how do i
June 27, 2011 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm not a dog person and my fiance definitely is. How do I get better at tolerating my live-in fiance's two dogs?

First off, we moved in two months ago after dating for a year and we co-exist well together.

My fiance brought with him two three-year-old black lab mixes, 70 lbs and 50 lbs. I get along fine with them but they annoy me sometimes and I feel bad about it.

When he lived at his own apartment they were allowed on the couch and on his bed. I told him then that I was wary to let this happen when we lived together for a couple of reasons: the bed and couch got disgusting, and I don't want to cover my furniture and then uncover it to sit down on it; and there simply isn't enough room for all of us. He said that it would be difficult to train them to not go on the bed and on the couch when we aren't home but he was willing to try it.

Well it's two months later and the dogs are still sleeping on the bed (only when we aren't home and in bed, then we kick them out) and lying on the couch. It is difficult to train them because our house has no interior doors apart from the bathroom, so we can't just shut the door to the bedroom/living room.

When I get home from work and want to sit on the couch, my fiance doesn't always want to move the dog because he feels bad for him/her. He obviously loves the dogs very much but I feel like as a human, I deserve the couch more! This seems so silly but goddamn its frustrating. I'm also constantly cleaning up dog hair, which I actually don't mind because it forces me to keep things tidier than I normally would.

I take them for walks during the day and we spend a lot of time together.

I feel like a real bitch typing this all out. I know some people are really into their animals but I'm just not one of them. I'm starting to resent the dogs when we are home alone together. I'm hesitant to raise this issue with my fiance because the dogs are so important to him and he loves them so much, and I don't want to hurt his feelings. How can I go about this?
posted by pintapicasso to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
my fiance doesn't always want to move the dog because he feels bad for him/her.

Compromise with your fiance. Go out and buy some really fluffy dog beds for the dogs to lay on, or maybe hit the thrift store and pick up some sofa cushions. Then the dogs can lay on the soft things and you can sit on the sofa.
posted by royalsong at 1:15 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why don't you get the dogs their own sofas? Like this sort of thing (lots of them out there). They have dog beds, right? Or no?

(Some clarification might be good here -- do you want to 'raise this issue,' tell him you don't like the dogs, talk about dogless living, or 'raise this issue,' look for dog solutions together?)
posted by kmennie at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2011

I love my dog and spoil her, and she is allowed on the furniture, but when I tell the dog to get off the couch she gets off the couch. You're right, humans deserve the couch more. I think it's worth it to set some limits with your fiance: if there's competition for couch space, the humans win. Sounds like he's already got that down for the bed; time for him to extend that to the couch.
posted by olinerd at 1:18 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well it's two months later and the dogs are still sleeping on the bed... and lying on the couch.

Scatmat - problem solved

my fiance doesn't always want to move the dog because he feels bad for him/her.

dog bed - problem solved

These may be expensive depending on your budget, but a few hundred dollars to save constant arguing is worth it IMO.
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Baby gate to the bedroom? Dogs are pretty good at understanding "off limits area" if there's a delineated border or barricade and it's enforced. You may also feel less encroached upon if you can reclaim the bedroom entirely as dog-free zone.
posted by deludingmyself at 1:20 PM on June 27, 2011

I'm a dog lover, I really am. But I totally think that it's kinda fucked up to sit on the floor when there is a dog on the sofa.

Did he actually try to train the dogs at any point? Maybe you could instigate that again. Or maybe suggest that he cleans up the dog hair from the couch, if that's the reason you don't want them on there. You might find some of the tips in this thread useful.

Realise that you won't be hurting his feelings. He agreed to try to train the dogs before they even came into the space. You're only asking him to do something he's already agreed to do. If he doesn't like it, that's on him. I think it's reasonable to expect to be able to sit on the sofa. If he does take umbrage, that's his fault. You aren't being unreasonable. When you talk to him, try to focus on the fact that it's the dogs behaviour that's the problem, not the dogs themselves.
posted by Solomon at 1:20 PM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: (Some clarification might be good here -- do you want to 'raise this issue,' tell him you don't like the dogs, talk about dogless living, or 'raise this issue,' look for dog solutions together?)

Look for dog solutions together. I don't want to get rid of the dogs, just tolerate/appreciate them better.

We already have two dog beds in the bedroom and two in the living room.

They are actually well trained and *usually* get off the sofa/bed when we ask them to.

The scatmat looks great. Thanks for the suggestions so far and please keep them coming.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:25 PM on June 27, 2011

My friend has something like the Scatmat that makes a loud noise if the dog sits on it. It's easy to use and it doesn't hurt the dog. That should keep the dogs from setting up camp on the couch. Good luck!
posted by cider at 1:27 PM on June 27, 2011

This is important to you. So train the dogs. Seriously, take the lead in training them to be the kinds of pets you will enjoy. Your boyfriend trained them the only way he knew how--now it's your turn.

My dogs always end up being annoying in the same ways--because I'm the only one training them. When Mr. vitabellosi gets frustrated, I always suggest that he start taking responsibility for their training (and feeding and toileting) because he will create a different relationship with them.

Best case scenario, you take the dogs and your boyfriend to a basic class at the Humane Society. Let others witness his reasoning. If he can't go, you go anyway. If they're already pretty well trained, start with the basic class anyway--because it's training you in the most effective methods.

And don't feel guilty! Dogs don't necessarily want to be anthropomorphized. They may prefer their "cooler" relationship with you.

Kick the dogs off the couch--don't expect your boyfriend to do it. tell them Off! And guide them to a dog pillow on the floor and sweetly say "good dog!" when they figure it out and lay down on it.

I love dogs and I give you permission to kick them off the couch.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:27 PM on June 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's not unreasonable to expect your fiance to have more of a problem with you being unhappy with this situation than the dogs, who I'm pretty sure don't care.

Also: The Onion may be relevant.
posted by rhizome at 1:28 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I totally think that it's kinda fucked up to sit on the floor when there is a dog on the sofa.

Yes. I have cats that I love like children and I may feel a slight twinge of guilt when I have to move one of them to sit in my chair, but I sure do it anyway. The animal is not going to hold a grudge.

You don't need to feel guilty about having these feelings. I love my cats but I will freely admit they annoy the shit out of me sometimes, and are an occasional inconvenience in my life. It's okay and normal to feel like that. What you need to do is make clear to your boyfriend that you will respect his dogs' right to live in your house, but not at the expense of your own comfort. You need to get him on board with real boundaries.
posted by something something at 1:28 PM on June 27, 2011

It is difficult to train them because our house has no interior doors apart from the bathroom, so we can't just shut the door to the bedroom/living room.

I like the idea of using baby gates if possible, but am also confused by this statement - closing doors prevents a behavior but is not training of any sort. Saying it's difficult to train the dogs because you can't shut the door doesn't make any sense. Train the dogs to not get on the bed, and to get off the sofa when you ask.

Also, you and your boyfriend should have a talk about the dogs now belonging to both of you, since you live together. Thinking of them as his dogs only, and waiting around for him to tell them to get off the sofa, isn't great for you or the dogs. You can, and should, be responsible for shaping their behavior too.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

This probably sounds like crazy advice for someone who's not a dog person, but I was in a similar situation -- only with cats instead of dogs -- and what turned me from a dedicated cat hater to an insufferable cat fancier was to get more cats, specifically a pair of kittens.

What happened in my case is that, although I could not connect emotionally with my fiancee's cats, and found cats in general kind of gross, when I had my own cats that I knew and raised from kittenhood, it was a completely different experience. I suppose there's some kind of parental instinct that kicks in when some wee babbie attaches to you and loves you that transcends species lines.

I'm not sure this is actually advice since I don't know that I'd advise anyone who wasn't sure about having a pet to get one, but my experience causes me to believe that it is possible to overcome your aversion.

Certainly, though, it's difficult when the pet is creating some kind of disagreeable inconvenience, because you start to focus on that and it becomes a wall preventing any attachment to the animal(s). You're by no means a bad person for resenting them, but maybe by thinking of them in an adversarial way, you're only reinforcing that resentment. I wonder if there is any way that you could sort of re-frame your relationship with those dogs, so you see yourself, the dogs, and your fiance as a family unit -- and whatever issues the dogs raise as a challenge to all of you as a family -- rather than seeing it as you versus the dogs or versus your fiance and his dogs?
posted by Pants McCracky at 1:45 PM on June 27, 2011

Our cleaning solution was that everyone sits on the couch blanket. It's still easier to clean a blanket frequently, rather than the couch, and we can always whip the blanket off if unexpected guests show up.
posted by anaelith at 1:52 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was a confirmed cat-person for most of my life, until an ex-girlfriend talked me into getting a dog; I ditched her, but kept him. The first thing I had to learn was that dogs need and expect a hierarchy and that I definitely didn't want to be at the bottom of it. My dog is mostly obedient, and isn't in the least upset that he's not allowed on the bed, or that I wake him to claim a spot on the couch. Your dogs will be the same.

In other words, the problem isn't with the dogs, it's with the other pack members. You and your fiancee need to decide what the rules are going to be and enforce them. Since neither of your dogs pay bills or bring home the food that feeds you all, I humbly suggest you and your fiancee lay claim to the top positions, decide how things are going to be, and enforce it. Your dogs may have a problem adjusting to their place but will eventually get it and you'll all be the happier for it.

In the immediate future, a baby gate will keep them out of the bedroom, but in the long term you will probably benefit from working with a trainer so you can learn how to deal with these issues.
posted by Hylas at 1:54 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

They are actually well trained and *usually* get off the sofa/bed when we ask them to.

You don't ask a dog - you tell it. Even a look should be enough if you know dogs.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 4:09 PM on June 27, 2011

Someone already mentioned Scatmats, which I came here to recommend. I love dogs, but they are kind of messy. We covered all our furniture and got them dog beds. We really did not want them on the furniture, so when we were home they did not go on it. But when we were gone, they did, but they pretended that they did not. We never saw them on the furniture. Dogs are not dumb.

A funny story, we got two La-z-Boys. I told my husband we should cover them, since I didn't want the dogs to get them dirty. He said the dogs would not go on them. We left for the day, but had forgot something and had to go back to the house a few minutes after we left. The male lab was on my husband's La-z-Boy, the female on mine. They kind of looked at us and then put their heads down and stayed very still, so we would not notice. We let them be.

I had a Sheltie who was trained to not go on the furniture. I never saw her on my bed, but some how, I have no idea how, when I got home there was always a Sheltie-like impression and Sheltie hair in the middle of the bed! She had no idea how it happened either.

But if you want to sit on the couch, make the dog move. If you don't want the dog on the bed, don't let him on the bed. My sister tells her kids to move when they take up the couch and no one else can sit. You would not let your children do anything they wanted to do, don't let your dogs.
posted by fifilaru at 4:22 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The younger of my partner's two border collies is in the habit of sleeping on the bed. Trouble is, unlike him, I cannot sleep with a hunk of animal weighing down on or against me. So, early on, when she jumped up on the bed to settle in, I said, "No, babe. Sorry." Which, happily, she understood.

Maybe I'm just lucky, but three years later she totally gets the difference between when it's okay to sleep on the bed (I'm not there) and when it's not (I'm there).

I should perhaps add that this was between me and the dog, Kevin had nothing to do with it (apart from joking that I am appallingly mean).

Through year two, she "negotiated" by jumping into my spot when, for example, I went to the bathroom, but I persisted, out of a need for sleep, and she eventually figured it out.

She knows that I love her, and she knows that I get her place on the bed when I'm there.

Smart dog.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:48 PM on June 27, 2011

You're not a bitch. You actively take care of the dogs (walking them, spending time with them), which is far more important than thinking of them like they're your children.

Keep that in mind when you have these conversations with your fiance. It's not that he's the loving, caring owner and you're a heartless bitch who wants to get rid of his dogs. He's a dog person so he looooves these dogs; you're a non-dog person who takes good care of them anyway.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:34 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a lab-chow mix that doesn't get on furniture, at all. So, it can be trained. But, dogs may still like your scent and want to be near it, and so lay right next to furniture you use. Also, laying up against furniture when on the floor helps keep that side of the dog warm, and is a near instinctual behavior. So, even if the dogs are trained to keep off the furniture, you may find that they still get the furniture characteristically soiled (on the sides, near the floor), over the long term, by laying up against it. Lab mixes, in particular, having a fairly oily coat, are known for this.

So, better if you can crate train them, or failing that, get them acclimated to laying on particular carpet remnants, area rugs, dog beds, etc.
posted by paulsc at 6:49 PM on June 27, 2011

You've been working all day and the dog has been laying on the couch all day. The dog can move. My partner is more of a "dog person" than I am, and she might choose to sit somewhere else rather than move the dog, but she's never acted like it's unreasonable or mean for me to want the dog to move over.
I would be frustrated if I were you too. I would suggest telling your fiance that you need to have some "alone time/space" as a couple, or by yourself, in the house. You can like the dogs and want to not have them attached to you constantly (or come before you for couch rights!) It doesn't make you a bad person to assert that you need some human space too.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:18 PM on June 27, 2011

Dogs are "waiting for instructions." They want to please their people. Tell them what you want them to do and they will comply. They are getting mixed instructions. If both of you give them clear commands to stay off the couch and bed, they will comply. Any inconsistency or halfheartedness in the commands will undermine compliance. They will respect you more (and not like you any less) if you are clear and consistent.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:08 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

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