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Forget meeting the parents—the most important introduction for a budding relationship is the meet-and-greet between new loves and loyal pets. It can’t be great for a blossoming romance if these two parties don’t get along, right? But no need to fret. We checked in with Dr. Andrea Sanchez, DVM, of Banfield Pet Hospital for her advice when it comes to introducing pets to significant others. Here’s what she told us.

RELATED: 7 Things Your Vet Wants You to Stop Doing

dog resting his head on his owerns lap
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Be upfront about your pets (and/or issues with pets)

Casually forgetting to mention you cohabitate with two Great Danes until you and your new boo are unlocking your front door is not cool. Share that important info early! If you use dating apps, Dr. Sanchez recommends including a photo of you and your pet somewhere in your profile, “You can learn a lot about a person based on their relationship with their pets,” Dr. Sanchez adds.

Who knows? Your passion for fostering dogs could be a huge conversation starter and eventual bond with someone. Plus, it lets dates know what to expect if they come over to your place.

On the flip side, new flames need to be upfront about allergies. Get this discussion out of the way as soon as possible, because if cats are a deal-breaker for someone who is deathly allergic to pet dander, that needs to be addressed ASAP.

dog laying in his crate
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Prep your pad

So, you’ve found someone who meets all your ideal criteria and the two of you are in. To. Each. Other. Hooray! Eventually, they’re going to be in your home, with your pet. Take a second to think about personalities. Does your cat bite strangers? Does your partner have a loud, booming voice that scares dogs?

Make sure your pet has a space he can sneak away to if he gets freaked out by the new energy in his home, says Dr. Sanchez. For dogs, this could be a kennel with toys that your pup finds comfortable. For cats, this could mean placing extra cardboard boxes around the living room as safe zones from which they can observe. 

Dr. Sanchez adds it’s important to “practice separation sessions in whatever ‘safe zone’ you determine is most appropriate for your pet prior to introducing them to your new love interest.”

You don’t want your dog to associate being locked in the kennel with bae coming over.

Also, prep your date. Let them know if loud noises or big gestures startle your pets so they avoid behavior that could cause distress.

cat hiding under the couch
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Give your pet the space it needs

Now, the big test. Ask your partner to give your pet plenty of space when they first meet. Make sure your date checks in with you before reaching for or petting your dog or cat. “Together, make sure you both watch the pet’s body language closely,” advises Dr. Sanchez. “Take a step back if the pet isn’t OK with it.”

Any signs that your pet is uncertain should be met with lots of space. This is her territory, after all! Letting the animal choose when she’s ready to make contact is a good idea. Again, don’t force chemistry. Everyone needs to sniff each other out before bonding can really happen.

The first intro can be pretty short, too. Don’t overwhelm your pet. Developing a relationship takes time, especially with animals.

woman cuddling with her dog
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And go slow if your pet requires it

Worst case scenario, your pet is all, “No, thank you! Boy, bye.” Dr. Sanchez asks pet owners to remember they are their pets’ primary sources of food, protection and love. Any new person on the scene threatens this delicate balance. (It’s nice to be needed, though, right?!)

“It’s imperative to carve out time to give your pet special attention,” says Dr. Sanchez. “Include your partner in activities like walking or cuddling to help your pet associate them with positive things, not view them as a threat.”

Smell is huge for animals, so it’s not a bad idea to teach your pet to recognize bae’s scent and link it to you (also a fun excuse to borrow that vintage Chicago Bulls T-shirt they always wear). This entire process can take a while (anywhere from several days to a few weeks, depending on how wary your pet is of your partner). Just don’t rush it!

dog who ripped up paper towels and feeling really guilty about it now
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Make your S.O.’s home inviting to your pet, too

When it’s your turn to introduce your pet to your partner’s home, make sure they’ve done a thorough sweep of the place and moved anything that could cause harm, irritation or stress to your pet. Until you live with a dog (or any pet), it’s hard to know what items could be hazardous. Ask your boo to move any poisonous plants, medications, breakables or fancy shoes they don’t want eaten out of reach.

Finding love is amazing (have you ever seen a rom-com?), but it doesn’t always happen like it does in the movies (but we still love rom-coms). Follow these guidelines and your pet and your partner should be getting along swimmingly in no time.

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