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Is Your New Partner Right for You....and Your Pet?

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Your dogs's body language around a new boyfriend or girlfriend can reveal a lot. When Pat Connor first met Jay, she knew they had a special connection. But the true test of their relationship would come after he met Bailey, the beagle and golden retriever mix she’d rescued four months earlier.

“Because Bailey hadn’t been with me very long before I met Jay, she wasn’t as clear a boyfriend meter as the dogs I’d had previously,” Pat said. “Still, I was eager to see how they’d react to each other, especially since dogs are great judges of personality and character.”

With five million smell receptors to our 220, it’s true that dogs may do better than we do at sniffing out who’s right for us. That’s because they’re non-verbal, says Deborah Wood, author of “The Dog Lover’s Guide to Dating: Using Cold Noses to Find Warm Hearts” (Howell Book House, 2003).

“Dogs get beyond the surface things we can’t help but look at because we’re human,” she says. “They don’t look at clothing, economic success, or whether somebody’s a smooth talker. They’re more attuned to the gentleness and the soul of the person.”

Read your dog’s cues

To get to this information, you must first know how to read your dog’s behavior for clues as to who you’re dealing with. For example, Pat could tell that Bailey liked Jay since she’d sort of “dance around him.”

“I could tell she wanted to go to him,” she says, “it just took her a while to overcome her shyness.” Eventually, however, she did. And her tail started to wag whenever she saw him -- a good sign, say experts.

If, however, unlike Bailey, your dog barks or growls every time your new beau approaches, there could be a problem. “If you have a dog that’s generally friendly but really doesn’t like this person, your dog could be trying to tell you something,” says Wood. “I’d pay attention.”

Use your dog as bait for new insights

Once you know where your dog stands on your love interest, where does your love interest stand on your dog? After all, if you’re like the 66 percent of dog owners recently surveyed by the American Kennel Club, you might not want to consider dating someone who doesn’t like your animal.

If the person not only likes dogs, but has one, Wood recommends noting the breed. “(It) can give you a lot of information about someone’s personality since they tend to share those traits with their dogs,” she said. For example, people with dachshunds tend to be quirky and fun while those with Rottweilers can be overly protective. (See sidebar for more.)

She also recommends watching how somebody treats their dog as an indication of how they’ll treat you. Take the case of Marilyn Cantwell and her former boyfriend Dick. He used to say that “anybody who didn’t understand the dog came first wouldn’t make it with him.” It’s a sentiment that not only raised a red flag for Marilyn but also caused her to end the relationship.

Here are a few others to look out for:

  • If somebody is too harsh or strict with the dog, yelling for no good reason
  • If they don’t take care of the dog -- or take better care of the dog than they do of themselves
  • If your dinner conversation is constantly being interrupted by a begging dog (could indicate boundary issues)
  • If they’re threatened by the time and attention you spend with your dog
  • If they inappropriately put the pet before you
  • If they want you to get rid of your pet -- “Get rid of them instead,” Wood said, explaining that this type of request can be a precursor to domestic violence

Finally, it’s best to have your dog spend some time around somebody before you get too invested, Pat said. “Jay worked hard to win Bailey over and that meant a lot to me.” So much so, that she married him.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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