thing: you don't have to 'hate' dogs to not want one.
posted by umberto at 7:36 AM on July 22, 2010

It sounds like he doesn't like dogs. I adore dogs. I would not marry someone who would not let me have a dog or would put (anything beyond reasonable) limitations on my ability to get one. Maybe you can. You need to stress that this is important to you, and try to compromise, possibly by getting an older dog or waiting a year. (I would also urge you to not have a kid then get a dog — that seems like a recipe for disaster.)

I do think three cats + a dog could be hectic unless your house is huge, and an okay reason for him to be hesitant. Perhaps having so many pets already has put him off? I would offer to get rid of the cats (if you can find somewhere or someone responsible and kind) in exchange for a dog, but I'm not a cat person.

Dog-sitting for a while could be a good idea, as well, to let him get used to the idea of a dog.

All the people saying "Welp, then, you can't have a dog" make me sad. Me without a dog is a very unhappy me.
posted by good day merlock at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2010

As a dog owner, cat owner and parent, getting a dog post-baby sounds like a terrible idea.
posted by k8t at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2010

There's also the rule of thumb:

IF: (# of Humans) > (Number of Animals +1)
THEN: Humans are crazy pet people.

Maybe he feels that two people and three cats is enough?

We have three rabbits and a baby on the way. In theory, we could get another pet after West is born and not violate the rule. We both have talked about getting a dog, but will likely be putting that off until an Awesome Sixth Birthday Present or something someways down the road.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

We fostered a dog for a local rescue organization while contemplating the acquisition of a dog. This was long enough for us to realize that we both really love dogs, that I am the alpha dog and my husband is like the omega dog and the dog knew it, that our cats hated us and wanted us to die for bringing a dog into their house, and that I am horrifically allergic to having a dog in the house. When a permanent placement opened up, she returned to the foster organization and thence on to her new home.

(We also learned that that size of dog was waaaaaaaaaay too big, especially when I, who am small, am the alpha dog and my husband, who is large, just asks the dog nicely to do things which the dog feels free to ignore.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 AM on July 22, 2010

it's hard to not have a dog when you're missing the one you used to have. but it's incredibly hard to try to balance a dog and a relationship with a person who doesn't want a dog. in my experience, it might not be worth it.

my dog has been a major source of stress in my relationship. i already had her when we started dating, but since it started out casual, neither of us really thought about what might happen if we decided to live together. well, now it's 2 years later and we live together, with the dog. he just wasn't raised around them- in fact, his mom always hated dogs, so he was raised around that attitude. although i know he is making an effort to live with it for my sake, i know it makes his stressed and miserable. now i feel miserable because i feel like at some point i am going to have to make a very tough decision. do we break up because of his inability to live with her? do i go back to the rescue organization and see if she can be placed in another home? both scenarios make me feel like shit. but the current scenario is shit too. boyfriend tries to live with dog, but doesn't like it. i feel stressed. the dog senses the tension and feels stressed and confused. i used to be annoyed with him and wonder why he couldn't just get used to her and grow to like her- but now that i've been working as a nanny in a house with a cat that i can't stand, i can sympathize with my boyfriends POV a little more.

sorry for the slightly off topic story. . . i suppose i should save it for my own AskMe. anyway, the point that i am trying to make is, you have to realize that having a dog might not be the same wonderful experience it was before you lived with someone who didn't want one. it puts a damper on things. plus, it can turn into an argument point ("you got this dog even though i didn't want it.") when SO and i fight about the dog, i always remind him that i had the dog first and he moved in with me knowing the reality of the situation. but even that doesn't really make things any easier. it also affected us in ways i didn't expect- like, our sex life. he says that having the dog around sometimes creeps him out or is majorly distracting and it makes it harder for him to get into the moment. it sucks.

i'd just wait it out and see how you feel. trust me, you don't want to get a dog and end up being in my situation- it makes me feel horrible to say it, but i have to admit my life would probably be easier if i had just not gotten a dog. i wanted to for the same reasons- i'm used to having a dog around, and missed it. also, this is really bad too but- was your last dog the first one you had? because i expected to love my second dog the same way i loved my first one but . . . somehow it isn't the same. it's hard to explain. sometimes i feel like i made a mistake. i'm not saying any of this will happen to you. but if i could go back in time and decide not to go through with it, i probably would. it tears me apart because i do love her and feel like a bad person for feeling this way- anyway- do you really want to go through all that?
posted by lblair at 8:14 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nth that you've got to get the dog before you have kids or at least wait until those kids are quite a bit older. It's 100% easier to train a dog when the dog is the only thing you have to worry about.

It sounds to me like your guy doesn't want a dog and is hoping that you'll be so busy with a child that you'll forget about or realize you don't have time for a dog.

My husband doesn't really like animals. He grew up with a dog, but it was really his mom's dog and he never really felt any kind of connection to it. The only kind of animal he really likes is the kind that are stuffed.

Yet he puts up with my gigantic German Shepherd Dog. He knows how important it is to me to have a dog in the house. He understands all the ways it helps me have my dog. He even cleans up after her and helps me give her baths.

He doesn't love my dog. He accepts her. He pets her and tells her she's a good girl, but he doesn't love her.

Does your guy really understand how important it is to you? Have you really sat down and had a conversation about it. Do you both raise valid points that can be compromised on? IMO this is one of those relationship things that you're going to have to work out together. If he's really worried about the trouble a puppy will be, can you compromise and adopt an older dog? If he's worried about the space issue, maybe you could get a smaller breed? If he's worried about the dog getting along with a baby, could you two do research on breeds that are good with kids and invest in obedience training?

My point is that you've got to get to the core of why he doesn't want a dog. You need to find out if it's a full blown "I don't want a dog. Period." or if it's just "I don't want a dog right now, here are the reasons." The latter is something you can work with, the former is going to be a lot tougher. You need to know exactly where he stands and why.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:19 AM on July 22, 2010

Are the cats his? The reason I ask is because I was always a cat person and my ex-wife was a dog person. We got a cat and a dog. The dog fastened on to me - she lived fifteen years after that and we spent them all together - and the cat became my ex-wife's best buddy.

Yah, it's not a solution, just sayin'. Get the pup, waiting three to five years is too long with no dog.
posted by jet_silver at 9:03 AM on July 22, 2010

A compromise? An already house trained adult dog. There are so many great ones out there. Is there a particular reason for insisting on a puppy, which is indeed, a lot of work?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 9:10 AM on July 22, 2010

My husband and I just got a dog, partially because he had wanted one for a long time. I was pretty unsure about the dog at the time (some days, I still am). I wish that before we had adopted him, I had had a better idea of what our daily schedule would look like and how we would handle the dog's needs. I had never had a dog and had absolutely no idea what to expect.

It might help to sit down with your fiance and talk through exactly where his concerns are coming from. Is he worried that the dog is going to follow him around the house licking him? That he'll have to be home at certain times for daily walks? That vacations will get harder? That the dog will chew through the wooden baseboards of your kitchen? What does 'crowded' actually mean to him?

Getting more specifics from him might help to identify why he thinks that it will be easier or better to have a dog after you have a kid. I can't imagine that your life will be less complicated or more conducive to dog ownership once you are parents.
posted by oryelle at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2010

Dittoed on the "he doesn't want a dog" angle.

It's frustrating that he doesn't just come out and say it but maybe your first conversation about it was "Dogs are awesome!' ... "Oh I don't know" ... "Seriously, you just need to get to know one" ... "I've known some friend's dogs, but was never that interested" ... "Oh, it's not the same, trust me, we'll get a dog and you'll see" ... and it was early enough in the relationship where he didn't want to say "Naaah" and things just kinda stuck there.

Of course he shouldn't say "we'll get a dog when we're married and have a kid" if he doesn't mean it. (It's almost a little creepy when you think about it, i.e. "make me a baby and you can have a puppy"), but that's what it *sounds* like he's doing, i.e. hoping that he'll be able to change your mind to no dog later.

I am not happy waiting another 5 years for a dog, but I am not going to just run out and get one and make him deal with it.

I just don't see a compromise there, unfortunately. Somebody is going to lose.

I don't want to be grim, but you may want to have another talk about it and consider your long-term relationship if it's a big deal.

My wife loves dogs and my little girl does too. I've made it abundantly clear from early in our relationship that I think dogs are stupid animals and I don't like them as pets and I would never want one. And still both are hoping we get a dog.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on July 22, 2010

I was 40 before I found out that I like dogs. Before that, I thought I couldn't stand them. My only experience of dogs was of dull-witted, smelly, shedding ones sticking their noses where they oughtn't, panting their horrific breath in my face, slobbering on my arm. I had no idea that a dog could be like my dogs--smart, active, nicely behaved, not smelly, not sheddy, not drooling, not licking--the perfect companion in every way. Maybe your boyfriend has had a similarly limited experience of dogs?

Also, waiting until you have a baby to get a dog is a disastrous idea.
posted by HotToddy at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2010

I was in exactly the same situation (except we were already married and he didn't want kids). He kept giving me various reasons why we couldn't have a dog. I think he really didn't want one but was unable to come out and say that for whatever reason. Eventually I went out and got a puppy anyway - I warned him I was doing it and he didn't try to stop me. He was very unhappy, even though I took care of absolutely everything related to the dog. That was the beginning of the end. Living with/without dogs can be a dealbreaker item. Honestly though I am really glad that I ended up with the dog.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 10:02 AM on July 22, 2010

There's a lot going on here.

First off, you have three cats. The fact that you don't seem at all concerned about the potential impact of a dog on these cats makes me wonder- are they his cats? How do you feel about the cats? Have they been a source of conflict in the relationship?

Second, three cats and a dog is a LOT of animal. Your house would have to be huuuuuuuge. Even if the animals were OK with it, the PEOPLE might not be. Is your fiance the introverted type who needs a lot of time alone to recharge? He may be worried he'd never have his own space again.

Third, if he doesn't like dogs (or just doesn't like to live with a dog), agreeing to have a dog would be a big deal- a significant sacrifice on his part. If you just assume that when you get a dog he will magically grow to love it as much as you do, it could be a major source of strife where he feels like he is continually sacrificing to have this dog and you don't appreciate it because you assume the dog gives him as much joy as it gives you. This is a recipe for trouble.

Personal observations, for what they are worth:
I am a cat person. I have had dogs in the past, and I loved those dogs, but I would be very reluctant to get another one. Dogs are a lot higher-maintenance than cats, both physically (walking, bathing, toilet needs, sheer size) and emotionally. Cats can be left alone for a long weekend; dogs have to be kenneled or pet-sat. Also, some people just find dogs unpleasant, intimidating, intrusive, or scary. I was bitten by a neighbor's rottweiler as a college student and I still get nervous around any dog bigger than a beagle.

Couples can compromise over pets, but BOTH sides have to compromise. I'm in a similar situation to you, only over a cat. My previous cat died before we lived together and I really missed having one. My husband encouraged me to get another cat, but it is a compromise, because he is allergic and not crazy about cats to begin with; we replaced upholstered furniture with leather to cut down on the dander, and the cat isn't allowed in his office, his bathroom, or our bedroom. I don't expect him to love the cat like I do. I don't expect him to do the icky cat-related chores (litterbox, etc.) This works for us... but we have to communicate openly about it.
posted by oblique red at 10:05 AM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Look through PetFinder.com for rescue dogs in your area. Start showing him the types of dogs you could get one day. See if he develops any preferences, or expresses opinions about the dogs.

It's easy to refuse something until it's looking you in the eyes, then you have to make a decision about whether you really don't want it, or were just avoiding the situation.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:09 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's easy to refuse something until it's looking you in the eyes, then you have to make a decision about whether you really don't want it, or were just avoiding the situation.

And just adopting one right there because of its saaaaaaad eyes without taking into account all long-term impacts (on three cats and child and whatno) isn't wise either.

The first and most important step is clarifying his pet preferences properly through communication. You can't just force him to want a dog out of pity if he's not a dog person to begin with.

As for the compromise bit... what oblique red and others have said.
posted by Ky at 11:48 AM on July 22, 2010

Yeah, I call bullshit on the "space" excuse. My ex-wife and I had 3 dogs and 2 cats in a house that was under 900 sq ft. We did have a yard. Space and crowding were never issues - other than all 3 dogs wanting to share the bed with us.

The size of the dog is less important than the temperament. I'll take a huge couch potato over a Border Collie or Jack Russell any day. We had one big one (90lbs) and two mid-size ones.

Anyhow, you need to find out what the real reasons are for objecting - because his current justifications are pretty flimsy, and more like stall tactics. Hopefully he's not dead-set against it.

I also agree with others that you should rescue an adult dog. But I'm always pushing that on anyone that asks about getting a dog...
posted by O9scar at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2010

Thank you for all of your responses! Let me clarify a few things:

The cats are mine. They are my furry babies. One is 14 the other 2 are 4. He grew up with cats and loves my cats.
I am set on a puppy because my previous dog was a toy breed and I do not want to bring a fully grown dog in to the house and scare the wits out of the cats. A small dog in the beginning will be a lot easier for them to adjust to even when the pup grows up.
I search petfinder on a regular basis and show him dogs. We have agreed to a medium- large breed. We pretty much agree on the type of dog we want. He even went over to an adoption event for me the other day to meet one of the dogs while I was working but couldn't find it. He regularly points out certain dogs and will mention how cool it seems. Or speak so highly about how awesome so and so's dog is.
As for the spawn and you get a puppy take- I have made that point to him that it sounds like that- but I assure you that is not the case. I agree that the puppy post baby is a horrible idea.
He never had dogs growing up- even though he and his brother wanted one- because his parents didn't trust them to care for it. They were allowed to have cats instead because the are more self sufficient. His ex wife came with a dog that was ill trained, poorly groomed, and had accidents every where. That is the only live in dog he has had experience with.
He says we don't have time, but at least one of us is home all day 4 days a week and both of us live close enough to work to pop home at lunch the 3 days that we work at the same time.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:29 PM on July 22, 2010

It is not fair to anyone (especially the dog) to bring a dog into a home if everyone in the home is not in agreement about it. Period. Even the best-behaved dogs take up space, they make noise, they make smells, they make mess. Some people don't like living with dogs, some people can't live without them. Owning dogs is a lifestyle not everyone can enjoy or adapt to. If your husband is the former and you are the latter you have a big problem on your hands, and pushing your husband to live with a dog if he really doesn't want to is going to be bad (for the dog too). The size of your house is a non-issue.
posted by biscotti at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2010

It is hard to tell someone who loves dogs that you don't. As so many of the above posts suggest, dog people think that you haven't met the right dog, or had a good dog experience, or something hasn't happened to trigger that normal dog-lovin' button that everyone has to have, right? because it can't just be that you don't like dogs, because...I mean look at 'em! They're dogs!

Wrong. And...not meaning any offense...dog people kind of think something is wrong with you if you don't like dogs. That vibe is definitely given. There is a looking-down-upon. So it is very hard -witness the dickering and stalling and many explanations of bad past experiences, etc.- to break that news to someone who you genuinely, even desperately, love.
posted by umberto at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2010

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