Posted on: December 21, 2022 Posted by: Petsynse Comments: 0


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We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: Do you think someone can truly be a good person if they don’t love dogs? I have a boyfriend whom I could really see a future with — except that he doesn’t love dogs. I have such a problem with that.

He has never had a dog, says he has never wanted one, and, when he is around my dog, seems mostly indifferent. On the other hand, he’s smart and funny and successful and kind. But it hurts me that he and I will go out and have a wonderful time together, and then we’ll return to my house and I just want to hug my dog but my boyfriend is standing back like he thinks my dog is going to bite him or something. It just feels like it is a character red flag not to love dogs, isn’t it?

Must Love Dogs

Must Love Dogs: A partner will not — and cannot — have all the same interests and enthusiasms as you. This does not necessarily mean they are the wrong person for you, much less that they have a breakup-worthy character flaw! If your whole life revolved around dogs (your work, your hobbies, your home decor, your friendships) and your partner refused to express even a begrudging interest in them, that might be a problem. Even then it wouldn’t be a character flaw, just a compatibility issue. You don’t paint him as hostile or resentful, just indifferent. I’d say let yourself be slightly sad to not have a partner with the same love of dogs as you, and then give your funny, kind, smart, successful partner a hug.

— Loves Dogs, But My Partner Doesn’t Need To

Must Love Dogs: “Indifferent” to dogs and hating dogs are two separate and distinct mindsets. It sounds like your boyfriend is uncomfortable with dogs because he does not know them; essentially, he doesn’t speak their language. The larger question is would he be willing to get to know your dog enough to care for it and include it as you need him to in the context of a family? Yes, I know it is your dog and your responsibility, but partner illness, work obligations, veterinary emergencies, and child-raising have a way of making sure that all family members are on deck for a pet.

It’s worth asking if fear of dogs is part of your boyfriend’s story. I have a parent who was very afraid of dogs after having been bitten on multiple occasions by a neighbor’s dog. They always had a healthy respect for working dogs and their role in society, but personal interactions with dogs were uneasy. After almost 50 years from their trauma, watching my parent take the risk just to pet my new, calm dog was something really special. (Their mutual hatred of squirrels aided a bond.)

Must Love Dogs: It’s an age-old conundrum: Can I change my partner? What boundaries do we each have? What are my non-negotiables? You suggest that someone’s comfort level with pets could be a character flaw; surely that’s hyperbole, right? Because if you mean it, do this man a favor and let him go. If your non-negotiables include must currently love dogs, throw this partner back in the sea and try again!

But really, this is probably an issue worth talking about: If he’s just indifferent to your dog, can you live with that if it never changes? Is he opposed to things you might expect or be comfortable with such as: dogs on the couch or bed, taking dogs on trips in a car, or basic tasks of feeding and caring for a dog? If so, a long-term partnership could be a challenge.

If, on the other hand, he’s great boyfriend material and just indifferent to dogs, make peace with that. It’s fine to hope that he changes. I say this as a husband who was a “no pets inside, well okay, maybe a cat, oh look a dog, I-am-not-a-dog-person” person, who now has two daily walks with one of my best friends, our dog. I’m a dog person. But, still no dogs on the bed!

— Tim Wheeler

Must Love Dogs: I married a man who was indifferent to my dog, and I have to say that, in his case, it was a red flag that I wished I’d heeded. Over time his indifference actually turned into annoyance whenever my dog sought his attention — which was often because she desperately wanted him to love her like I did. Also, as my dog got older and her care needs increased, he had no interest in helping me with her. This was difficult because she was a large dog and lifting her was a challenge for me.

In the end, my husband and I separated for various additional reasons, but they all basically revolved around the themes of lack of empathy and selfishness. I realize there are legitimate reasons for some people to dislike or fear dogs, but I do think it’s important to parse out what those underlying reasons are and determine if it’s something you’re willing to live with for the rest of your life.

— Penny Otrera

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.