Puppy love

How your four-legged friend can be hurt­ing or help­ing your re­la­tion­ship

Richmond Hill Post - - Life - DR. JESS Jess O’Reilly is a sought-af­ter speaker, au­thor and sex­ol­o­gist (www.SexWithDrJess.com).

Dog own­er­ship is on the rise across the city, and al­though fam­i­lies with kids are most likely to own a pup, dog own­er­ship is grow­ing among DINK (dou­blein­come no-kids) cou­ples and empty nesters who con­sider their dogs a part of their fam­i­lies.

Some cou­ples, like my hus­band and me, view dog own­er­ship as a re­la­tion­ship en­hancer. While I’m trav­el­ling for work, Lido, our Pomera­nian, keeps Bran­don com­pany, and we see our love for her as yet another shared pas­sion that en­hances our bond.

Oth­ers, how­ever, re­port that the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of dog own­er­ship can put a strain on the re­la­tion­ship. Lea­side res­i­dents Gary* and Keith* have a six-yearold Lab, and they ad­mit that she’s a source of con­flict.

When it comes to fight­ing about their pup, Gary and Keith are not alone. Ac­cord­ing to one sur­vey, own­ing a dog leads to an av­er­age of three fights per week — 2,000 over the course of your hound’s life! Cou­ples fight about walk­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, where Fido should sleep, how much to spend on food and ve­teri­nary care and dog sit­ting ar­range­ments dur­ing travel sea­son.

Of­ten­times, an ar­gu­ment about your dog is a symp­tom of re­la­tion­ship ten­sion. For ex­am­ple, when you fight about walk­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, you may be ad­dress­ing deeper is­sues re­lated to di­vi­sion of house­hold labour. Like­wise when you dis­agree about whether or not you should splurge on a de­signer col­lar, it’s likely re­flec­tive of diver­gent fi­nan­cial values that were pre-ex­isted your four-legged friend’s ar­rival.

Even with all the fights, re­search sug­gests that dog own­er­ship of­fers a host of re­la­tion­ship ben­e­fits. Stud­ies sug­gest dog own­ers are more phys­i­cally ac­tive and re­port lower stress lev­els — both of which are associated with a more ac­tive sex life. Sur­vey re­search also sug­gests that own­ing a dog makes you more at­trac­tive.

A furry fam­ily mem­ber may also im­prove your at­ti­tude to­ward your part­ner, as the pres­ence of a dog in group sit­u­a­tions is pos­i­tively cor­re­lated with an in­crease in trust, co-op­er­a­tion, en­thu­si­asm and in­ti­macy. Own­ing a dog is also associated with lower blood pres­sure, and pet­ting a pup can re­sult in the re­lease of “feel good” hor­mones in­clud­ing sero­tonin, pro­lactin and oxy­tocin.

Even if you don’t own a dog, shar­ing cute puppy pics can en­hance your re­la­tion­ship. Re­search re­veals that look­ing at pos­i­tive images along­side pho­tos of your part­ner re­sults in a more favourable at­ti­tude to­ward your re­la­tion­ship.

If puppy pics aren’t enough, check out the Part Time Pooch app, which matches Toronto dog lovers with dogs look­ing for walks, play vis­its and board­ing. (*Names have been changed.)

Dr. Jess and her ca­nine com­pan­ion Lido

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