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So you’ve met that special someone, and it’s serious. While meeting the parents might be an issue for some, what about meeting the dog? Both situations take plenty of preparation and care.
You and your dog have enjoyed years of established routines and a sense of order and place in the home. Now a new person in your life could be seen as an intruder. Certain breeds -- and certain dogs -- are more open and accepting to guests in your home. Although it’s not always a factor determined by breed, there are some breeds (such as terriers or herding dogs) that may be more wary.
No matter what your dog’s temperament is, you can help your dog come to accept and respect your new love. Here’s how.
Is your dog king of the house? If you haven’t given your dog boundaries, then you’re going to have problems bringing a new person into your lives. Your dog must respect you; he cannot be the one to decide if your new friend is good company. You have to make that decision, and your dog must trust you. If you’ve established the right relationship, then your dog will trust your judgment when it comes to meeting new people.
Once that trust has been established, a few small steps make for a positive first meeting:
- Meet on neutral territory. When first introducing your pet to a peer, you don’t bring the new dog into your house. The same goes for introducing your dog to new people. Meet at a park or on a walk, and let your friend get acquainted with your canine. Show your dog that this is a safe person.
- Take it slowly. Let your pup approach your friend first, and allow the dog to sniff. Definitely don’t encourage your new love interest to overwhelm your pet with displays of affection. Instead, your friend can put a hand out beneath your dog’s chin to give him the opportunity to get a read on this new human.
- Don’t stare. Your friend should not give eye contact initially.
- Try gentle pats. When you see that your dog is warming up to your friend (not growling or stiffening up), let your friend pet him either on the shoulders or on the chest -- but never on the top of the head.
- Remain calm. Dogs pick up on our nervous energy. If your friend shows fear or anxiety, your dog will pick up on that right away and take advantage.
- Make it fun. If your dog likes to retrieve, play a game of fetch. Take a walk. Do something your dog likes to do.
- Go back to your home together. Once your dog’s gotten used to this new person, you can visit your home together. Let your friend give your dog treats or feed him when you arrive home.
- Work together. Eventually work in structured walks for your friend and dog. Structured walks involve using basic obedience commands (e.g., “Sit,” “Walk,” “Stay,” “Come”) to establish that the person walking is in charge.
As a trainer, I establish relationships with new dogs all the time. These steps have helped me to establish trust and a rapport with every dog I meet. Dogs are powerful, athletic animals. Physically, there is no contest. But what we as people have is higher brain power, and that’s what we have to use to establish good relationships with our pets.
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