Couple walking dog

Dating can be hard; there are so many pieces to finding that right person, the one you are truly compatible with. Pet ownership can add an extra layer of complexity — what if the right girl or guy is a committed dog person and you are… not? Can love still bloom?

I’m here to tell you that it is entirely possible for a dog person to fall in love with someone less canine crazy. It happened to me when I met my husband, Ben.

When I was dating, my biggest concern was finding a partner who was compatible not only with me, but with my daughter and my dogs — a tall order to fill. My Pugs were an especially important part of the dating process, because the way my dates acted around my dogs helped me gauge their character, especially in terms of important traits like empathy, kindness and capacity for love. When I met Ben, I knew I’d found a keeper.

There’s nothing more attractive to a dog lover than witnessing the blossoming relationship between a significant other and a canine. When Ben and I started dating, he liked dogs, but he wasn’t as crazy about them as I am. But, when he planned a surprise party to celebrate my Pug’s birthday — something he would never have done before he met me — I was absolutely smitten and fell even more deeply in love with him. His kindness to my dogs was a sure sign of his feelings for me.

Have you found yourself falling for a dog person? Well, there are a few things you should know up front. Here are my personal do’s and don’ts for dating a devoted dog lover.

The Secret to Winning a Dog Lover’s Heart

Recognize that the dog is family. Never say, “It’s just a dog.” First of all, the dog has a name. Secondly, your love interest sees the dog as a he or she, not an it! Most importantly, the dog isn’t just a dog, he’s more likely to be a furry child or a fuzzy sibling or the best friend your date has ever had. For this reason, don’t assume that it’s OK to refer to the dog as property or the person as merely a dog owner. My parents refer to my Pugs as their “granddogs,” and I’m an auntie to their new puppy, QT. It may seem crazy, but I don’t care — I love those dogs like family.

Don’t diss your date’s other doggie loves. My love for dogs doesn’t stop with the Becker family dogs, and it’s likely that your dog-loving date doesn’t just adore his or her canine — for deeply devoted dog people, all canines are fair game. Ben’s family’s dogs have learned to expect my gifts of good tidings (i.e., dog treats and toys) whenever we visit. This devotion to dogs can go beyond family to include any dog in need of rescue or help. I’m the first one to donate my time and money to dogs in need, and I’m not alone in this. When you date a dog person, be prepared to share your partner with the pooches.

Share the smooches. Speaking of sharing, you’re probably not the only one your date is kissing — or getting kissed by. The fact is that lots of us kiss our dogs and they kiss us back. Not all dog people are dead set on smooching their pooches, but those who are may not respond kindly to requests to stop sharing the love with the dog. I kiss my dogs all the time. And yes, I know the risk of zoonotic disease, but that doesn’t deter me. Ben knows that he doesn’t have to kiss my dogs, but he can’t make me stop.

Accept the fuzz. No food, drink, furniture or piece of clothing will be fur free again. All dogs shed — even the so-called non-shedding breeds. There are strategies to cut back on the fur that flies, but the truth is that every piece of clothing, furniture or food has the potential to gather fur. Lint rollers are likely to become a standard in your home and car, and hair in your coffee or on your toast may be par for the course. And, it’s a small price to pay for true love.

Get used to the puppy talk. It’s entirely likely that your significant other has a special voice reserved just for the dog — and while the dog may love it, you may not. I know Ben doesn’t find my silly gremlin voice intoxicating, but it sure does make my dogs happy, so he’s learning to live with it. Or at least tolerate it.

It’s the dog’s house, too. Yes, the dog does need (or at least enjoy) all of those toys, chews and beds — they’re not going anywhere. He lives here, too, and his stuff is part of what makes your date’s house a home. And, while you’re getting used to sharing space with the dog, you’ll also need to get used to sharing your time with him, because he will inevitably be a part of your date’s — and your daily life, should this relationship get serious.

Different degrees of dog devotion don’t need to cause a divide in your relationship. And, while you may have to learn to live with your dog loving partner’s canine quirks, dog lovers need to be prepared to bend, as well. This might mean vacuuming more frequently to keep the fur from flying or creating dog-free spaces for couple time. For me, this meant sending the Pugs to sleep in their own bed, rather than with Ben and me, because sleeping with a snoring pooch wasn’t conducive to establishing our new marriage — or getting a good night’s rest, for that matter.

Be prepared to compromise — and never, ever put your significant other in the position of choosing between you and the dog. If you do, don’t be surprised if the dog comes out the winner. After all, he’s your date’s best buddy.

More on Vetstreet: