Is joint custody of a dog cruel?

My husband and I are separating. It’s a long story, but we are splitting in a friendly way. The only place I could afford to move into doesn’t allow dogs, but it is within walking distance of my husband’s house. The plan is that I still come by the house (daily basis, hopefully) to walk and play with our dog.

I can’t NOT see her–she’s my baby. I’m really attatched to her and love her dearly. I have enough to deal with right now, and it would kill me not to have any access to her. Hubby wants me to see her as much as possible, so that’s no problem. (he adores her as much as I do.) Eventually, we’d like to have joint custody when she lives with him half the time, and me half the time.


Is it fair to her? People have told me that it is cruel to have “visitation” with her. That it will stress her out and make the separation even harder. (dammit, there I go, crying again.) I don’t want to damage her mentally or cause her undue stress, I just want to still spend time with my puppy. What do I do???

BTW: she’s a 10 month old border collie mix. Completely adorable and smart as a whip.

Alexxandra, I have a dog of my own, and I know what it’s like to love a pet, but I have to tell you, what you are proposing is really not good for the animal.

Dogs need a stable routine, and moving her back and forth between homes will not only confuse and upset her, it will increase the chances for destructive behvioral problems.

And what will happen when your ex gets a new SO, and she’s not extrodinarily keen on having his ex-wife come over to visit the dog? I’m guessing that your visits will come to an end then, and the dog will have to go through the whole adjustment process anyway.

I know it sounds harsh, but really, the best thing is to let your husband have the dog, and get your own pet when you are in a position to do so.

Dogs seems resilient with respect to visiting other households. Many people leave their dogs with friends & relatives when they travel or are ill. I do some dog watching for friends occasionally. I don’t see a problem with joint custody. In general, dogs seem to love petting, attention & playing with anyone. I guess this may depend on the type of dog. I’d certainly discuss this with a vet or 2.

I don’t see what problem there could be with having “the dog walker” just happen to be the dog’s favourite mommy in the whole world. You would want to keep a fairly stable routine, though, dogs do love their rituals. Border collie mixes generally have tons of energy so it sounds like a great idea that you’d be taking her out for extra special mommy playtime. Your husband can let you know if her behaviour changes in such a way to indicate that she is confused and feeling insecure (housetraining lapses, destruction–although still being a puppy, sometimes a chewed pair of underwear is just a chewed pair of underwear) but I think it would be better for her to see you every day than to never see you again. I don’t think that sounds like an option. As for joint custody when you get a place of your own that allows dogs, I still don’t see the problem. Collies are like smart little kids, and fairly resilient. Make sure that she has her own little bed at each place (even if you sleep at night in the same bed–our dog loves his own quiet special bed) and her own set of toys and chews and maybe a blanket that goes back and forth as a constant. Visiting mommy will be fun and fine, as long as you’re not shipping her in a crate over state lines in a plane, etc.–and even that she’d get used to and probably start looking forward to if it means she gets to see her mommy.

Go for it, and have a good time. Breaking up, even if amicably can be stressful enough, so have a grand happy time with your little girl, learn new things together, like agility or cute tricks (clue your husband in on these so he can re-inforce the training)-- my favourite one is “shootout at the OK corral;” it’s adorable. Basically, the dog sits, then stands with his paws in the air, you say, “bang!” with your hand out like a gun, the dog flops back, rolling over, dying (it’s very funny when the dog really hams it up). It’s the doggie version of the “aw, ya got me game.” There’s a training breakdown in The Idiot’s Guide to Fun and Tricks with Your Dog.

Well, the fact that you and your husband may end up with new significant others in the future who may not understand you going over to his house every day might be a problem . . . but then again, it may not.

That said, go for it. Really. You love your dog, your dog no doubt loves you, and if your husband is cool with it, what’s the problem? It’s probably not cruel. My dog gets visitors all the time that he seems to really love, and he’s even become attatched to some of them–my nieces nearly every other weekend, the girl who stays with me every summer, my parents (which is cruel on me, but the dog likes them), and so on. The regular separations don’t seem to have a negative effect on my pup.

If it were me, and I were in your situation, I’d stay in contact with my dog. He’s family after all. :slight_smile:

Oh, and I’m sorry you and your husband are getting separated. Good luck to you in your future.

I’m pretty sure that the daily walks while my husband is away at work will be good for the pup…she’s crated when nobody’s home, and I’m sure that a mid-day jaunt to the dog park will be fun and welcome in her eyes. My husband will definitely have to keep an eye on her behavior, though. If she’s getting stressed and upset, I’ll have to swallow down the pain and stop seeing her. Her well-being is first and foremost.

The joint custody and SO’s…that’s in the future, and only time will tell. I’m hopeful that it will work out well. But you never know. His future SO may have a problem with him even having contact with me, besides any issues with the dog.

You’re right, Mephisto. She’s family.

When my ex and I split, we had joint custody of the dog. It was more like I took her for a few weeks, then she went back to his house for a few weeks. It worked out great for a while, but it did start to get weird after a while. The only link I had with my ex was the dog, and after a year or so I really didn’t want to have that link - he was my past, and I wanted to move on and not have to see him and visit with him once or twice a month. I also didn’t want to continue to jointly have to set up vet appointments, etc.

Unfortunately, the whole problem went away when my ex took my dog camping one weekend and left the window rolled down at a rest stop while he went about his business. The dog saw him, jumped out the window and crossed a highway to get to him. She didn’t make it.

Damn ex.

I want my dog back now.