Introducing your dog to your significant other (or anyone new!)

A leashed dog stands next to their caretaker outside

New relationships are fun and exciting – and can mean adding a new person to your dog’s life. Here are a few tips from our Training and Behavior team on how to introduce your canine companion to your date (or any new person), so that they start off on the right paw.

Understand your dog’s body language and learn from past experiences

Before any introduction, it’s important that you have a good understanding of your dog’s level of comfort when encountering new people or situations. 

Learn to recognize what your dog is communicating with their body language when they meet new people and use this to inform how to make introductions more comfortable whenever possible. 

Pro tip: Prepping your date for the introduction can be just as important as prepping your pet. Be sure to tell them any helpful tips for interacting with your dog, such as whether they enjoy being touched or a warning that your excited pup may try to jump up on them. This will help both your significant other and your dog feel more confident and comfortable. 

Let your dog take the lead

Some animals may be ready to give all the kisses and snuggles right away, while others may take a while to warm up to a new person. Letting your dog approach people on their own is one of the most important parts of ensuring that introductions go smoothly, even if this means they take a couple of visits before they’re finally ready to make a friend. 

A dog brings a toy to a woman sitting on a chair

While Fido investigates, advise the person to keep their hands safely by their side. Play and pets should begin only once your dog has solicited attention themselves, such as rubbing against the new person or bringing over their favorite toy. 

For dogs that are fearful around new people, consider making the introduction through a closed door. This way your pet can smell and hear the person from the safety of their own space.

Pick the right setting

Pick a setting where you know your dog feels confident and at ease – and isn’t somewhere where they may feel threatened by a new person in their space. This might be on a walk, at a dog park, in your living room, or at a pet-friendly brewery. 

If meeting in an unfamiliar space is necessary, try to arrive early so your pup has time to get used to the space first.

Start off on a positive note with a treat

Being offered a yummy treat can be a great way to help your dog associate a new person with a happy experience. 

Treats should be gently thrown toward or past the dog so they know who the treats are coming from, but don’t need to choose between the treat and approaching if they aren’t comfortable.

Need extra behavior help with your dog?

Participating in behavior and training classes can be a great way for your pup to get extra help or practice with introductions. Our Four on the Floor class can help over-excited dogs learn how to greet people politely, and private training is a good option to help shy dogs gain more confidence around new people. 

Learn more about training