Dogs & Breakups

Shared custody of your pooch works in many situations.
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Breaking up with your significant other is hard to deal with, but it's even harder when custody of your pup is involved. You both love your furry companion, so deciding what's best for him is one of the most difficult parts involved in separating from your ex.

Who Gets the Dog?

Your relationship with your ex has come to an end, but your relationship with your pup certainly hasn't. The question of who gets custody of your furry buddy is a complicated one. Generally, if you are the primary caregiver and owner of record, the pup should belong to you. The law recognizes pets as property, so if you have proof, in the form of receipts and veterinary records, that you have been caring for your pooch, there is a good chance your pup will stay with you. If each of you has cared for your little one and has proof in the form of receipts and witnesses, things could be a more complicated if your case were to go to court, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. In this case, what's best for your pooch should be taken into account, such as who the dog is more attached to.

Shared Custody

Depending on your pup's personality and health, a shared custody arrangement could work best for both you, your ex and your pooch. This type of arrangement also depends on your relationship with your ex. If you have an amicable relationship after the separation, work out a living schedule where each of you can keep your pooch for a set period of time. Pups who are open to new situations and are generally healthy usually adjust to a shared custody arrangement. This situation also depends on where each of you is living. A shared custody agreement is really only practical for you if you and your ex reside within a reasonable distance from each other.


Shared custody isn't always practical for a number of reasons, including the health of your dog. An older or ill pup shouldn't be shuffled between you and your ex for health reasons, nor should he be placed in a new home if only one of you is moving out of your residence. In these types of cases, visitation might be the better option if you and former significant other get along well. Work out a schedule when your ex can come over and spend some time with your mutual furry friend. This could actually benefit your pup, especially if you're not home during the day and your ex can drop by to walk and exercise him. You'll both be able to spend time with him, giving him all the attention he needs.


While it's a tough decision, choosing whether you or your ex get to keep your pup is one that should be based on the best interest of your furry buddy, not your own personal feelings. Consider where each of you will be living and both of your lifestyles -- who will have the time and space to properly care for him? If one of you will be living in a pet-friendly residence while the other isn't, this can help you make your final decision. Another factor to consider is long-term commitment -- are you each willing to care for your pup for the rest of his life? If more than one pooch is involved in your split-up, they shouldn't be separated if they are attached to each other. While there may be some animosity between you and your ex, it's important to sit down together and have a frank discussion about your pup to determine what's best for him.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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