Wednesday, September 19, 2012
When couples get to the point where it's time to meet the parents, it can be a bit stressful if you don't know how the folks will receive your new partner. That can be a piece of cake compared to the first meeting between your significant other and your pet!
Even with a dog or cat, that first impression is important and makes a big difference to both your pet and partner. From a pet's point of view, there are polite and respectful greetings and rude ones. A pet can easily get freaked out if someone invades their space without asking for permission first. We don't appreciate someone we just met moving too fast, and pets share that view. Take it slow so your pet and partner can start off on the right foot from the beginning.
Scent is one way dogs and cats explore and understand their world. Before you were serious about your partner, you were bringing their scent into your home. When you are getting ready for the first meeting between your dog and new mate, begin by introducing their smell into your home. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to bring home a T-shirt or small towel with their scent on it. Have your pet sniff the fabric and leave it lying around where they can find it. Reward your pet with their favorite CANIDAE treat and give praise. You want your pet to have an enjoyable association with the other person's smell, and when he finally meets your boyfriend/girlfriend, he will recognize their scent in a positive way.
When your partner greets your dog for the first time, it's best if you can do it somewhere outside the home. Meet at a quiet park, in the front yard of your home, or on a favorite hiking trail. Have your partner stand sideways and let your dog walk up and smell them. Don't give him direct eye contact, don't talk to him, and don't force a meeting. Allow him space to approach the person when he's ready. Stay relaxed and calm.
Since food is something most dogs respond to, have plenty of CANIDAE treats on hand and ask your partner to reward him when he allows them to pet him. Don't worry if he won't take a treat from someone's hand he doesn't know. Just drop the treat on the ground in front of the dog. You need to stay in the background so your pet is getting attention only from your partner. Have your partner continue to offer treats each time your dog looks up at them and be patient, stay positive, and happy. If your dog is apprehensive about approaching someone new, find a comfortable place to sit on the ground and wait for your dog to come up to them. Remember to give treats and lots of praise each time he comes. Wait for him to give cues he's ready to be touched by the other person.
If your dog is timid and backs away, growls, barks, or indicates with his body language that he's unsure about this person, don't let your partner approach him at all. Ignore his actions and give him time to check out the new person on his own terms. Offer treats, sit on the ground so you're on his level and give him time to relax. As long as he isn't showing any aggression, ignore what he's doing. When he comes up to your partner to check them out, don't look at him and don't talk to him. He isn't looking for attention, and is more interested in sniffing the new person. Give him time to work through his apprehension. When he feels safe, he'll let you know.
Cats are great at finding the one person in a room that isn't a cat lover. One of the best ways to let your cat get to know your new partner is to have them sit down and completely ignore your cat when she comes into the room. There's a good chance your cat will wander over to the one ignoring her and give them a sniff. This is a good time for your partner to speak softly and offer your cat some FELIDAE TidNips treats. If she won't take them, put them down beside her. Another good way to help your cat feel at ease with someone new is to have them play with her. Few cats can resist a moving string. Just remember to take it slow and easy.
Some pets will adjust quickly and accept a new person in their life, and some will need more time. Let your pet move at their own speed, and remember to keep things positive and calm. Make sure your partner is giving your pet lots of praise for good behavior. As they get to know each other, respect and trust will continue to grow.
Photo by Lara Eakins
Read more articles by Linda Cole