February 14th is possibly one of the most romantic days of the year, but when love is in the air you may need to think about how your dog might react to your partner. Your new soul mate may not be enthusiastic about your dog, especially if he/she is met with snarls on entering the house!
If there are several people living in your household, your dog’s response to your partner may be diluted as you are not the only focus of your dog’s attention and love. But if you live alone, the intrusion into your one-on-one relationship with you dog could have a huge impact.
As the sole care-giver, your dog will view you as the most important resource in his life. He might perceive that his security and safety is threatened if a new person becomes the focus of your attentions and he may feel the need to defend access to you. Conversely, if your dog is fearful of strangers, the presence of an unfamiliar person may send him bolting behind the sofa and refusing to come out.
Whatever the reason, it is better to make some life-style changes prior to introducing your new partner. By doing so, you will not only help your dog to accept the new member of the family, but also ensure your partner does not feel intimidated.
Obviously, if you have made sure that your dog has been well socialised with people since puppyhood then you might presume that your dog will accept your new partner without any fuss. But stop and think; is your dog familiar with men with beards? This could be a problem if your new boyfriend has a beard. What about skin colour? If your girlfriend is from a different ethnic background has your dog met enough people from different ethnic groups for this to feel familiar?
Introduce your dog to your partner on a walk rather than at your house; this way your dog and partner can learn to be around each other without feeling restricted in their responses/reactions. Even better, encourage them to play together…your partner throwing a ball or toy. Your dog can bring the toy to you but to continue the game you should pass the toy for your partner to throw. By doing this your dog will soon view your partner as someone who is fun. If your dog is not toy orientated, then you can ask your partner to throw some treats on the floor when you call your dog back to you. Don’t forget, you can always end the walk with a visit to the local pub, so you all get rewarded!!
Once you feel your dog is relaxed going for walks, now is the time to go into the house. After a walk both of you should step into the house together with your dog. Ask your partner to sit quietly and to try not to interact with your dog. Let your dog make the first move. Give your partner prior instructions…’just let him sniff you at first’… ‘tickle him under his chin not over the top of his head’…’if he backs away, let him’. Ask your partner to give your dog his dinner.
Always allow your dog to retreat to a place of safety if needed. In fact, it would be useful to teach your dog that he has a very special den which is full of chews and toys. By doing so, your dog will be able to entertain himself when your partner visits and will not feel that he has been excluded. Dogs can resort to an array of attention seeking behaviours if they feel they are being ignored. If you are enjoying a romantic hug on the sofa, your dog’s barking and/or jumping up may not be well received. Use the special den to give your dog an alternative!
It may be that you have allowed your dog on the bed. This might be difficult if you now want to snuggle up with your partner rather than your dog!! Before this becomes a problem, begin teaching your dog that he has an equally comfortable place just outside the bedroom door. You may need to use a baby gate to restrict his access to the bedroom – after all, two’s company, but three is a crowd!!
Provided you can show that you love both your partner and your dog and that neither of them should feel threatened by the other, you should have a winning relationship.