As of 2017, nearly a third of the adult population the United States lived with at least one roommate.
Add to that the fact that some 44% of Americans own a dog, and you’ve probably got at least several million cases of Roommate Drama™.
If you live with a roommate and you’re thinking about getting a dog, the absolute first thing you should do is have a serious, comprehensive talk about what that means for everyone. Here’s what to consider.
Before the Talk:
Know Your Roommate’s Stance
Has your roommate always told you how much they hated dogs? Then don’t get a dog! The number one tenant of shared living is to be the kind of roommate you’d want to live with. Getting a dog when you know your roommate is opposed to the idea is like purposely setting your house on fire. It won’t end well.
Know Your Landlord’s Rules
Before you go and rock the boat with your roommate, are you sure you’re allowed to have a dog in your rental? (If you own the place, good for you! Carry on.) Check your lease for details on the unit’s pet policy and if it doesn’t say, talk to your landlord directly. Yes, you might get shot down, but isn’t that better than getting a dog then suddenly being told you’ve got to leave?
During the Talk:
Start with Money
Dogs aren’t cheap, especially if you live in a rental. Be prepared to outline for your roommate exactly what expenses you’ll incur (i.e. extra security deposit, cleaning fees, higher rent, etc.) and be willing to state in writing that you’ll pay them. And if your dog causes you to lose your entire security deposit when you move out? Yes, you’ve got to be willing to pay that, too. It’s part of the deal.
Move on to Logistics
Does your roommate seem intrigued? Now’s a good time to give them a compliment! Is their hair looking particularly nice today? The next part of the conversation is the trickiest because it’s so ambiguous. Who’s going to take care of this dog? The obvious answer is, “Me, of course!” but when you live with roommates, it’s not so simple. If your roommate gets off work earlier than you, should they be expected to let the dog out? What if you go on vacation and your roommate doesn’t…will they be in charge? It’s going to be awkward, but having this conversation is critical to saving whatever relationship you have before it goes down in slobbery, poop bag-scented flames.
Talk About Boundaries
Your roommate might need some time to think on this one, but it’s important to know what their preferred boundaries are. Maybe they don’t want the dog on the couch (which they purchased?) Or maybe your dog should be in her kennel when guests are over? Being on the same page is essential – if you’re disagreeing about dog care now, just imagine how tense the situation will become once you actually add a dog to the mix.
Don’t spring this conversation on your roommate the weekend before you get a dog. Adding a dog to the household is like adding another roommate…do your housemate a solid and give them the courtesy of time.
And if they come back to you and say, “Hey, I don’t think this dog thing is for me?” Don’t hold a grudge! Having a dog is a huge responsibility and it’s not for everyone. It’s better to know now than to spend months tiptoeing awkwardly around your own house. Trust us. We’ve been there.