Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our February/March issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Oh, the joy of a new relationship — the tickle and flip-flop feeling when you think of your new love, full of anticipation for the next call or text. All you can think of is the next contact. But is that the case for dog-passionate people? You know the ones, whose phone and Facebook have more photos of their dogs than their family?
A new relationship takes time and may take you away from your favorite canine. But you can include your dog on your dates and romantic retreats with your newfound love. Dogs can be great ice-breakers, not to mention security blankets, for those who are insecure in the dating realm.
Adam Johnson, blogger for The Big Fling, said, “My girlfriend and I are dog lovers. The truth is, we probably wouldn’t be in a relationship otherwise. As Jessica, my girlfriend, would say: ‘If four legs aren’t in the future, there isn’t one.’ Suffice to say, dogs have been a part of our relationship since the beginning.”
Meeting new people can always be a challenge, particularly if you are over the bar scene. Add to that your dedication to your canine companion, and you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. But no worries, there are a lot of fun ways to meet another dog lover.
Volunteer for your favorite dog charity or rescue. Not only will you be doing a good deed, your heart will feel good, and you’ll be meeting people who truly care about dogs.
Use social media. With social media, it’s easy to find people with the same interests. Facebook is full of dog groups: from breed groups, to local groups, you can find a Facebook group to join for pretty much any hobby.
Join a dog Meetup group. Meetup.com is an online community that helps people meet in person across the world. You are able to find groups of local people with the same interests, or even start your own group.
Here are some ways to include your furry valentine.
Pack a picnic. Put on your coats and head to an out-of-the-way spot at your local park so you, your love, and your dog can enjoy some bonding time. Picnics can be an intimate yet casual way to get to know each other. Your dog will enjoy the adventure, and you will get a good idea about how your new beau feels about the great outdoors and your furry friend. Packing a picnic that all of you can enjoy can be quite fun.
Go the beach. A dog beach that is! Although the weather may be cooler, that’s no reason to stay away from the beach. Imagine yourself walking in the sand, holding hands as your dog frolics in the sand — a picture-perfect date.
Play fetch. If your dog enjoys a good game of fetch, grab his favorite fetch toy and have a good time playing. This is great exercise for your dog, and a nice bonding opportunity for you and your new beau. If your pooch isn’t into fetching, wading in the waves can be fun, if you live in a warmer state. If the three of you are looking for more of an adventure, you can even look into renting a kayak or paddle board — just don’t forget your dog’s life-vest.
Go out to dinner. A romantic outdoor dog-friendly cafe can be an excellent date choice, offering the classic date feel while your dog is still by your side. When deciding if you should visit an outdoor cafe with your dog, there are a few dos and don’ts to consider.
First, your dog must be socially appropriate and well behaved. When taking a dog in a public venue, particularly one with tight spaces, your dog must be both people- and dog-friendly. Your dog should have pretty good manners and settle down during meal time. Your dog should not be barky. Don’t allow your dog to be a nuisance; keep him out of the way, and try to ask for a spot in the corner. Do make sure your dog is healthy and well-groomed.
Always ask first if your dog can accompany you. Not all outdoor cafes allow dogs. Even if you see other dogs, this does not mean it is pet-friendly, as they may be working dogs. Do fill a rubber treat toy with your dog’s food and freeze prior to attending the cafe. Then when you get there, ask your dog to lie down under the table or close to your chair as he eats his toy. When walking in and out of the cafe, keep your dog very close to you, and do not allow him to sniff other people, or be in their space.
It’s not all roses and puppy kisses — relationships take work. Russell Friedman, executive director of The Grief Recovery Institute, said, “All arguments between couples are predicated on each of us believing that we are 100 percent right about what we know and believe. With that basic truth, when our mate thinks or believes something different than we do, that means that she or he is wrong. This is absolutely parallel with couples arguing about child rearing.”
Whether a couple is arguing over the dog’s bad manners, vet bills, or allergies, it is never pretty. As a professional dog counselor for 20 years, I can attest that the family dog can be a sore spot for couples. I’ve seen couples argue over daily care of the dog (feeding, walks, baths, etc.), household rules, who’s going to train the dog, and more. Arguing over the dog can be devastating, and has been known to break up relationships.
For example, Patricia Wellmeier joined an online dating site and specifically stated in her profile that the man had to at least like dogs, if not have one. She met a man who not only had a dog but was obsessed with him. She told me, “We could hardly go anywhere without him. He even cut one of our trips short because he missed his dog.” The dog was ill-mannered, and Patricia’s new beau didn’t care. But he did have a problem with Patricia’s four well-behaved dogs, even going as far as to request she board them when she stayed with him. Needless to say, that romance did not stand the test of time.
Some dog parents, like Patricia’s beau, are so bonded with their dog that their relationship doesn’t have room for anyone new. Throw into the mix a career-oriented professional, and free time is even more limited. I know that I sometimes fit into this category, and it is something I actively work on. When I have free time — and there isn’t a lot of it — my biggest joy is to spend quality time with Dexter, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Although a significant other would be nice, right now I don’t feel there is room.
But on the flip side, I’ve personally seen couples’ bonds grow after working through a dog’s behavioral problem. When a couple has a common goal and they relate to their dog on an emotional level, the teamwork can be amazing.
Dr. Shawn Haywood, a certified relationship and life coaching expert, said, “Let go of pride — it doesn’t matter whose commands are right, it only matters that you’re on the same page so your sweet pup can have consistency, and you and your honey can have calm. Additionally, be aware of ‘using’ your pup to begin arguments or to create division in a relationship. This typically happens when a relationship is lacking in closeness, emotional engagement, and vulnerable connection.”
For dog-loving couples already in a longterm relationship, keeping the relationship fresh and exciting can be a challenge. Every day, appreciate and focus on your significant other. Don’t just reminisce about good times, create them.
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About the author: Tonya Wilhelm, dog training specialist, author, and public speaker, has traveled the U.S. promoting positive, holistic dog training at seminars and pet expos. She has authored several books and is a frequent blogger and magazine contributor. Visit Tonya at globaldogtraining.com.