When I say that this article will offer advice for dating with dogs, I’m talking about how you can meet a potential future mate if you happen to have dogs. That is, you need to keep your pup in mind when meeting new people.
Also, having a dog looks good on you. No, really.
One study from a few years ago found that nearly half of all women would stop and talk to someone with a cute puppy. Conversely, nearly six in 10 men believed that having a dog was a great way to attract a mate.
Advice for dating with dogs
Even if your dog helps bring the two of you together, it doesn’t mean that your dog will actually like this new person once you start dating. In fact, as a pet parent, you’re going to have an added layer to deal with in the “getting to know you” phase of dating someone new. Dating with dogs is not for the faint of heart.
Things can get even more complicated if your relationship progresses to the point where you think about moving in together. And if the other person is bringing a dog to the new household? Well, there will be more work to do.
Don’t worry, though. I’ve rounded up advice from a handful of pet experts, animal behaviorists and veterinarians on the best way to handle dating with dogs.
Include your dog in your dating profile
If you’re using dating apps to find a mate, pet behavior expert Andrea Arden suggests “including your pet in your online dating profile so prospects know up front that your pet is a priority.” You can use the same when searching for others to connect with.
Dog in a profile pic? Swipe right!
Introducing your dog to your date
Let’s say you get to the point in dating that you want to introduce him or her to your dog. How do you handle that?
For starters, even if you’re a nervous wreck, try to stay calm. Your body language may be signaling to your dog that you might need “help.”
They may look to “protect” you in the presence of a stranger, especially if you’re on their home turf.
That’s why every expert I spoke to said your first pet meet-and-greet should be on neutral ground. It could be a dog park or maybe you arrange it so that you accidentally on purpose “bump” into your date while out walking your pup.
If meeting someplace neutral isn’t doable–maybe the weather isn’t cooperating–here’s what pet expert and CEO at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance Rob Jackson suggests: “You can walk your dog out to meet the visitor, and then walk back inside your home or apartment together.”
Let your dog make the first move
During this first meeting–and for many after–having treats on hand can help to “bribe” your pet to approach your date. Letting the dog make this first move is critical.
“You don’t want to pull your dog over and force them to say hello. Let them come over as they are comfortable,” advises Nicole Ellis, a celebrity dog trainer and lifestyle pet expert on the Rover Dog People Panel.
“If they are nervous, have your date calmly call their name. Your dog may be interested that this new person knows who they are. By creating a positive experience through speaking calmly, calling the dog over, and presenting treats or toys, your dog and your date will be bonding in no time.”
Leave their scent behind
To continue building a good rapport, have your new date leave behind an article of clothing, such as a sock or shirt. Then, treat your pup every time they sniff it. Yup, you’re basically rewarding your dog with a positive association to that scent.
Check out this adorable video from Pets Best about how one woman’s dog practically leaped into her (now) boyfriend’s arms the first time they met.
The most important rule for all involved: be very patient and don’t force it. You may need to repeat the meeting-you process three or four times before acceptance.
Introducing mutual pets
Perhaps the biggest hump to get over is if you’re both bringing a pet to the relationship. Just like when your pet first met your date, you should plan to make the doggy meet and greet on neutral territory.
“Allow them to approach each other gradually,” says Arden. “If one or the other seems put off, create some distance, and allow them to hang out nearby before trying again.”
Another option would be taking your dogs for a walk together. They may ignore each other the whole walk, or you may be pleasantly surprised to find them interacting in a friendly manner.
What to do if dating leads to moving in together
Two of the biggest issues that arise when you combine pet households include making sure everyone is on the same pet parenting page (behavior, feeding schedule, etc.) and ensuring the animals get along. Ideally, moving day isn’t the first time all the animals have met each other.
“Going for walks is a great way for the pups to bond and discourage territorial behavior,” says Ellis, who also encourages rewarding good behavior. A lot.
Provides lots of rewards
“When the dogs are relaxing or enjoying time together, be sure to reward them with treats and physical pats and scratches,” Ellis adds. “Additionally, if you are working on training with one dog and one is watching patiently, reward that pup as well for being patient and calm. This reinforces good behavior together.”
When one pet is moving into another pet’s house, try to manage the dynamic so that, at least for the first few weeks, the pet who lived there first gets the majority of the space, advises veterinarian Andrea Sanchez, DVM, from Banfield Pet Hospital.
Don’t move their toys, food or water bowls, or bedding until the adjustment period has passed. “I always suggest that clients make sure they continue to get plenty of alone time with their primary parent and plenty of individual attention, too,” she adds.
Here are tips on reading puppy body language.
Bottom line: moving is hard and stressful. Moving with animals is even more so, especially in a new relationship.
Give yourself, each other and the pets enough time to get used to their situation and their new space. Hopefully, soon enough, you’ll all be snuggling on the couch together watching TV.