So, you’ve received the news that your new roommate comes as a package deal. To your relief it’s not a clingy significant other who will inevitably become your third roommate, but rather a furry, four-legged friend — you couldn’t be more excited! Maybe you’re no vegan, but you’ve always been an animal lover, and you figure having a pet you can play with and not have to pay for is a pretty sweet deal. But a few weeks after settling in and finishing up a few DIY decorating projects, you start to notice problems. Stains on your beautiful hardwood floors, the pet odor that just won’t go away, and hair all over the place. The cherry on top? You have a new alarm clock — in the form of barking, meowing and scratching on the door — that goes off an hour earlier every morning. But just when you think you’ve had enough, there could still be a way to resolve the situation without someone having to make an early exit. Here’s what you can do if you’re dealing with a roommate’s untrained pet.
Talk to Your Roommate
Like all relationships in life, communication is key to a successful partnership. That rule applies to the people you share a home with as well. So remember that the sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner it can be fixed. If you’re having serious issues with your furry roommate, be clear and concise about what the exact problems are. Use examples and avoid making generalized blanket statements. Here are a few places you can start:
- Point out a stain on the floor and explain where it’s from. Don’t attack your roommate or the animal; just remind them it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the apartment in the best condition possible so you all get the full security deposit back. (Not to mention, your roommate might have also put down a pet deposit).
- Let your roommate know that the noise is waking you up. Your roommate may not be bothered by the barking because they may already be awake or even gone for the day — but if it’s disrupting your sleep, you need to say something. The pet could be waking up neighbors if your apartment building has thin walls, and the last you thing want is to hear from your landlord that it’s an issue. Nobody likes those neighbors, so your roommate will understand.
- Avoid becoming passive aggressive. Whatever you do, don’t leave passive aggressive notes about your concerns. Pet owners are sometimes aloof to things that might annoy someone who doesn’t have an animal companion. Chances are your roommate will be happy to make adjustments so everyone can be comfortable if you’re up front about what’s bothering you.
Help Train The Pet
If things don’t get better after you’ve talked to your roommate, you can try some basic training tactics yourself. Of course, how comfortable you are with this option will depend on your relationship with your roommate. If you have a roommate that doesn’t want to be friends, you may feel uncomfortable taking this approach. But if you communicate your intentions to your roommate, it’s likely they’ll be appreciative of the extra help.
No previous pet training experience? Veterinarian Dr. Amber Andersen of Redondo Veterinary Medical Center offers a few tips on how you can get your roommate’s untrained pet to behave better.
“The best general training tip is using positive reinforcement,” she says. “This is the best type of training therapy to go by. Despite what you might see on TV with some popular trainers, avoiding any type of negative or dominance based theory is ideal.”
Before you start practicing any training methods with someone else’s pets, make sure to get on the same page with your roommate. Even though you may have good intentions, remember to tread lightly. Pets are like family, and your roommate may rightfully be very protective of their furry companion.
“Don’t start any training without talking with the pet owner and making a clear plan first,” advises Anderson. “The most ideal situation is the pet is working with a positive reinforcement-based trainer who you can learn from together. Changes in training techniques and lack of consistency can really confuse an animal.”
If this is simply too time consuming for either of you, suggest creating a budget for a pet sitter and/or training classes to your roommate. Pet stores like PetSmart offer a wide variety of affordable training classes and are located all over the United States and Canada. You can also check your local pet stores for other options.
Reach Out to Neighbors With Pets
Remember that co-living extends beyond the walls of your apartment. If you know a neighbor in the building has a pet, you can suggest your roommate reach out and see if they’re open to partnering up on walking or pet-sitting duties. This type of mutually beneficial relationship worked flawlessly for New York City actress Kelly O’Connor whose neighbor was happy to help.
“I was living with a roommate who didn’t have time to help me with my dog which was totally understandable. One day I ran into my upstairs neighbor while she was letting her dog out and our dogs seemed to get along. We realized we had the same issue when it came to time and our pets, so we exchanged keys and worked out a system” says Kelly.
“We walked our own dogs early in the morning before 7 a.m., and I let them both out around noon before I left for the day. She had a 9-to-5 schedule while my days usually ran until about 9 p.m, so she would let them both out when she got home everyday around 6:30. It was great to find someone who had an opposite schedule from me but was on the same page about their pet being a priority. We kept this routine going for over a year before she moved. It was such a relief of anxiety and our dogs were happier than ever!”