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Can You Co-Parent a Dog? Facts & Expert Advice

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By Nicole Cosgrove

couple with akita dog

Typically, co-parenting is a term used to refer to two parties sharing the parenting responsibilities for their children after they have split up. But, 97% of pet owners consider pets part of the family and more than half say they are as much a part of the family as human relatives. As such, the term is increasingly being used to refer to pets1.

It is certainly possible for owners to co-parent a dog, but it does take some work and communication, and while it can work for some pet parents, it won’t be the ideal solution for all separating couples.

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Pet Parenting

Most pet parents become attached to their dogs, and if a relationship breaks down, leaving the dog can be painfully difficult. Co-parenting is an option that means both parents share time and the responsibility of owning the dog.

It may not always be possible, for example, if one person moves away or both parents work different hours and lead very different lives. One pet parent might need to move to accommodation that doesn’t allow dogs, or it might not be practical for the dog to spend time at one of the parent’s properties.

It is also worth remembering that co-parenting a dog means that you will need to see your ex whenever you collect or drop the dog off. If you need a clean break from an ex, co-parenting a dog typically won’t allow this separation.

a couple sitting on opposite sides of couch with their dog after quarrel
Image Credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

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Top 5 Tips for Effective Co-Parenting

Successful co-parenting of a dog requires many of the same principles as successful co-parenting of children. One of the biggest factors as to whether the arrangement will prove successful or not is communication. Below are some tips to help you if you are considering a co-parenting arrangement for your dog.

1. Decide on a Schedule

Talk to your ex. Be open and realistic about how much time the two of you can dedicate to the dog, and your schedules. While some co-parents agree on an equal split of time, this might not be appropriate in your circumstances. Agree on a schedule for dropping off and collecting your dog, and once the agreement is arranged, ensure you both stick to it as closely as possible.

man-playing with his dog
Image Credit: Prostock studio, Shutterstock

2. Be as Flexible as Possible

Situations and schedules change. You may have more work commitments one week compared to the next, and your ex will face similar changes. While you should stick to a schedule wherever possible, you should also try to be as flexible as possible with one another.


3. Shared Expenses

You should also sit down to talk about expenses and who is responsible for paying things like pet insurance, vet bills, and other costs. One partner might agree to pay more than the other, depending on personal circumstances, but you both need to know where you stand.

couple talking
Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

4. Be Consistent

Agree to a feeding schedule and walk schedule. Dogs need consistency and they like routine. Moving between houses and parents will be difficult enough, even for the most adaptable dog, but if you have different schedules, your dog will find it very difficult to settle. You should also try and agree on house rules that you both stick to. It can be difficult for a dog to learn different rules in different houses. Not only will the dog get confused, but it can cause friction between parents.


5. Consider a Pup Nup

Pup Nups are agreements made between two pet parents that determine what will happen with the pet if they separate. They are not necessarily legally binding, but they might be considered by the courts in the case of any action taken when the parents separate. Ideally, agreements should be reached amicably, but this isn’t always possible and a pup nup can help in extreme circumstances.

couple talking to lawyer
Image Credit: Pixel Shot, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

There are approximately 77 million dogs in the U.S. compared to 73 million children under the age of 18. And, with most owners considering dogs to be a part of the family, there are a lot of owners that co-parent dogs. It is possible to successfully co-parent pups, but it does take time, agreement, and communication to be successful.


Featured Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

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