How Should I Introduce My Pet to a New Partner?

Lab getting a treat
Dreamstime

Meeting the family of a significant other is a major step in a relationship — and introducing a significant other to your much-adored dog can be just as nerve wracking. Both dogs and cats can be territorial and unhappy about change, but dogs are more likely to be possessive when it comes to their home turf, which includes their owners. So the new person in the household is often automatically associated with something negative, like the time and affection that you are suddenly lavishing on your date instead of your dog.

Case in point: When my father, Dr. Marty Becker, was doing a segment on the Dr. Oz Show once, a staff member came up to me  lamenting about her dog, who had scared off every boyfriend she'd ever invited to her place. Her pooch would guard the door and growl whenever a man entered — and then supervise every interaction between her and the date. She was desperate to find a way to introduce her dog to a boyfriend without stressing out the pup or sending the man running.

The good news is that there are several ways to help your dog not only tolerate such an interloper, but also gladly welcome him or her into your household. Before introducing your dog to a significant other, bring home something that your boyfriend or girlfriend has worn, like a T-shirt used for sleeping. Let your pup sniff the item first, and then present your dog with a reward, such as a game of fetch, a walk or dinner. By pairing the smell of your new partner with something positive, your dog begins to associate that person with good things before they even meet. You can also say your significant other’s name out loud before you present the item and the reward, repeating this process several times.

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