Do You Use Your Dog as an Excuse to Get Out of Plans? · The Wildest

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Heavy Petting

Are You Guilty of Using Your Dog as an Excuse to Stay Home?

Your S.O. planned a date night out, but the dog is looking so cuddly on the couch...

by Maggie Lange
May 15, 2024
an illustration of people watching tv with their dog
Illustration: María Jesús Contreras

Heavy Petting is a weekly column full of relationship advice for pet parents — so you and your boo don’t end up fighting like cats and dogs over the cat and dog.


One of the internet personalities I inexplicably, devotedly follow (whom I will not name!) was a chic, kinda oblivious Los Angeles party girl. I write “was” because I suspect with good reason she’s in a new relationship of sorts. I also suspect she got burned out on restaurants and parties and festivals in Morocco and that one trip to Corsica, etc. But the only real, hard evidence I have that she’s dating someone is actually a seemingly irrelevant new lifestyle change: She got a dog. Actually, she got a gorgeous Spaniel puppy (told you she’s stylish). 

At first, this news was highly confusing to me. Because this person does not seem like a dog person. She doesn’t even seem like a cat person. I just can’t picture her dealing with the needs or excrements of another person, which is something I admire about her. Dog hair on her preposterously expensive hard pants? No way. She’s too self-centered (in a cool way of course). Needless to say, I was floored. 

Her content, as they say, took a sharp turn. This previously over-scheduled person is home a lot. This winter, she said she couldn’t go to fashion week parties, because she likes to do an evening walk with the Spaniel. She was invited to a brand event in the Caribbean that she had to turn down because she wants to be with her dog who is going through an important developmental phase. While that’s undoubtedly true, the real truth, I think is: She became a homebody. The dog was an excuse to change her lifestyle, to hang home, and to bond with her pup.

Yes, your dog trainers clock you doing this.

When I asked Mitchell Stern, a dog trainer with Yes Dog Trainers, whether he senses any of his clients using their pets as an excuse to stay home, he replied with an empathetic yes; he does it too. “Guilty as charged! I’m a homebody and have used my pets to either not travel or to leave a function early. Personally, I’d much rather stay home with my dog and two cats than go out.” 

While this might be fine and fun if you are single, if you are in a relationship, and one person wants to get out of the house, this can often become an issue. And Brett Bailey, a trainer with Who’s a Good Boy Industries, brings up the more heightened version of staying home: avoiding travel. “It is not uncommon for people to not go away on vacation because they do not want to be away from their dog.”

I have a friend who admits she’s the problem in this scenario. “There are two trips specifically that I regret [my partner and I] didn’t go on — and I’m sure there are kinda countless weekends away that we didn’t do because I just wanted to snuggle the dog.”

In fact, when she and her girlfriend were getting the dog, they specifically looked for a small enough to bring them on airplanes. “But I just think of the logistics, which is really an excuse, and it’s holding us back. I think our home — not to brag — is just too sweet and cozy.”

The therapists see it, too.

I admire this friend for knowing this is the case — as I have another friend whose partner is an expert at using the dog as an excuse. She says her husband is much more of an introvert than she is, and “he thinks that means the dog is an introvert, too.” Her husband overplays, in her opinion, the dog’s separation anxiety.

“Separation anxiety is no joke, but like, in my unprofessional opinion we have a very non-anxious dog. Our dog is just really happy when we get back, and he thinks that means she must have been sobbing to herself the whole time we were gone. I don’t think that’s the same thing.” 

A therapist at Council for Relationships, Meghan Rydzewski, says that, of course, this could be a sign of some anxiety in the person, not the pet. 

“I do know someone who uses a pet as an excuse to be a homebody and they find their excuse to be extremely valid, because of the anxiety that occurs because of it. Even though people then ask them to get a pet sitter, they explain they don’t trust anyone else with their dogs as they see them as their children.” 

Small steps first, Paris next.

Rydzewski would approach this with a “small steps” solution. “Setting small goals such as leaving them for an entire day, and possibly getting a family member or a trusted person to watch them for one night, and seeing how that plays out could help reduce the anxiety and increase trust in the persons’ capabilities,” Rydzewski says. “This could lead to the person watching them for a few days at a time, with the owner feeling more at ease and able to enjoy a vacation.”

Of course — staying in with the dog is no bad thing at all, just ask the former jet-setting, nightlife-loving influencer, and also me. For years, the only thing keeping me from getting the dog I wanted was that I traveled a lot and also stayed out pretty late. But when the time came, I was thrilled to be dating someone who had a dog and demonstrated the responsibility and homebody qualities that boded well for our future together. 

I used to say an unthinking “yes” to almost every trip and late night. And now that I’ve got a dog, I’m a little choosier, because there’s a very good reason not to go: There’s a dog at home! That also means the trips and nights I choose are usually way better — and they’re the very best when the dog can come along

maggie lange

Maggie Lange

Maggie Lange is a writer, editor, and columnist. Her work has been featured in New York Magazine, Vice, Guernica, GQ, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Elle, and Bon Appetit. She lives in Philadelphia with her favorite brindle boy, Finn.

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