By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 09/08/2021, edited: 09/08/2021
Whether you've just moved in to your dog-friendly dorm or you're renting a house with another student, settling in to a new place can be nerve-racking. Conflicts over chores and finances certainly don't help. Add a four-legged roomie into the mix, and things can get complicated fast.
Of course you think your fur-baby is the best housemate ever. But what if your roommate doesn't feel the same way? Here are a few tips on how to prevent and handle conflicts with a roommate who doesn't like your dog.
Open and honest communication is key for resolving any issues with your roomies. Find a time that works for both of you, and plan to meet in a neutral place, like a park or a coffee shop. Meeting in public reduces the possibility of the disagreement turning into a shouting match.
Try to talk face-to-face if you can. Although texting removes some of the awkwardness from a difficult discussion, messages are also easy to misconstrue.
Here are a few other tips on preparing to talk to your roommate.
Let's be real — no one wants to live with a badly behaved dog that potties all over the house and tears up the furniture. (Of course, dog training takes time, but patience and understanding only go so far.)
Before talking to your roommate, consider whether your dog has given your roommate a genuine reason not to like them. For example:
This might not be easy to hear, but the issue might not be entirely the dog's fault. As a pet parent, you're responsible for training and socializing your dog. Ask yourself if you've been consistent with training or if there's more you could do to improve your dog's behavior.
If you're able to identify a reason, start thinking about potential solutions before your conversation. Then, when you talk to your roommate, they'll likely appreciate that you've already thought about how to accommodate them.
If you're not sure why your roommate can't stand your dog or you need more info, there's a simple solution: ask! Encourage your roommate to be as specific as possible.
Their answer might surprise you. They may be afraid of all dogs (not just yours) due to a traumatic event, like being chased, bitten, or attacked. They could also be allergic to dogs.
After they've shared their concerns, share your perspective as well. Tell your roommate why you decided to get a dog in the first place — to improve your physical health, to relieve stress, to have a friend.
Once you've both had a chance to say your piece, it's time to start discussing solutions. Here are a few examples:
I'll put Buddy in the crate during meals to stop them from begging.
I understand that you're afraid of dogs, so I'll keep my dog out of communal living areas as much as possible while you're home. I hope you'll work to overcome your fear and give my fur-baby a chance to prove that dogs can be affectionate!
I know Max barks a lot — we're still training, and I appreciate your patience. If the barking doesn't improve in a timely manner, I'll consult a dog trainer for help. In the meantime, I'll take Max for a walk whenever you're studying where possible so you can concentrate.
As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Commit to following through on any solutions you agree to.
Chances are you and your roommate have different schedules. To reduce friction, work your dog's schedule around your roommate's if you can. This may take some trial-and-error as class and work commitments change each semester. Communicate often and be as flexible as possible.
Solid boundaries set clear expectations and keep everyone accountable and comfortable. If you have to, write down your boundaries so you remember them.
Some examples of boundaries your roommate might set:
I cannot play with or take care of your dog when you're not home.
I don't want your dog coming into my room.
I will not clean up your dog's messes.
Some examples of boundaries you might set:
It's never okay to hit, yell at, or otherwise mistreat my dog when you're frustrated.
I don't want you giving my dog commands or trying to train them unless I'm home.
I can't keep my dog in my room or in a crate all day. We'll eventually need to use some of the communal areas, but we'll also do our best to respect your wishes and privacy.
Uncomfortable disagreements can quickly dissolve into heated arguments if not handled thoughtfully. Here are a few tips for resolving (and hopefully preventing) major conflicts.
Showing gratitude will make your roommate feel valued and can prevent anger. Thank them for their willingness to discuss their concerns with you and meet you halfway.
Keep an open mind.
You have to live with this person for the foreseeable future, and resolving conflicts in a mature way is essential for a peaceful environment. Let go of the notion that you're right and they're wrong. Make the effort to understand where they're coming from.
Be willing to compromise.
If your roommate is afraid of dogs, it wouldn't be fair for your dog to spend most of the day in the living room or another communal area. On the other paw, it wouldn't be fair for your dog to stay locked in your bedroom all the time. Both you and your roommate should be willing to compromise.
Stay true to your word.
If you agreed that you wouldn't let your dog on the couch, don't break your promise when your roommate isn't home. Not only could this cause an argument if your roommate were to catch you, but they might also lose trust in you.
Don't complain to others (especially if you haven't talked to your roommate yet).
Venting to a friend or family member about issues in your life feels good in the moment, but it can also worsen the situation. The last thing you want is your roommate learning that you were complaining behind their back without talking to them first.
If all else fails, consider other living arrangements.
As long as you and your roommate have both done your best to work together and accommodate each other, your situation will hopefully improve. But sometimes, things just don't work out.
If you live in a dog-friendly dorm and you're unable to resolve your conflict, consult your resident assistant (RA). They may be able to mediate or, worst-case scenario, move you or your roommate.
If you're renting a house or apartment with another student, decide who will need to move and how soon. Set reasonable expectations and time limits.
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