Male Call: Advice from a guy

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What is it with guys and their dogs? My boyfriend is great in most respects, but I’m starting to think the relationship isn’t big enough for all three of us. The dog goes almost everywhere with us. It’s allowed on the couch if we’re watching TV and always seems to be underfoot. Plus, it’s slobbery and needs a lot of attention. At least it doesn’t bark much. Is there anything to be done about this? Tips?

A boy and his dog have a special relationship. They’ve forged a bond built on unquestioning loyalty, the act of throwing the same tennis ball across the same field for hours and hours, day after day, and Snausages. (This kind of bonding could probably work for you, too, fyi. Try the Snausages with beer.)

So in most cases it’s inadvisable to force him to choose between the dog and you. Not that he wouldn’t choose you, of course; it’s just that he would resent you for making him make the choice. Which means that every time he sees a dog and owner frolicking in the park, he’ll get that distant look in his eyes, and out would come the ball gloves and that special chewed-up tennis ball. Good exercise, though!

If everything else in the relationship is going well enough that you don’t want to walk away just because of the dog, you’re going to have to somehow make peace with the beast. (The dog, not your boyfriend.) The first move is to talk to him about it (the boyfriend, not the dog), using non-threatening, neutral terms (guys can smell fear, you know). For instance: “I like Rin Tin Tin, and how close you guys are, but does he always have to lick our faces when we’re making out?” That sort of thing.

And with hope, your boyfriend is sensitive enough to your feelings to set some boundaries. Like, no open-mouth kissing. Kidding! That’s just gross. We can’t believe we said that. Or that the editors let it go.

Anyway. The best course of action is to befriend the dog. That doesn’t mean you have to get down on the floor and wrestle with him, but an occasional stomach scratch and a pat on the head can go a long way.

Under no circumstances should you try the stink-eye approach. This sometimes works with cats, when, if the owner is out of the room, you give the ol’ stink eye to Muffins, maybe throwing in a low growl, and thereafter the cat scurries off to hide under a sink whenever you’re around. Try this with a dog, and he will bite you. (Note to cat lovers: Before you send off that hate mail, please be advised that we like cats, too. We love the range of emotion they exhibit, from casual indifference to mild bemusement to dozing. Furthermore, we actually have a cat. It’s under the sink at the moment.)

Male Call answers questions from men and women on etiquette, relationships, men’s style and more. Write to malecall@mercurynews.com.

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