Photo: Courtesy of Men's Health // Man and dog

Your girlfriend has another man in her life -- and if you don't get along with him, then you can forget about your relationship with her.

We're talking, of course, about her dog. How you handle your partner's pooch might be a deal breaker, according to a new study presented at the annual Meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers at the University of Houston found that a woman is happiest in her relationship when her partner's bond with her dog matches her own.


In the study, 120 couples took separate surveys about their relationship with their pets and with each other. Researchers then compared the woman's scores to her significant other's, and discovered a close or matching pet attachment score meant the woman was more satisfied with her romantic relationship. (Learn why puppies win over women.)

It's called the matching effect, says coauthor Kristen Capuozzo, M.S., a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston. If both partners score high or low, the woman is happy, but a mismatch means a problem. Interestingly, guys aren't bothered by the difference, if they're even aware it exists.
Researchers believe the disparity happens because women are more in tune with their social environment, having been given the evolutionary responsibility of being concerned with the harmony of the household.

So what can you do if you're not a fan of Fido?

More from Men's Health:Why Men Need Dogs

Don't fake it. Chances are the dog will out you as a canine-hater anyway, so any effort you make needs to be sincere, Capuozzo says. Pay attention to how she interacts with the pet and follow suit. Try joining in on their nightly walk together or spend a few minutes playing fetch in her yard. Even if you and the dog don't become best buds, your girlfriend will appreciate the effort. Just try not to complain about that pink puppy sweater too much. (Looking for a new best friend? Find out which breed works for you.)