Downtime

My Dog Is Ruining My Sex Life

She whines and scratches whenever I start getting some action.

A dog, man, and woman in bed.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by teksomolika/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Beast Mode is Slate’s pet advice column. Have a question? Send it to beastmode@slate.com.

Dear Beast Mode,

My dog is sweet and generally listens well, but she is super attached to me. As a single lady who dates casually, we have one main problem: She hates it when I get some action! Whenever I start to do my thing with a date, even if we’re just kissing on the couch, she whines loudly. If we move to the bedroom, she’ll eventually quiet down but then proceeds to anxiously chew my comforter to bits.

I’ve tried putting her in another room, but then she’ll whine and scratch at the door, which wakes up my housemates and threatens my security deposit. She has toys that she likes, but she’s not very food-motivated and won’t take treats when anxious. Crate training may be possible, but it would take a very long time for her to feel really comfortable in it. I think her main problem is that she doesn’t understand what we’re doing. Am I doomed to either a lifetime of celibacy or ruined comforters?

—My Third Wheel Squeaks

Dear My Third Wheel Squeaks,

Dogs are experts at so many things. The location of the treat drawer. The neighborhood’s best pee spots. The precise number of times to spin before plopping down to rest. Sadly, they are rather ignorant about matters of tact, especially when it comes to their owners’ romantic lives. Nonetheless, it would be uncouth to expect pups to sympathize with certain human needs after we surgically remove theirs.

Spontaneity is what makes romance fun, but it also makes dogs nervous. They crave schedules and stability, and your pup can’t help but notice when her best friend is acting slightly out of character. Hers is an indiscriminate anxiety. You could be doing Sudoku between the sheets, and she’d whine just the same. If you can get her used to instances of spontaneous (yet banal) separation, then she’ll be able to chill out while you tend to more exciting matters.

Romance is difficult enough as is, so I don’t expect you to ask your dates to get in the mood with some dog training. All of this can be done when your suitors are not around. Set up an area for your pup with a cozy dog bed and all her favorite toys. Make this the best spot in the house, a place where she’s routinely showered with treats and praise. If your roommates allow it, put this fun zone in the living room (or wherever you spend the most time). When she gets comfortable, start going into your bedroom for short periods of time. Take a friend with you every now and then so she gets used to being occasionally excluded. If you’re concerned about her scratching at the door, affix a pane of plexiglass to the bottom with double-sided tape so she won’t damage the wood.

On days when you have dates lined up, take your dog to the park (or wherever she likes to run around) beforehand. She won’t have as much energy later to whine when you’re getting your own exercise in.

If you feel the need to have the dog in your bedroom for whatever reason, then crate training may be the best way to prevent her from chewing on the comforter. (Nonfood items are rough on a dog’s digestive system, so you should try to wean her off this behavior anyway.) A reader complained about her dog sleeping on her bed a few weeks back, and I outlined how to get an older pooch used to a crate. It may be time-consuming, but the process is probably less difficult than you think.

No one likes being sexiled, but you can help your dog learn to appreciate the alone time. She may not understand anything about what’s going on behind the bedroom door, but she’ll be pumped to hang out as soon as you finish that Sudoku.