My ex wants to take my dog – Ask Evie

I broke up with my ex a few days after Christmas. It’s been a long time coming so the breakup itself wasn’t unexpected and although I’m sad (we’d been together for 6 years), what I’m more worried about and looking for advice on is the fact that he wants to take our 1 year old spaniel. We got her last Christmas when things were obviously a lot better between us, and I love her to bits. Who will take her after the breakup has been on my mind for a few months now, and what I want most is for her to have the best home (as does he) but I obviously don’t want to let her go either. What do I do? Do I put my foot down and insist I get to keep her, or just give up and let my ex take her? We both work flexible jobs and are looking to move into houses with suitable gardens so her life would be no better with either of us in particular.


Thanks for writing in! I can imagine this a particularly difficult dilemma as a loving pup parent. I have three fur babies myself and know how much they mean to me, and can fathom that pup-parent divorce isn’t the easiest of challenges to navigate.

Firstly, although the focus of your write-in is your pet and not the breakup itself I want to say that my heart goes out to you during this challenging time. Breakups are never easy at the best of times, and when a beloved furball is involved, it adds an extra layer of complexity. I’m really sorry to hear about the end of your relationship, and also want to add that it’s very commendable that you’re focussing beyond your own needs in what is no doubt a difficult time, and thinking of what the next best steps is for your furry dependent.

The bond we share with our pets is incredibly special, and I completely understand your concern for your sweet spaniel. It’s evident that you love her dearly, and it’s heartening to see that you’re putting her well-being first – even if that means giving her up.

As cliché as it is to suggest writing a pros and cons list, it might well be a good place to start if you’re currently unsure on what the best place for her to be is to better compare the suitability of each home.

The following prompts might also be useful to help you consider the next best steps you may want to consider as you navigate this situation:


1. Open communication with your ex

You haven’t mentioned much regarding your current relationship with your ex or what terms you stand on, so in the case that open and calm communication is possible, start there. Initiate a conversation with your ex about your shared pup. Be sure to openly share your concerns and express your love for the furry family member, but try to understand his perspective as well. Try to see if you can come to any obvious agreements or compromises on what is best for her in what you envision to be your shared future lives.

2.  Co-Parenting for pooch

Speaking of shared lives, discuss the possibility of some form of joint custody for your doggo. If maintaining regular communication and seeing your ex is something you think is healthy for you two (or healthier than letting go of your pup), try and build a schedule that ensures both of you get quality time with her. This might involve one person having her for the majority of time if most suitable or a complete half/half split, perhaps weekly or something similar.

This way, she can continue to receive love from both her human parents. Nonetheless, keep in mind how regularly seeing your might affect you, whether you can see a life where you maintain contact, and any other factors affecting your relationship post breakup.

I know of exes who decided that, although they loved the pets they shared with their past partners dearly, it was better for their own life to part ways and not have to text their ex to discuss dog-related issues. I also know of plenty pet owners who share their furry friends with exes and manage to co-parent in fantastic living arrangements, some finding that their pets give their friendship with their exes a new lease of life post breakup.

3. Consider your living situations

You mentioned that you both have suitable gardens and schedules to accommodate your pup, but keep this one in mind, nonetheless. If you do decide on shared ownership, be sure that you’re transparent and open when it comes to bigger life changes, such as moving abroad or new jobs and that you agree upon a likely scenario should each option occur.

4. Legal consultation

It sounds like current discussions with your ex are amiable and pleasant, but if the tone changes or these become challenging, you might want to consult legal advice. However, try for now to avoid this option (until you have no other choice) to keep the process as amicable as possible for the sake of your shared past and the pup.

5. Support systems

Breakups are tough.

Especially around Christmas! Surround yourself with friends and family who can provide emotional support. The process of navigating the breakdown of a long term relationship and the consequential (potential) pet custody battle can be extremely emotionally taxing, so having a strong support system is crucial. Be kind to yourself and slip your pup a few extra treats too – she no doubt knows something is up and is also concerned!

Finally, remember that it’s okay to advocate for what you believe is best for your spaniel.

You know her needs and happiness better than anyone else, and whilst you’re acting commendably to choose her in all of this, don’t be too swift to give in to all your ex’s desire just to save face or avoid conflict. Continue finding a compromise that puts her at the center of the decision-making process as this will ultimately be in her best interest. If you believe that honestly means seeing less of her, or if you believe she would be happiest and healthiest with you, advocate for those options – whilst being open to your ex’s perspective at the same time.

Here’s hoping you and your pup have a healthy and happy 2024, and that you find some clarity on this soon!



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Ask Evie

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Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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