How to introduce your dog to a new partner

After the madness of the festive season and bleakness of January, our thoughts turn to spring and, as Valentine’s Day looms, thoughts of love. But how do you introduce your dog to a new partner?

There’s no doubt it’s a jungle out there. But hopefully with a bit of hard work and by kissing a few (possibly quite a lot of) frogs, you’ll eventually find what you hope will be your soulmate.

And this is where in true Romeo and Juliet style, it can all go wrong – but the objections to this new relationship might not come from your family, but from your dog!

Why might this be?

Some dogs love everyone and introducing a new person into their life can be just as exciting for them as it is for you – especially if they’re a dog lover and come bearing treats.

For others, however, you are ‘their person’ and they haven’t had to share you before. This new person, who’s suddenly taken their place on the sofa, and in your heart, is very much an unwanted guest.

As dog owners, we’re generally quite good at thinking about how to introduce a new dog, a baby or even a cat to our existing beloved canine. But we tend not to think that a new partner needs just as much, if not more, thought.

How do you negotiate this potential love triangle?

When you meet a new partner, there’s a temptation to turn your world upside down. Your usual routine and habits change, and your usual predictable life starts to resemble a whirlwind of excitement.

And, thanks to this new partner, you smell different too. For dogs, who like predictability and routine, this can be a disaster that can leave them feeling unsafe, worried and stressed – even before they meet the object of all this change!

You can easily become so wrapped up in love that you start to spend less time with your dog. Just little things. Missing a walk here and there, skipping a training class you both enjoy, going out and leaving them home alone more, less play and games, and of course, less of your attention.

Where to start

The number one thing you can do – even before you introduce your new love interest – is keep your dog’s routine the same as it has always been. After all, your dog has loved you for far longer – and the statistics (sadly… sorry optimists) show they will probably love you long after your new love has gone!

Introduce your dog and your new partner on neutral territory. Don’t just bring them home, plonk them on the sofa beside you with a glass of wine in hand, and hope things will be fine.

Instead, meet out on a walk somewhere your dog enjoys and can have fun. Arm them with treats and go and have a good time. Play games together, let your new love give your dog some tasty treats, practise a bit of training – all the time your dog can see, hear and smell this new addition to your life and hopefully come to the opinion that they’re not bad and could even have potential.

Do this as many times as it takes for your dog to seem happy around them. This could be one walk or it could be several. Don’t rush this – love takes time!

Next steps

Now you’re ready for a ‘home meeting’.

Plan a short visit, start with games in the garden if you can, and then once back inside, focus on your dog and not each other. If your dog is happy (and doesn’t food guard), this newbie to the house can give them their dinner, and for the first visit, keep PDAs to a minimum (I know that’s hard but resist…).

As your dog gets used to your new partner being in the house, you can relax more in this regard, but for now, it’s like having a canine chaperone!

Note here: dogs don’t understand hugs. They generally don’t like hugs themselves and they really don’t understand humans doing it. In dog body language, hugging can look a lot like conflict and your dog may well feel they need to break this up – either in the diplomatic way of pushing between you, or by protecting you. Get into the habit of throwing your dog a treat or giving them a long-lasting toy like a stuffed Kong if you plan a cuddling on the sofa session – so you build a positive association.

Even once your partner and your dog know each other and are happy in each other’s company, always watch out for your dog feeling pushed out or their routine being disrupted.

With a bit of understanding and a little work, you can introduce your dog to a new partner like a pro, and ensure the two loves of your life get on well together.

Need help?

If no matter what you do, there is conflict (and some dogs really don’t like to share – or maybe they’re trying to tell you something about your choice in partners!), talk to a behaviourist who can help you regain domestic harmony.

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