Introducing Your Pet to Your New Person

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

couple with dogYou’ve made it past the first date or two, and you’re ready for a big test: introducing your pet and your new person. For pet parents, this isn’t just a tour of your apartment, this is meeting the family. But no pressure, right?

Keeping this introduction low-stress for everyone — your date, your pet and you — is the key to success.

Start with a photo session

Before you set up the in-person meeting, share or exchange photographs of your pets. It’s an easy opportunity to give the new person in your life an idea about who your pet is in your world.

Pet lovers probably will appreciate hearing stories, especially about your pet’s funny quirks. And you know how long you can wax poetic about your furry friend. If you’re dating a fellow pet parent, this could go on for a while!

Keep the energy positive and mellow

If you’re meeting at home, set an even, gentle tone right from the start. When you walk in the door, keep moving — put your stuff down, hang your coat, get all the way in the house and free up your hands, then greet your pet.

If your date is with you, they should follow this approach too. It lets the “you’re home!” energy fade before anyone interacts with your pet, so she’s calmer. That’s especially important when you’re with a guest.

Leader in Pet Adoptions, Largest Funder of Animal WelfareDon’t force it

It’s natural to be a little nervous. The people already like each other, so it’s important to you that your pet feels the same way. A survey found that women are twice as likely as men to judge their date based on their dog’s reaction — almost half of women do it, and 30% of men do too.

Even though you’re eager, don’t push it. You know how intuitive your pet is, right? She’ll pick up on any awkward, uncomfortable energy right away, which will make her edgy and turn her off to the whole situation.

So try the reverse: If you take a deep breath and stay relaxed, your pet will stay relaxed too. Behave as naturally as possible, speaking in your normal voice. Stay involved in the introduction for the first few minutes. Try sitting on the floor together so all 3 of you are participating in the meeting.

At the same time, at least 2 of the parties really want this meeting to go well; resist the temptation to force your pet into it. Don’t hold your pet during the introduction or push her on your new person. Don’t drag your pet out from her hiding place — if you have to say, “let me go get her,” she doesn’t want to come out. Be patient. Give her some time to get used to the new voice and new scent in your (her) house.

Making a good impression — tips for your date

There are so many things you can do wrong when meeting a pet. Compare the situation to meeting your date’s parents. You’re so enthusiastic that you overdo it — and you turn off the very people you wanted to like you.

Everyone already knows a pet is in this relationship too, so be prepared to get pet hair on your clothes. Don’t bring a lint roller.

Move slowly and keep the volume down. When someone new enters your house, you don’t expect them to start causing a ruckus, and neither does the pet.

Pay attention to your outfit, taking care to avoid looking frightening. That means no hats, no sunglasses and no carrying huge bags.

Many pets are low to the ground, which means you’re very tall to them. When you get close to a pet, get down to their level rather than looming over them — don’t be scary! Let them see your eyes and feel that you’re small instead of several feet taller than they are.

Along those same lines, when the pet gets close to you, don’t grab or pick her up. That’s a good safety tip, too. A pet will let you know when she’s comfortable enough for you to hold her.

Make that your rule for all your interaction throughout the introduction. Like when you date a person, you’re looking for signals. Watch for cues from the pet to tell you what your next move should be. In the meantime, just hang out and let them figure you out a little.

Now that you have the basics down, consider these tips for meeting both dogs and cats to make sure your first visit goes as smoothly as possible.

Dog in fieldMeeting a Dog

Think about how to help the dog stay comfortable. If he usually stands between his family and someone else when everyone is chatting, consider meeting in a neutral space, like a park, a waterfront or a parking lot. Even a yard is better than inside.

On the other hand, if you’re meeting at the dog’s home, remember that you’re entering their territory and your date’s dog is likely to be at the door when you get there. Talk with your date ahead of time about what their at-the-door plan is, and follow their lead.

When your date’s dog greets you, stand your ground calmly with your hands low. Moving around and waving your arms encourages jumping and will only amp up the pup. Offer the back of your hand for her to sniff so she can check you out. She’ll let you know when it’s OK to scratch under her chin.

If your date’s dog is a bit more standoff-ish and doesn’t approach you right away, that’s fine. Give her some time and she’ll come to you when she’s ready.

Listen carefully to what the dog is telling you. If you sense she’s saying, “Back off!” don’t argue with her, just do it. Even if she’s a tiny dog, she means business. Don’t make the mistake of trying to change that dog’s mind. Read What to Do If Your Pet Doesn’t Like Your Date instead.

Cat playing with crochet toyMeeting a Cat

Cats are usually indoor pets, so you’ll probably be in their home when you meet them. And chances are, a cat won’t greet you at the door. Your approach will be a little different.

As a rule, don’t go to a cat — let her come to you. One way to do that is to sit down, even on the floor, where you’re closer to kitty level. Don’t stare at her or watch her while she checks you out. Just let her wander over as she pleases.

Once she does, don’t even think about picking that girl up. Cats are control freaks and they know how to play hard-to-get better than anyone.

Instead, offer her your finger to sniff so she can come toward you when she’s comfortable. Pay attention and she’ll tell you what to do next. Some cats like their head scratched, others like their chin; watch for the way she turns to you and give her a gentle rub.


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