For the craziest dog lovers among us, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of that stressful moment when a new romantic interest meets our canine ride-or-die for the first time. Bringing home a significant other to meet the pup is almost as crucial (okay, maybe equally crucial) as bringing them home to meet the parents. And, no, we’re not kidding.
If you thought this was a joke, consider these stats: According to a recent study from Rover.com, 54 percent of “dog people” would consider ending a relationship if they thought their dog wasn’t a huge fan of their bae. Clearly, the dog and S.O. dynamic is pretty critical. The last thing anyone needs is another variable with relationship-ending potential, so we’ve done a little homework to help ensure that your pooch isn’t the reason for your breakup. (Fluffy shouldn’t have to live with that guilt.)
Keep reading for nine pro tips from veterinarian Dr. Julio López and dog trainer and behavioral consultant Paula Nowak. Once you put their suggestions to work, we bet your S.O. and your dog will have to try not to fall in love.
1. Take it slow. Your new bae is probably just itching to prove that they can bond with your pooch ASAP, but patience is key. Encourage your sweetie to hang back and let Fido approach them first. “Instead of approaching [the dog] and risking that you scare them and they run away from you, wait until [the dog] comes on their own, or call them over to let them sniff you out,” Lopez says. When your S.O. and pup finally do meet face-to-face, your sweetie should lower themselves to dog-level and stay calm — dogs can feel nervous energy!
2. Let the process be a slow burn. You’ve made the introduction… what happens next? Allow your two important people (yes, dogs are people too) to bond gradually. “The time spent together should allow both individuals low-pressure activities, such as hanging out, watching TV or movies, and taking walks together,” Nowak recommends. On your first few walks as a trio, it’s best that you — not your partner — take control of the leash.
3. Practice strategic petting. Did you know that dogs have preferred petting locations? According to Lopez, woman’s best friend especially enjoys when we show them a little love at the base of their necks, or on their shoulders or chests. If your S.O. focuses on these areas, they’re more likely to make fast friends with your pup.
4. Don’t be afraid to bribe. Okay, so the whole concept of bribery kind of gets a bad rap, but when it comes to training dogs — and, more specifically, playing matchmaker for your human and canine love interests — it’s totes acceptable. Lopez’s advice on bribery to your significant other? “Carry treats with you at all times. They will be sniffed out, and they’ll make you approachable.” Better still, “If you’re around for breakfast or dinner, volunteer to feed [the dog]. Give them half of the usual amount, so that when they are done and asking for more, you can feed them again. They will love you for that!” We will too.
5. Let your S.O. play good cop. “In the initial relationship-building period, all good things should come from the new person,” Nowak says. “Anything the dog considers icky or scary (like baths or vet care) should be done only with the primary caregiver.” It doesn’t feel great to be the bad guy, but if you let your boo bring the fun for a while, your dog will be much faster to fall in love with them as much as you have.
6. Take a walk. Walks are a normal part of life for most dogs and their owners, so make your new S.O. part of the routine. After a few strolls as a threesome, Lopez says, your pup may feel comfortable enough with your bae to take a lap around the block without you — but don’t rush it. When your partner is ready to take on a one-on-one walk, make sure they bring treats.
7. Lay off the strong scents. If your S.O. tends toward heavy perfumes or colognes, they may want to ease up — at least until they’ve bonded with your pooch. “Dogs have insanely sensitive noses,” Lopez points out. “That cologne you were thinking of soaking in will likely be a turn-off.” Similarly, if your partner has pets of their own at home, it may be smart for them to wait to change clothes until right before they leave the house to minimize the new animal smells they’re bringing to your place.
8. Consider a class. You may have never thought of an obedience class as the perfect spot for a date, but it’s time to reconsider. If your significant other is up for it, Nowak says these kinds of dog-focused activities “can help build trust and communication.”
9. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Maintaining open lines of communication is key in every aspect of a relationship, and forging the bond between your love interest and your pup is no exception. Make sure your S.O. feels comfortable sharing their concerns about the situation with you openly. “It’s not always easy to bond with a dog you didn’t choose, a dog you haven’t raised,” Nowak admits. “The human piece of the puzzle is very important.” Don’t forget to offer your partner specific, positive feedback when you see your dog beginning to have all the heart eyes for them!
Do you have any crazy experiences with a significant other’s dog? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)