want a dog

What to Do If Your Roommate Wants a Dog but You Don’t

want a dog

Flickr, Pete Beard “Norbert” the Norfolk terrier

So what do you do when your roommate wants a dog, and you don’t fancy the idea? Sharing with another person needs give and take on both sides. Trust me I have been there. You need to like the person quite a lot to make living with them work.

This does not mean letting them roll you over and take control over the space. You have your rights, and you must stand up for them. You really only have four choices when you don’t want the dog your roommate wants to move in.

These four decision points are:

  • Manage the situation by controlling the owner
  • Let the dog in and put up with it whatever it does
  • Convince your roommate the dog has to go
  • Get out of the joint lease and get on with your life

I’ll get down to those four points shortly. But I’d first like to share why some people need to have dogs in the first place. When we understand why our roommate needs a dog, we may have the makings of a solution to the problem.

small child with dog

Flickr, lovecatz, PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES…Jim Croce

Understand the Deeper Reasons Why Your Roommate Loves Dogs

Knowing these will help you understand your roommate’s reasons for wanting a dog and so deal with the situation

  • Dogs adapted to humans over thousands of years as they followed them on their nomadic wanderings. Their stomachs adapted for human food, and they learned to protect their owners from danger.
  • Dogs also learned to share eye contact and understand what their owners expected. In the process, they also learned how to manipulate us. When a dog lies on its back, and you scratch its tummy you just fell for it again.
  • Dogs are the only animals who long to do what humans want, and to be with us all the time. We couldn’t wish for a better companion. All they need from us in return is recognition, a friendly pat of thanks, and their food every day.
  • Most of us had a dog as a pet when we were kids, or at least there was one in the family. The dog followed us everywhere we went. No matter how bad things seemed to be, our pet kept pouring out unconditional affection.
  • We treasure those memories of childhood and wish we could go back to those simpler days. Owning a dog when we are adults rekindles those fond pleasures when life was so much simpler.

If your roommate announces they are getting a dog, one of these is likely to be the reason.

So what do you do if you are uncomfortable with the idea? Do you put up with it, negotiate the rules, prevent the dog moving in, or move out yourself?

Option 1: Manage the Situation by Controlling the Owner

Okay the dog your roommate really wanted has moved in and it’s causing you hassle.

Maybe the dog has already been sharing for a while, and you started reading at this point. Who knows? However, here are two very important points you need to get your mind around:

  • There is no such thing as a bad dog, but there are plenty of bad dog owners

Dogs absolutely adore their owners. They will do anything they want but it takes them time to figure out that their owner wants them to do. Therefore if you want to manage the situation you have to work on the owner.

  • Dogs only learn things from their owner. They put up with the rest of us

Dogs are like kids growing up. They test the boundaries with the ultimate aim of being the alpha male or female over the pack, and that pack is your roommate and you.

Now it’s not your job to sort out the problem. After all, it’s your roommate who wanted the dog and you have your rights to enjoy living in the apartment you share. So here are the three rules of the game you have a right to expect.

Rule 1: Your Roommate is Responsible for All Dog Chores

Your roommate is clearly a demanding type because they rolled you over to the extent you allowed the dog in. That could be the sharp end of the poop scoop, so to speak when they ask you to help with the dog-related chores.

  • You may be the best of friends, but true friends don’t enforce favors
  • Therefore, you do not pay for dog food, wipe the pee or pick up the poop
  • You do not pay to replace the pillows and cushions the dog destroys
  • Walking the dog, so it gets the exercise it needs is not your problem
  • You don’t have to apologize to the landlord and neighbors when it barks

Rule 2: You Have a Right to Set the Boundaries for the Dog’s Behavior

If your roommate loves their dog so much they let it sleep on their bed, and drool on the pillow that’s their business. However you have a right not to let that happen in your room and you shouldn’t have to keep the room closed.

Explain to your roommate you did them a favor by agreeing to the dog because they wanted one. However this should not mean they can drop their hairs all over the chair where you watch television, or keep you awake all night with their yapping.

The dog and your roommate will push the boundaries towards you if you allow it because it’s a natural thing. Sharing with another person means being fair to each other, and not taking over the turf.

bad dog

Rules 3: Don’t Pretend There are No Problems, Discuss Them

Many dog owners believe their dogs are as good as they mistakenly think they are. They could never possibly do anything wrong. In fact some positively deny it. This is a tough nut to crack if the animal provides their owner emotional support.

  • If you don’t nip this problem in the bud your roommate’s dog could become the elephant in your life. You have to put your foot down unless you want to sleep with a pillow on your head while the dog barks at two in the morning.
  • What you should do instead is keep the dog’s behavior in the open by discussing it with your roommate. It’s okay to say “the dog behaved well last night” over breakfast, although other dog problems are best left until later.
  • This is particularly important if the place needs cleaning or the dog damaged something. Your roommate will gradually begin to realize they have a dog problem, or hopefully that they are a bad dog owner.

Do Behaviour Shaping with your Roommate?

A Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov discovered his dogs drooled when they heard the footsteps of his assistant who gave them food. He realized this association was shaping their behavior by rewarding them emotionally.

This was the beginning of scientific behaviour shaping, and you can use the method to quietly encourage your roommate to take a more positive approach to their dog. They will start rewarding the animal for behaving the way you, not they want, and you will eventually get your way.

This is a really neat method to get what you want, and it should work if you are patient and are prepared to invest your time. Unfortunately this assumes your roommate cares as much about you as they do for the dog.

But what do you do if your roommate wants the dog the way it is. And this matters more to them than your happiness? There comes a time in every relationship when it is time to stand your ground. You may have approached the moment when it is either the dog or you.

Option 2: Put Up with the Dog for Your Roommate’s Sake

Sharing living space is a question of hoping you end up with a roommate you can get on with and share the chores. You may even have an old schoolmate, and the two of you decide to share. All is looking good until your roommate announces they adopted a pooch from the animal rescue and they are fetching it over the weekend.

dog on couch

Flickr, Kazuko Oguma, Hana on the Couch

Your brain is suddenly in turmoil. You had a roommate bust-up with them two months ago and are still taking strain. You remember them telling you their counselor suggested they consider an emotional support animal. You rush for google and do a quick search to discover more.

You learn that emotional support animals (EPA’s) are a big deal and the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) says if their owner has a letter from a medical specialist a landlord may not refuse them.

We have a great guide for what to do if your roommate wants an emotional support dog ESA.

However, your friend says this is not the case. They just feel like the company. So what do you do now?

  • Do you decide to ignore your friend’s feelings
  • Or do you say, what the heck let’s try it out

For the record, the National Institute of Medical Health says an emotional support dog may assist with the following conditions:

  • Anxiety or chronic depression
  • Bipolar disorder, mood disorder
  • Panic attacks, fear or phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts/tendencies

You decide to jump in at the deep end and see how the dog turns out. Sure, you say to your roommate ‘It’s your home, and I want you to be happy.’

You tell yourself sharing living space is about give and take. But will your plans wok out and what are you going to do if they don’t.

friends with dogs

Flickr, Kurman Communiations, DSC07557 Mike and Deanna Munro (Addison) with Maizey and Lucy

Option 3: Tell Your Roommate Their Dog Has to Go

dog must go

Flickr, Normanack the things I have to put up with

First figure out what happens to the dog if your roommate stays on, but agrees the dog has to go. Remember the principle, you must be reasonable and consider their feelings. The dog also has rights under the Animal Welfare Act 1966.

  • The dog must have lived somewhere else before it arrived. Where was that, will the people take it back?
  • If it was a rescue dog, then the animal shelter may take it back and rehome it, on the basis the adoption did not work out
  • If not, try convincing your roommate the apartment is too small for the dog and they must find it another home

Of course, if the dog is an emotional support animal you probably don’t have a chance. It doesn’t really matter whether it has official status or not. You are in the minority when you say you don’t want your roommate’s dog.

You are between a rock and a hard place, especially if there is a medical letter backing it up. Skip the rest of this section and move directly to Option 4, which is moving out and finding another space to live.

Of course, you could always try the reasonable approach again, but it might be too late for a second time around. Here are the steps to follow if you find yourself in this bind.

a, Explain your problem to your roommate and help them understand

Find a quiet moment when your roommate is in a friendly, relaxed mood. Have the conversation away from the apartment and the dog in neutral space if possible. Share how, and why their pet is a problem, and what you have done to try to fix things from your side.

Approach the situation as a shared problem. Explain you have a joint lease on the place, or at least a shared responsibility to look after it and act responsibly. Say you really want to recover the situation, but your roommate’s dog is making this difficult.

Provide practical examples of what is troubling you. Here are some ideas to help you focus your thoughts:

  • Yesterday at three in the morning the dog was scratching on your door like it wanted to go out
  • The people from number six were horrid to you in the lift going down about the dog barking
  • The letting agent phoned you at work to complain the garbage is stinking of dog poop
  • There’s dog hair everywhere. It’s on your clothes. You’re sorry you can’t take this anymore

Your roommate should understand these problems if they’re honest, because they will be experiencing them too. They may even ask you for advice on what to do next.

b. Make practical suggestions to solve the problem as mentioned earlier

Your roommate will have already formed their own opinion about the dog. The fact they have not done anything about getting rid of it suggests they have not given up. They may have a totally different worldview on the subject.

People find it difficult to change their opinions when they base these on deep-seated emotions. This is especially the case when we have to re-examine our beliefs about ourselves and our world. Never underestimate the power of the bond between a person and their dog.

Try to figure out your roommate’s thoughts about the situation before you move into this delicate phase in the negotiations.

  • Does the dog frustrate them enough to want to get rid of it themselves?
  • If you think this is the case, then what is stopping them from doing this?
  • How powerful is the bond between your roommate and the animal?
  • Do they love it, like it, or is this just a phase they are passing through?

Your answers to these questions will tell you how best to present your proposal that your roommate’s dog has to go. Here are a few suggestions you could try although they may not apply to your situation.

However, before we start, we should mention you could be facing a real challenge. The secret, as you may discover is meeting the person where they are in their world, and affirming their viewpoint. Then, and only then, can you move forward to finding a solution.

Start the conservation on neutral ground

  1. Begin by confirming they have a wonderful dog, and you would love to keep it on if you were sharing a house with a garden. Talk about how frustrated the dog must be about not being able to run free and lie in the sun all day long.
  1. Then change the pitch slightly by explaining how the dog’s frustration is affecting your personally. Say things like ‘we need to find a solution for the sake of the dog.’
  1. Never direct a word of criticism towards your roommate or the dog you don’t want. For if you do, your companion will become defensive, raise their screens, and not listen to, or absorb anything you say.

Offer possibilities, not negative criticisms

Suggest solutions beginning with words like ‘did you ever consider,’ ‘perhaps it would fairer to the dog’ and ‘maybe this place is not right for you because.’ At the end of the day, there are probably only three possible outcomes. These are likely to be:

  • Your roommate and the dog you don’t want still share the place with you
  • Your roommate re-homes the dog, and the roommate stays on and shares the rent
  • Your roommate and their dog both move out leaving you to pay the rent

Of course, the last of the three is not really what you want is it? Perhaps you could still find a middle ground

Present your vision of a new reality

It’s pointless rehashing what has gone before and not worked out. You may as well save your breath to cool your coffee. What you really need is a sympathetic mediator inclined to take your side. As you don’t have one, you need to get creative!

  • If you google for a while, you are bound to find loads of advice about re-homing a dog you can’t keep anymore. Find a few really neat stories about dogs that were happy when they found themselves with large gardens for the first time.
  • Share your vision of your roommate’s pet running happy and free. The secret is not talking about yourself and your complaints. Your solution is to present your argument from the dog’s point of view, not your own.
  • If your roommate really loves the dog you don’t want in your home, then they may finally understand your point of view. You should hold their hand through a difficult transition by finding a wonderful new home for the animal.

However, life is not always that simple is it? What do you do if your roommate blocks your thoughts and refuses to listen? You have already exhausted all the other possibilities. You have to move out, but what about the lease?

Option 4: Get Out of the Lease and Get On With your Life

run away

Wikipedia, Warning run away image

If you have a joint lease, then you can’t simply move out. That’s because you are still liable for the rent unless your old roommate pays it in full.

To complicate matters further let’s imagine they cannot afford the full amount, which is why they are sharing in the first place. Here is what we recommend without going into too much detail.

1, Begin by studying your rental agreement

  • Scan through the agreement looking for keywords early release, sublet, re-lease, and so on. Then study those clauses carefully because you committed to them when you signed.
  • Also, check the notice period to find out how long the process takes. We can’t recommend trying to cancel, because you could lose your deposit and pay hefty penalties too.

2, Next discuss your plans with the landlord

  • Don’t bad mouth your roommate or their dog because the landlord could turn against them. Simply say, things are not turning out the way you expected, and you want to leave for personal reasons.
  • The landlord will probably ask you to find a replacement because you are locked into the lease. We suggest you accept this because there are loads of people in chat rooms looking for places to stay.
  • This is a safer option than subletting, because you are not responsible for what happens after you leave. Once you have the landlord’s agreement give notice because you need to start putting pressure on your roommate

3, Discuss the options with your roommate

  • Explain you want to stay friends by finding a replacement to share the rent. You already know them pretty well by now, but do ask if they have any special requirements.
  • Then draw up an advertisement describing what your roommate is looking for and ask them to confirm they agree. Finally, negotiate timing before you describe what you are looking for on your favorite social pages.

4, The end game: Placing the new tenant

  • Go through all the applicants and shortlist them. Check the references of the top three before handing the decision over to your roommate. Remind them how few of your notice days remain, and offer to arrange the interviews to speed things up.
  • We hope everything goes your way and you soon have your replacement in place. However, it is still equally true you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. It all else fails you may have to walk away at the end of your notice period.

Or else, you could change your mind and decide you love the dog after all. But you likely won’t because that is what got you to the situation in the first place.

The moral of the story is to take care when choosing a roommate (and their dog) very carefully next time. But that’s another story for another day. Catch you later with more advice on sharing with roommates.

Writer: Richard Farrell

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