You’re Breaking Up: Who Gets the Dog?

A split is difficult, but your dog’s well-being should come first.

Always keep your dog’s best interests in mind, whether you’re in a breakup or not. By: Anglebattle bros

When you’re in love, it feels like nothing can stop you. Life is perfect, the world is yours, and you and your partner can tackle anything by each other’s side.

Often, building a relationship can mean starting a small family — you, your significant other and a dog, for example. What better way to share a life together?

Of course, in the beginning, when it’s all rainbows and butterflies, caring for a dog together can be an amazing experience. But what happens when 1 year, 3 years or even more go by and things start to go south?

Shared Responsibility

If you’ve never co-cared for a pet, you probably haven’t thought much about it. If your relationship with a significant other is creeping toward its end, though, thoughts of potentially losing your dog may keep you up at night.

I get it, and so do millions of other Americans across the country. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of U.S. households with dogs is actually over 60 million. Couple that with depressingly high divorce rates across the country, and you’re left with a bit of a predicament.

You’re Breaking Up. What’s Next?

My No. 1 tip? Put your dog’s best interests first.

Dogs are sensitive. They have feelings, too. Sure, you might focus on your own emotions during a breakup, but never let that overshadow your dog’s life and well-being.

In most cases, you and your ex will be faced with 2 options:

  1. Care for your dog jointly and figure out a shared schedule.
  2. Decide on 1 person to care for the dog full time.

Both options come with their own positives and negatives.

1. Joint Dog Care


  • Your dog won’t have to lose one of their humans.
  • Caring for your dog becomes a lot easier on your work schedule and travel plans when another person is sharing the responsibility.
  • Co-caring for your pet can help ease the strains of a broken relationship (or even help mend a broken heart).


  • Having 2 homes can confuse and stress your dog if they can’t easily adapt.
  • If your dog’s routine or training style is different at one home than it is at the other, your dog’s behavior can change for the worse.
  • Sharing veterinary bills, food costs and general scheduling factors can easily become arguing points.

2. Solo Dog Care


  • Your dog will always have the same routine, including food, vet care, toys and training.


  • Your dog will lose an important relationship in their life, which could cause stress, anxiety and behavioral problems.
  • All responsibilities will be left up to 1 person, including all costs associated with pet care.
  • Your ex probably won’t be too happy with you.
Never use your dog against the other human you are sharing them with. By: Mark Patterson

Shared Custody Tips

Because of the struggle behind deciding on someone to care for the dog, most couples often find it easier to share custody of the pup. The benefits for sharing the responsibility can often feel like the best choice for you, your ex and your dog. Just make sure to follow several important steps when adjusting to this new lifestyle.

1. Decide on a routine and stick to it.

Your dog is like a child. When their routine goes awry, bad things can happen.

That’s why it’s important to create a firm schedule in regard to which days and times each person will take care of the dog. Decide on a routine, slowly transition your dog to it and then stick to it.

2. Feed, train and care for your dog in the same way.

If one person feeds the dog at 10 a.m. every morning, and the other at 6 a.m., your dog is going to be confused (and probably hungry). Likewise, if your dog follows certain rules at one house and not at the other, expect their training to suffer.

Set ground rules from the start and respect each other. Your dog will thank you.

3. Never keep your dog away from one of their humans.

You might be cool and collected regularly — until your ex comes around. Never use your dog against them, no matter how angry you are. It’s just not fair to the one who can’t speak up about their feelings and can easily cause separation anxiety.

With a breakup in the works, emotions flying high and a pet’s life to keep in mind, coming to an agreement about your dog can seem impossible. No matter how hot-headed you or your ex get, focus on the life you’re both responsible for. Do what’s best for your dog.

Kristen Youngs

View posts by Kristen Youngs
Kristen Youngs is a freelance writer and travel junkie. When she's not out exploring other countries, she spends most of her time teaching others how to work remotely while her pit bull, Annabelle, lounges alongside. She's also an advocate for dogs like hers and aims to spread awareness everywhere she goes.

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