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Dating and your dog: When Fido gets fresh

Five tips to help introduce your pet to the new love of your life.

You’re on a date with your new flame when one thing leads to another, and you find yourselves back at your place.  The object of your desire is relaxing on your sofa as you begin to set the mood — you dim the lights, put on some sexy music, then hurry to the kitchen for a bottle of wine and two glasses. In romantic anticipation, you return to the living room to find your dog has lost his manners and is humping your guest’s leg! Flushed with embarrassment, you quickly remove the four-legged Casanova from your violated guest, admonishing your dog while banishing him to the kitchen. 

What’s gotten into him?  What does it mean?  And more importantly, what should you do?

A dog is like a family member and until now Fido has been a well-behaved, beloved “child."  But sex is not what is on Fido’s mind. In his mind, he’s either taking care of you, fulfilling his duty as a responsible dog, or he might be making sure your love interest understands that he’s higher in the pecking order. Remember that the wolf is your dog’s ancestor and although domesticated, dogs share the same instincts and thought process. From Fido’s point of view, the two of you live together harmoniously as a pack. Your date’s presence is a change in this dynamic that threatens the comfortable status quo. This humping behavior displayed by both female and male dogs, fixed as well as unfixed, is a demonstration of authority, since in nature only alpha males and females get to reproduce. 

Here are some tips on how to introduce Fido to a new flame:

Your dog needs to learn manners.Fido needs to learn to have manners and be polite around houseguests. The best way to do this is to have him sit (just like kids say “Please”) for everything he wants. I call this relevance training: He should sit before he gets his food, before you give him a toy, before he goes for a walk or you give him a kiss. If he’s been sharing your bed or you allow him on the furniture, have him sitting politely and wait for you to invite him up. Ask your new love to ask Fido to sit and only then can she be affectionate with him.

Prevent “attention seeking” behavior.Fido may become stressed if in the past he has gotten 100 percent of your attention. Now, all of sudden your attention is concentrated elsewhere and he believes it’s because of this new person. Give Fido less attention and have your girl or guy give him more attention, particularly in the form of games, walks and goodies. Let Fido associate him or her with "fun" and not as the one he should compete with.

Beware of “Fido’s Revenge.”
Your dog may start a destructive attention-seeking behavior because having negative attention is better then no attention at all. You can distract him from feeling sorry for himself by giving him his favorite chew toys only at those times he now feels “neglected”.  Stimulate and exercise his mind by teaching him new behaviors or tricks right before your new love comes over. Teach him new ways to impress you, and shower him with love when he does so.

Make mealtime quality time.Prepare your food and your dog’s food at the same time, with you always eating first. Only when you are done eating and after politely sitting should your dog get his meal. This will help to establish you as the leader of the pack, as the Alpha dog always gets to eat first. Have your loved one eat before his meal as well (even if it's just a glass of water).

Involve your new love.
Whenever possible, let your amore assume the role of the benevolent leader of the pack by letting him or her serve your dog his dinner, invite him up on the couch, hold the leash on a walk, etc.

Animal behaviorist Tamar Geller is a dog expert and life coach for dogs and their people.