How to co-parent your dog after a break-up | TeamDogs
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How to co-parent your dog after a break-up

It’s all about establishing a healthy custody routine

Liz Connor

Posted 2 months ago

Break-ups can be tough at the best of times, but they can be even harder if you own a pet with your ex-partner. Dogs - as we all know at TeamDogs - are a huge part of family life and working out a plan for how to care for your pooch when you part ways with an ex, can be difficult - even if you end on good terms.


It’s something that recently re-married TV host Ant McPartlin has been navigating; the star divorced his ex-wife Lisa Armstrong last year, and continues to share custody of his chocolate Labrador Hurley. The I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! presenter and Armstrong have both been photographed walking the pet pooch separately over the past few months, seemingly making shared custody work. 


After a break-up, the idea of co-parenting a pet with a partner can seem appealing - but there are a few things to consider before jumping in head-first. Here’s what you should know...





Consider what’s best for your dog



Some dogs might find it stressful being shipped back and forth between two households, while others will quickly adjust - so it’s important to keep in mind the temperament of your pet and put their comfort first. 


One of the most obvious things to consider is how far you plan to live from your ex, as being a short walk away will be a lot less disruptive for a dog than subjecting them to hours in a car or public transport.


"If you have children it’s likely this will sway the decision but also take into the account the logistics of walking and not leaving them alone for too long. It’s fairer on the pet to live with the person who works from home more often, or can take the pet to work," says Bec Jones, divorce coach at amicable.


If you aren’t in the same neighbourhood, you could agree on a longer length of custody. Model Vogue Williams shares custody of her dog Winston with ex-husband Brian McFadden, with the pair agreeing they each keep him for three months at a time.


Chatting on RTE show Cutting Edge, Vogue said: ‘It sounds so stupid… but because both of us wanted to keep Winston, and I feel like a dog becomes part of the family, I would be devastated if anything happened to [him].’


Credit: Instagram @voguewilliams


READ MORE: Rescue Greyhound's adorable reaction to her first bed after spending life in kennels





Think about who can support the pet financially


Between food, toys, daycare and vet bills, dogs can be expensive. A simple way to come to an agreement on custody is to be realistic about who has the financial means to care for a pet full-time. 


"If you're sharing the care of your pet, it could be a good idea to put a small amount of money each month into a shared savings account to cover unexpected vet bills, as well as common purchases like food. This should avoid one person being stuck with the bill, creating further resentment," says Jones.


Lifestyle is an important factor too, and if you frequently travel for work, you might not be able to commit to co-parenting 50/50. It could be that one person takes the lion’s share of the dog’s care and the other schedules in regular visits to walk them.


When Twilight stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart split up in 2013, they were reported to have a heated custody battle over who would keep their rescue dogs, Bear and Bernie.

Despite initially agreeing to co-parent, Kristen was reported to have sought legal advice about pursuing sole custody after Pattinson allegedly left them with friends while away filming. Situations can quickly get messy if you don’t establish a realistic dog sharing routine.






Make a plan for medical decisions


Vets will require a primary caregiver to sign off on any surgery or major treatments, so it’s important to discuss what this will look like in your co-parenting setup. Will one person take on the responsibility and costs of insurance and vet bills - or will you split the fee and discuss any medical issues together? 


When Ashley Cole and Cheryl Tweedy divorced in 2010, they had a hard time deciding who kept the couple’s two chihuahuas Buster and Coco. In the end, Cheryl got to keep the two dogs, as she was their primary caregiver having previously said that: “There’s nothing like the comfort of your animals… They are definitely more mine than Ashley’s but he does love them really."


Credit: Instagram @cherylofficial





Put the agreement in writing


Staying in contact with your ex after a break-up can be awkward at times, but you’ll save yourself any future arguments if you draw up an agreed contract of how co-parenting your dog will work. It’s easy to forget some of the minor details you hash out in the initial weeks after a break-up, so get everything down in writing and email a hard copy to your partner, so you’ll always have a set of guidelines.


It can be unbearable to think about parting from your dog, but when it comes to co-parenting, the pet’s needs should always come first on your list of priorities.


Having an amicable relationship with your ex is crucial to any successful co-parenting situation, as you’ll need to communicate with one another - and it goes without saying that a dog should never become embroiled in the messy details of your break-up. With patience, good communication, and compassion towards your dog’s welfare, co-parenting can work - even if your relationship has come to a close.


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