How Dogs Can Have Positive Impact On Relationships

helloBARK! staff
By helloBARK! staff
Updated on November 19, 2019

It’s well known that our canine companions can improve our own physical and mental health, but new research has found that they benefit our human relationships too.

Rover.com, the world’s largest dog sitting and walking platform, has found that 60% of couples who own a dog say their relationship has become stronger since getting one, and half (50%) now say they now spend more quality time together with their partner.

These couples agree that getting a dog requires teamwork (88%) and trust (65%) with 43% becoming more attracted to their partner since getting a dog. The findings also show that meeting someone who is a ‘dog person’ is a top priority for Brits, with over a third (36%) claiming it would be a deal-breaker when looking for a potential partner.

However, despite sussing out a date’s desire for a dog early on, adding a four-legged friend into the family isn’t a decision that couples take lightly, with a third (33%) waiting six years or more before reaching this milestone. This is explained by almost the same percentage (28%) saying that getting a dog is one of the biggest signs of commitment in a relationship, more so than opening a joint bank account (14%) and meeting the in-laws (6%). Moreover, millennials view dog ownership and moving in together as near equal level of commitment (34% and 33% respectively).

And whilst young couples today are in no hurry to settle down, opting to marry and have children later in life than previous generations[1], over half of Brits (54%) say that having a pup is great practice for starting a family. The sleepless nights and toilet training are just a few of the reasons why two fifths (41%) are now more confident in their own and their partner’s childcare skills. Overwhelmingly, 83% agree that having a dog already makes them feel like a family, and in a sign of the times, a fifth of millennials (21%) are choosing to live their life childfree, opting solely for dog ownership instead.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing; owning a dog is a sure-fire test of a relationship and one that will require some compromise. One in six (17%) say they have less sex now that they have a dog, as their pup shares a bed with them. And social lives also take a knock, with a third (30%) heading out separately so there is always someone around to dog sit and almost half of couples (46%) even admitting that they’ve missed a night out to look after their dog.

In the event that a relationship runs its course, in order to avoid a bitter custody battle, a fifth of millennial couples (18%) has a precautionary ‘pet-nup’ in place to decide who will take responsibility for the dog should they break up – this rises to over a quarter for Londoners (28%). For 28% of all cases, the couple would hold joint custody meaning their dog would need to live between two homes.

Hayley Quinn, dating expert for Match says:

Getting a dog together is a huge commitment; co-parenting a pet requires teamwork, the ability to compromise and of course good communication skills. Whilst on the surface it may sound like hard work, owning a pet together can also improve the quality of your relationship. Seeing your partner demonstrate their emotional traits, such as care and compassion can be extremely attractive and as this study shows, increase sexual desire.

Quinn adds:

It’s important to ensure that even in between the care (and often sleepless nights!), you still carve out quality time together for you and your partner. Make your bedroom a dog-free zone and take time out to go on date nights. Dog sitting platforms like Rover.com make that possible and you can enjoy an evening guilt-free knowing that your dog is in safe hands. A happy relationship will make for a happy home for your pet.

Louise Glazebrook, Dog Behaviourist Expert for Rover.com shares her top tips for a happy dog and a happy relationship:

• 1) Taking the time to consider the type of dog you get as a couple is crucial as you need to look at your current lifestyle but also try to think ahead too, which can be tricky. You need to look at the types of breed (and their associated personality traits) that will suit your lifestyle and also think about whether you want to go through with adopting an older dog or raising a puppy. You must also try and think about how a dog will change throughout its lifespan, as it’s important to take on a dog that you can keep forever.

• 2) Signing a pet-nup before you get a dog is a new trend, but one I’d encourage couples to consider. It means you can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event that you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody of your dog. This will allow you and your dog to settle into a new routine quickly – this is the most important thing for canine mental health. It’s a real tragedy to see breakups result in dogs needing to be rehomed, so laying out an agreement that works for all parties is the most sensible and fair approach.

• 3) Raising a dog can be great practice for having kids, but you should never think of your pup as a placeholder. If you plan to start a family, you need to consider how the dog will transition into this new dynamic and train them accordingly. Often dog owners will be relaxed about behaviours such as barking or separation anxiety, until a baby comes along and suddenly they become unacceptable. Ensure that you train your dog in a responsible way that will allow them to transition smoothly into a new family dynamic down the line.

• 4) If you’re a ‘dog person’ but your partner definitely isn’t, it’s important not to force dog ownership on them. It’s a big commitment that comes with multiple responsibilities and lifestyle changes that you need to be equally prepared to make. There are many other routes to having the love of dogs into your life that you can consider, such as volunteering at a local animal charity or signing up as a dog walker on a platform like Rover.com in your spare time.