6 signs that you’re codependent with your dog

If you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet you’re a dog lover. And by dog lover, I mean that your dog isn’t just a pet but a special member of your family. 

I’m right there with you. As I write this article, my little black poodle Splash is on my lap, sleeping and occasionally stirring to lick me on the chin. 

That’s how we are most days – practically joined at the hip, so to speak. 

I’m actually surprised at myself. When I first got Splash, I never thought I’d be one of those people. 

You know the type – carrying them around in a handbag, never wanting to leave the house without them, planning vacations around dog-friendly destinations. 

Yet here I am, so deeply connected to my furry friend that I can’t imagine a day without his soothing snuggles.

Over time, I’ve realized that my bond with my pooch might be slipping into what some might call codependency. And as strange as it sounds, it’s a real thing.

IMG 20230717 161302 6 signs that you’re codependent with your dog
Meet Splash, my gorgeous furry friend. Photo by Roselle Umlas.

So, if you’re like me and your dog is your best buddy, then join me as I share six signs you might be codependent with your dog. 

I hope these signs don’t make you feel guilty or judged. It’s about gaining some insight, learning, and figuring out how to give our dogs the healthy, balanced relationships they deserve.

1) You feel incomplete without your dog

Have you ever heard that old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Well, for me, it’s more like “absence makes the heart feel downright lost.” 

A month ago, my husband and I went off on a trip without him. I was thinking it was a good idea to be away from him for a while. 

But you know what? The first morning I woke up at the hotel, I sorely missed seeing his puppy-dog eyes and wagging tail. It felt like a part of me was missing. 

When we got back home, I told him, “I’m so sorry for leaving you. I promise to make sure that every vacation I take will be at a pet-friendly place!”

Does that sound familiar?

You know, it’s perfectly normal to miss your dog when you’re away from them. They’re a big part of our lives, after all. 

But if you’re codependent with your dog, it’s more than just missing them. It’s like you’ve lost your right hand or something. You can function, sure, but everything seems a bit more complicated, a bit less bright.

Recognizing this was my first step towards understanding my potential codependency. If you’re nodding along as you read this, it might be a sign for you too. 

2) You ask the dog sitter to put the phone to your dog’s ear or face so you can talk to them

Going back to being away from your dog, you might be coping with it by being clingy yourself. 

Like asking the dog sitter to get you in touch with your dog like you would a human. 

Whenever I was away from my dog and had a sitter, I’d call to check in, which is pretty standard. 

But even when my sitter assured me Splash was doing great, I still felt the need to have these “conversations.” It wasn’t enough to know he was doing okay – I wanted, or rather, needed, to speak to him directly.

Now, my dog is brilliant (of course he is), but obviously, phone conversations aren’t exactly his forte. Still, I found comfort in imagining my voice soothing him in my absence.

It’s not uncommon to miss your dog when you’re apart, but needing to speak to them might indicate a deeper level of emotional reliance.

3) You prioritize your dog’s comfort over your own

prioritize your dog 6 signs that you’re codependent with your dog

Oh, wow. I am so guilty of this. To wit, here are some things I do for the love of my dog:

  • Sleeping on the edge of the bed because he likes sleeping in the middle
  • Keeping the temperature of the house warm so he’d be comfortable, even while I’m uncomfortably hot
  • Choosing furniture that’s easier for him to climb rather than what I’d personally prefer
  • Postponing my own mealtime to make sure he finishes his meal
  • Declining social invitations because I don’t want to leave him alone
  • Settling for walking as an exercise (instead of the gym, which I prefer) because that’s what he enjoys

…and that’s just off the top of my head! 

So, if your needs are taking a backseat to your dog’s…well, you know what that means. 

4) You spend most of your discretionary income on your dog

Our next sign takes us into the world of finances. Now, I’ve always believed that a good budget is a sign of a responsible adult

And within any sensible budget, there’s a portion set aside for discretionary spending – a little something to splurge on the things you enjoy. 

For me, it was always about books, a dinner at my favorite restaurant, or saving up for a vacation. But over time, I noticed a change.

Almost all of my discretionary income was going towards my dog. New toys, organic dog food, luxury dog beds, designer leashes, monthly subscriptions to doggy box services… you name it. 

When it came to spoiling him, I spared no expense. I even found myself passing up on personal treats to save up for an extra fancy dog coat or a professional pet photoshoot.

Don’t get me wrong, caring for our pets and making them happy is one of the most rewarding parts of being a pet parent. And sure, spoiling our dogs with a new toy or a special treat can be a lot of fun. 

But when I was spending most – if not all – of my extra money on my dog and neglecting my own wants and needs, it was a clear sign that our relationship was unbalanced.

Are you noticing a similar pattern in your spending habits? That could be an indicator of a codependent relationship with your pet. 

5) You’ve thrown your dog a birthday party

Speaking of money, one of the things I always saved up for was a birthday party for my dog. 

I remember the first time I decided to throw a birthday party for my dog. It started out small: a special treat, a new toy, and lots of extra cuddles. 

But each year, it seemed to escalate. Suddenly, I was hosting full-blown parties, complete with a canine-friendly cake, doggy party hats, and even invitations to my dog’s furry friends. 

There was even a time I hired a pet photographer to capture the festivities, and then another time, I had a custom-made party outfit for my dog (which matched mine, of course!).

Don’t get me wrong – celebrating our pets is a lot of fun, and it’s a wonderful way to express our love for them. 

But I know now that that’s a sign of codependency. I  mean, I was spending more on my dog’s birthday than I was on my own! That’s definitely not normal.

6) You’ve considered getting a tattoo of your dog’s face

Yep, you read that right. Or perhaps that thought has also occurred to you? 

I know it sounds funny, but a lot of dog owners have done this. I have not considered this myself, but I have several friends who have had their dog’s faces immortalized on their arms, backs, or legs. 

While there’s nothing wrong with getting a tattoo of something (or someone) you love, it does bear asking yourself:

“Is this another sign of my codependency? Am I so entwined with my dog that I want to make them a literal part of me?”

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, wondering whether to get a tattoo of your dog’s face, it might be another hint towards a codependent relationship with your dog. 

After all, there’s a difference between loving our dogs and wanting them inked onto our skin forever.

How to break free from codependency with your dog

As much as we love our dogs, it’s important to have a balanced relationship with them. 

Yes, giving them the best possible life is only right. But here’s what I’ve realized: they don’t need as much from us as we think they do. 

They’d be perfectly happy even without the birthday parties, fancy toys, and whatnot, as long as they’re well-fed, exercised, and well-loved. 

Just like any relationship, the one we have with our fur babies should be balanced and healthy. If detangling from them is difficult, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health expert. 

And if you’re worried about separation anxiety in your dog, it’s best to consult with a behaviorist. This is the route I took, and it has really helped me have a healthier relationship with my little one. 

Picture of Roselle Umlas

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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