If you think you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level, the “next big step” could be as simple as having a DTR (determining the relationship) talk or as exciting as moving into an apartment together. But if you’ve always been a cat ladyor just love giving dogs hugs, you may have something else in mind that can be even longer-term than signing a lease: getting a pet with your S.O. We spoke with relationship expert Erik Newton of Together, an online magazine and podcast all about the complicated and wonderful world of relationships, to find out the four main topics you and bae should consider — and agree on — before you buy that adorable pooch together.
1. Splitting Up the Responsibility: “Pets always seem to raise the issue of time for couples,” Erik points out. “Usually, both people feel like they’re doing more pet care than the other, and resentment builds up. So the first thing to consider is whether you each have the time to devote to pet care. Then talk about who is going to be responsible for what, so that everyone agrees up front. But don’t be surprised if once the pet arrives, all your careful plans go out the window.” Then, work through the new scenario… together.
2. Sharing Pet-Related Expenses: From the basics, like food and toys, to daycare while you’re on vacay and unforeseeable illnesses, pets cost A LOT of money — probably more than you even expect. And we all know money can be an uncomfortable topic, but you gotta do it if you’re getting a pet together. “Just as with time management, couples should first make sure they can afford a pet, and then discuss how they’re sharing costs,” Erik advises. “If the couple has joint finances, they should discuss which pet-related expenses are appropriate and which are not.”
3. Official Ownership… Just in Case: Erik acknowledges that this discussion might be a little dark, but necessary. “Couples might want to discuss ownership in case of a breakup. Pets are considered personal property by the law, and when there’s a dispute as to custody, courts give the pet to whichever person paid for it,” he points out. “To avoid that anguish, it’s best to have an agreement up front.”
4. Being Devoted to Bonding and Training Time: “Closely related to the time issue is bonding and training,” says Erik. “Pets need a lot of extra time up front in order to adjust to their new home. Couples should make sure they can devote that early on, or the pet may end up chronically misbehaving.” Read: Pets are a lot of work. If you aren’t sure you’re ready, try pet-sitting for a friend to really find out if you can meet all of the demands of a sweet little (potentially destructive and needy) puppy or cat.
The bottom line: “If these discussions are too hard, then the couple probably isn’t ready,” Erik says.