Dating an animal lover

With so many animal lovers out there, the chances of dating one are pretty good. Here are some tips to help you get along with your partner’s pets.

February is the month for love. But the feelings might turn sour if the person you’re dating has a dog or cat who decides he doesn’t like you for some reason. Some animals are stressed and frightened by new people moving into their lives, while others get defensive and even jealous of all the time their human companions spend with their new love interests. In short, how your partner’s animal reacts to you could have an impact on whether or not you get a second date!

The best way to help get things off on the right foot is to make sure your first meeting with your partner’s animal goes well. So what can you do to nail that “first date” with Fido or Fluffy?

“Prepare, prepare, prepare,” says Allie Phillips, J.D., Vice President of Public Policy for the American Humane Association, and an expert in the human-animal bond. “By asking questions before meeting the animal, you show you care about him, and thereby care for the person.” Here are three key things to find out before the big date:

1. Where does the animal like to be petted?

Some dogs and cats hate being touched on their heads. Try kneeling down and petting the soft part of the chest between his legs. Some animals like to be stroked and some like to be scratched or patted. Instead of trying each method until you find the right answer, ask your partner first. You may earn extra points for caring.

2. What is his favorite treat?

Bring a small bag of favorite treats with you to help the animal associate your first meeting with something enjoyable. If you’re bringing a different treat, ask your partner first if it’s okay to give it to the animal – some dogs and cats have allergies.

3. What kind of toys does he prefer?

Like humans, every animal is different. Some prefer toys that squeak and some prefer stuffed animals. So in addition to a bottle of wine for your date, bring a new toy for his furry companion (make sure it’s safe and good quality) – it’s never too early to start earning brownie points!

When meeting your partner’s animal for the first time, keep the following tips in mind:

• Some animals are wary of strangers and find eye contact too domineering. Try to put the animal at ease by kneeling and looking down and away from him while speaking softly and offering your fist, palm down. That way, the animal can meet you on his terms and is more likely to come up to check you out.

• Some animals won’t go near strangers until they’ve had time to watch them for some time. Give him his space, ignore his presence and let him come to you. He might just jump up on your lap when you least expect it.

• Animals don’t always have the same good manners as their human parents, and may jump up for your attention. While it’s good he seems happy to meet you, try not to reinforce the bad behavior. Turn away and don’t pay attention to him until he has all four paws on the floor. Tell your date what you are doing – he or she may think you are a master of animal behavior and like you all the more!

A little preparation will go a long way towards establishing a good relationship with your date’s dog or cat. Happy Valentine’s Day!