It’s hard when someone at home doesn’t approve of your choices. Even when that someone walks on all fours! Before you send either one of them to the pound, here are some ideas on what to do when your date and your pet just don’t get along.
When animals react
Don’t discount the wisdom of the animal kingdom. Your pet can sense things you might miss, and there’s always the chance he or she is picking up on subtle signs of hostility or unfriendliness. On the other hand, your furry friend’s discomfort may have many sources, and shouldn’t necessarily spell a ticket home for your date.
Any small moment in an animal’s past at crucial imprinting stages can trigger an irrational fear. Some animals distrust women while others have a natural aversion to loud voices or large gestures. Dogs, even those that have never been abused, have been known to recoil from hands gripping harmless objects like a brush or a bag. Animals rescued from shelters are especially prone to skittishness. And of course, it could be your date’s own nerves that are making your pet uneasy. The lesson here? Pay attention to your pet’s reaction, but take into account your pet’s temperament and your own appraisal of your date before passing judgment.
Manage the approach
While you can’t control how your pet reacts, you can take steps to help minimize unnecessary misunderstanding. Remember that eye contact indicates dominance and aggression. Many people are moved to extend a hand to a dog or cat, but it’s easy to see how this can be threatening to your much smaller companion. Let your pet approach your date, rather than the other way around. And urge your human companion to restrict sudden movements until your pet feels more comfortable. Meeting for the first time outside your home, like in front of the lobby of an apartment or a few doors down from your house, can also help your pet feel less threatened and/or protective.
Don’t tolerate aggression (from either of them)
Be firm and consistent. Let your Chihuahua get away with a little “playful” nibbling, and he won’t understand why his teeth don’t make for an acceptable greeting. If you find yourself being permissive when the cat forgoes the litter box when you have company, you’ll soon have a much bigger problem on your hands. While you’re at it, encourage your date to avoid expressing annoyance directly to your pet, and never let them get away with physical aggression. That can only alienate your pet, not to mention set off alarms for its owner!
The hidden advantage
Look at your animal’s resistance as a built in test for your potential partner. It might seem like a major inconvenience, but relationships are riddled with challenges. If he or she isn’t willing to put a little effort into impressing Fido or Mr. Boots now, what does that say about what you’re in for a few months down the road? On the other paw, if a little pet-pampering isn’t dampening the flames, you may have sniffed out a winner. If you’re willing to be patient with your four-legged chaperone, the three of you just may be very happy together.
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