How to know if you should get a pet with a partner

couple with a pet cartoon
It’s almost like having a child… (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s no surprise that since the pandemic, getting a pet has become more popular.

Who wouldn’t crave the joy and happiness pets bring by greeting us at the door when we come home, or when they curl up next to us on the sofa?

But getting a pet comes with many considerations – even more so when you’re thinking about doing it with a partner.

If you have been together with someone for a while, have moved in together, and are planning for a future together, getting a pet seems like a logical next move – a stepping stone towards maybe having children, even.

But is it really a good idea? Are the foundations of your relationship strong enough to care for a pet mutually? Will you and your partner share the caring of your pet equally? What happens to the pet if your relationship breaks down? How will the relationship impact your pet’s wellbeing too?

We spoke to some relationship experts for their advice on how to know if it’s the right time to make this commitment:

A pet is almost like having a child

Founder of dating app POM, Vihan Patel says: ‘A pet is a massive responsibility and I believe people should see a pet in the same way as they would a child. Whether you get a dog or a fish, you now have a living thing dependent on you to take care of it.

Pitter patter. A large breed dog’s resting heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute, and a small dog breed’s heart beats between 100-140. Comparatively, a resting human heart beats 60-100 times per minute.

‘Similar to having a baby with a partner, when you think about getting a pet, your relationship should be as stable as possible… and living together is the most ideal situation,’ he adds.

Kamal Fernandez, a dog sports and behaviour specialist representing dog food company ProDogRaw, agrees. He specifically emphasises the need for a routine, the same way you would have with a child – as many parents can attest to.

‘You want to have a solid routine, home and work life before getting a pet, whilst ensuring both parties are fully on board. Having someone to assist you and experience the journey together can be incredibly bonding, but a lack of structure and uncertainty can create problems,’ he says.

There is no ‘right time’ to get a pet

Vihan says you and your partner should see a future together before considering having a pet, but there is no perfect time for that to happen.

‘Timing is a funny thing, and many people will argue there isn’t a perfect time for anything in life but it’s just when the time is right for you… So, the answer to this is no, there isn’t a ‘right time’ to get a pet with your partner,’ Vihan continues.

The main thing is that you and your partner should be in a happy relationship and should be committed to each other and to your future pet.

Many couples will wait at least a year or two into the relationship before getting a pet to be affirmed that both of you are in it for the long run with each other and with the little dog, cat, or whatever.

Make sure your relationship is strong enough to withstand the responsibility

Cartoon Couple at Home Resting on Couch Watching Movie and Eating Popcorn Vector Illustration. Domestic Relax Evening. Man and Woman on Cozy Sofa, Family Leisure Tv Television Entertainment Indoors
Relationships need to be strong to deal with any pet issues (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘A pet is a huge commitment to anyone,’ Vihan emphasises. ‘However, when sharing this responsibility, you are now dependent on one another for so much more.

‘There are so many elements to caring for a pet, therefore, sharing this new workload can sometimes cause issues within some relationships when one partner isn’t pulling their weight.’

Limit treats to training rewards. This is an excellent way to make sure your dog views treats as special rather than expected. It’s also helpful in keeping your pet from becoming overweight or obese. Feed a species-appropriate diet, and partner with a holistic or integrative vet to maintain your pet’s well-being.

While having a pet can bring you closer together, the pet could also lead to more issues in your relationship or heighten existing ones, if the foundation of your relationship is not strong enough for that responsibility and commitment.

Vihan adds: ‘The biggest thing you need to consider is if you’re going to stay together.’

If your relationship doesn’t have effective communication about your true feelings, and one or both of you aren’t sure about staying together, getting a pet won’t fix that and in fact could make it worse.

The pet will be negatively impacted if your relationship cannot withstand the ebbs and flows of life, and you should absolutely wonder what will happen to the pet if and when you break up.

Communication is key

How you talk to each other in a relationship is always substantially important, but even more so if you have a pet together and are sharing the financial and caring responsibilities.

Vihan says: ‘You should be truthful when it comes to your true feelings in any circumstances, however when it comes to getting a pet and joint responsibility, it’s vital.’

You need to have a prior understanding of your relationship as a whole, who your partner is, what they contribute to pet ownership, and whether having a pet will cause arguments that may not have arisen before.

Communicating issues like this well ahead of time, and approaching your partner with whatever issues you feel are present in your relationship before getting a pet will pave the way for a healthier relationship for everyone involved.

Don’t jump into it lightly

Pets take a lot of commitment, and this commitment can last a long time depending on the type of pet you get. Making a spontaneous decision to get a pet is not a good idea in the slightest.

The cheese will melt just enough to stick to the inside of the Kong.

Though a pet can be a huge bonding factor, according to Kamal, it is also a major challenge – especially if you adopt a pet that has had previous challenges.

He says: ‘You must also be able to provide your pet with everything they need to lead a healthy life, including access to a vet and a nutritionally rich diet.

‘Meanwhile, you must be willing to invest time in researching what your pet needs, their unique dietary requirements and how best you can support their wellbeing.’

Your pet should be a priority

As the old saying goes, a pet is for life, not just for Christmas.

Heidi Maskelyne, CEO of ProDog Raw highlights that pets, and dogs especially, can live for a long time.

She says: ‘Dogs are a 12-15 year constant responsibility and they require a high level of dedication. Your dog (or other pet) often relies on you whole-heartedly and that is not something you should take likely.’

In terms of getting a pet with a partner, you need to make sure you can provide that pet with consistency. Pets need and deserve consistency in schedules and in the love the receive.

The pet’s overall wellbeing and happiness should be a major priority for you as soon as you get it, so consider whether you can make that your focus when getting a pet with your partner.

Vihan agreed, commenting: ‘When you get a pet, you can’t be selfish, as all you do will directly impact it.’

‘If you get a pet together when you’re not ready, your dog may suffer. Pets pick up on our negative emotions and stress which makes them anxious in turn,’ Heidi says.
Divorced couple, separation of broken marriage end of relationship concept, hand using scissors to cut rope to rip apart couple, troubles man and woman with sadness emotion.
You need to make sure there is a back-up plan in place if you and your partner split up (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

Is it a duck…or a dog? The Newfoundland breed has a water resistant coat and webbed feet. This dog was originally bred to help haul nets for fishermen and rescuing people at risk of drowning.

Heidi added that it is common for pets to be left alone more after an argument or a breakdown of the relationship, and the pet will see either partner less frequently.

On occasion, the pet is re-homed because the financial implications and caring responsibilities become too much to bear for one person, which can negatively impact the pet.

Vihan recommends having a back-up plan if your relationship doesn’t work out before taking this step, as it is important for each partner and for the pet.

‘If you and your partner are thinking about taking this leap, please have an understanding on who will take on the sole responsibility of caring for the pet if this ever does happen, not just for the both of you, but the animal too,’ he says.

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