I’ve been in a relationship for a few years now, and my partner is insistent that it’s time I move in. I think I’d be miserable if we lived together in his home. He has a pit bull who isn’t fully trained. I’m not that big of a dog fan, but if I’m around one, I need it to be trained and have good boundaries. The dog jumps all over guests, urinates all over his own legs, and then is allowed to jump freely on couches and beds. He begs for food and is aggressive, and tries to eat food out of your mouth or off a plate. My partner seems concerned when I sternly tell the dog, “No begging,” as if I’m somehow hurting both of their feelings.
Any reprimand my partner gives is in a light, sing-song tone and the dog doesn’t have a clue that he’s in trouble or that something needs to stop or change.
My partner works 9+ hours a day. I think it’s neglectful to have him kenneled up for that long. I love this man more than anything in the world. We’ve been discussing marriage for months, but I can’t move in with this animal. Do I move in because I want to be with this man or do I move on?
Bernadette N – Los Angeles, CA
I have met happy couples that stay together and never live together. It’s a thing. We get to design our partnerships any way we wish these days. But at the end of your letter to me there, you only gave me two options: A) move in, or B) move on. Maybe there’s an option C that you haven’t considered yet. Before you move on, and most definitely before you move in, you want to start with some truth-telling, and maybe some behavior modifications.
I think it’s important to put all your cards on the table before you give up. Get this all the way sorted out before you move one single item in. It starts with setting your own boundary and letting him know the details of the current deal-breaker in the way of your future together.
“You and I have very different ideas about what’s acceptable with animal behavior. And I know this is your house and your dog, so you win. But the prize you’re winning is you get to raise your dog your way, and I won’t be living in the house with you two. If you’d like to cohabitate with me, there’s a list of things that need to be 100% corrected before I move anything more than a toothbrush into your place.”
I’d recommend that you two get help instead of trying to tackle this on your own. If it’s just you two, it’ll turn into your standards versus his (grody-oddy-oddy) standards. And from how you’ve described things, I don’t think he’s equipped to handle the changes needed on his own anyway. Bring in a professional dog trainer to help. And when I say “bring,” I mean let him pick the dog trainer, because that trainer will be “hard” on the dog in your partner’s eyes, and you don’t want that to be your “fault”.
A high-flying red flag to me is his regard for the dog’s hurt feelings over his disregard for your safety. An untrained, aggressive pit who takes food out of your mouth with his mouth is dangerous (says captain obvious).
Also, the 10 hours in a kennel sitch: that’s a no-go. There needs to be a new solution there. Tell the trainer this is a thing.
Once y’all have a grip on the dog, and there’s reliable, predictable, consistent, acceptable behavior happening, I recommend torching all the furniture, having the carpets and drapes replaced, maybe a little fumigation, and then you can allow your stuff to mingle with his.
p.s. Dogs understand predictable consequences, rewards, and outcomes. But dogs don’t have boundaries, just so you know.
p.p.s. Partners thinking about living together should also consider compatibilities and ask themselves these questions before moving in. Then, to learn how to deal with each other well, join me in my next Happy in Love Workshop — it’s easy — it’s over the phone or computer.