When Mireya Navarro fell in love with Jim, who had children from a former marriage, she knew she would have to confront the challenges of becoming a step-parent. She did not anticipate, however, that the main resistance to her presence would come not from Jim’s children but from his pet.
“I underestimated the dog,” is the opening sentence of Stepdog, Navarro’s new memoir—a touching, funny, and all-too-real account of her struggle to get along with her new husband’s dog, Eddie. Stepdog details the lengthy battle that ensued with Eddie, and the lengths to which she had to go to win him over to create peace in her new home.
Navarro is not alone. Pets are a frequent source of disagreement for new couples. One study found that, on average, dogs can cause three couple arguments a week—or 2,000 arguments over their life together. Topics of disagreement can range from who should walk the dog or clean up after it to whether the dog should be allowed on the bed or sofa to whether it should be fed scraps from the dinner table.
As Navarro discovered, while advice from friends and acquaintances is not difficult to come by, implementing that advice, and, especially, getting on the same page as your partner is not necessarily easy. Dogs are likely to behave very differently when their original owners are present than when they are left with their step-owner. As a result, an issue apparent one minute (like hostile growling) might be absent the next.
Dogs are not the only pets that present step-parenting challenges to new couples. In my years in private practice, I’ve heard stories of similar step-pet battles involving cats (which can be just as creative as dogs when expressing disdain for the person who has "invaded" their home), snakes (not everyone is comfortable living with a python in a glass tank that feeds on live mice), rodents (some people consider them adorable; others, vermin), and even birds (especially those that were trained to "say" words one person considers hilarious and the other, profane).
Compounding the issue, many pet owners assume, “My pet was here first,” and therefore feel it is up to their new partner to make peace with the animal, one way or the other. Often, the "other" way is actually the ‘highway. One poll by petside.com and the Associated Press found that 14% of people would choose their pet over their new paramour if the two were in conflict.
How to Make Peace with Your Partner’s Pet
If you find yourself having problems adjusting to you new partner's pet, consider the following steps:
Copyright 2015 Guy Winch