How To Decide Who Gets the Dog After a Breakup


Laura Yates

For many couples, their pet is like a member of the family. So if you’ve gone through a breakup and you’re wondering how you’re going to handle your shared pet, it’s important to find a solution that will work for everyone affected.

You almost have to treat it as you would a child. You need to keep a sense of calm and compassion to avoid a tug-of-war situation, which is only going to make you both feel bad and could also affect the wellbeing of your pet.

First of all, it helps to begin with the basic facts. Who does the pet belong to? Did one of you bring the pet into the relationship or was it something you decided on together as a couple? Agreeing on who the pet originally belonged to may help you to know who it should stay with after the breakup.

If you decide to approach shared custody and split the time of the pet between you and your ex, it’s a good idea to come up with an informal pet custody agreement so you both know exactly who gets the pet, where and when. You also need to think about if you can be around each other when it comes to pick up/drop off times and how that will affect your own wellbeing, as well as your pet’s.

The care schedule should really take into account how well the pet adjusts to change too. If your pet struggles with anxiety, they might find shared custody overwhelming or traumatic. Animals can’t communicate their feelings verbally like we can, so consider their own wellbeing and try to be as compassionate as you can.

Ultimately, your pet is a living thing affected by its environment and care – so although it can be heartbreaking, sometimes you may have to make a difficult decision (separating from your pet or giving up custody) to do what is best for your pet and everyone involved. Here are some questions you can ask yourself, to help you think through this decision:

Does one person’s home or lifestyle better suit the pet?

Has one person been the primary caregiver?

Is one person in a better place financially to care for the pet?

Does one person have a better schedule to take care of the pet?

Is one person happy to give the other full ownership of the pet regardless of whether it’s technically theirs?

What will be best for you both emotionally and being able to move on?

Navigating pet custody post-breakup can become more difficult when an emotional pull outweighs the more logical and practical reasons. Figuring out who cares for the pet can be a truly painful part of breaking up and really seal its finality.

So, in those heated moments, do your best to consider what is best for your pet. You have to put your emotional attachment aside and really think what’s best for the wellbeing of your pet long-term, even if this is giving it up completely or rehoming if neither of you is able to take full responsibility.

And if you do decide to co-parent, you really need to decide if it’s possible for you to maturely work out a shared custody situation. It may sound like a good idea but it only really works when you’re able to put your differences aside for the sake of your pet.

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