How Do Dogs Choose Their Favorite Person?
Dogs love to play, but do they ever play favorites? Absolutely! Dogs often choose a favorite family member and sometimes even favor sitters or dog walkers over their owners. Learn more about the psychology behind a dog’s choice of person.
After an especially tough day at work, there’s nothing that beats coming home to the unconditional love of a beloved canine companion. If you’re your dog’s favorite person, chances are they’ll greet you at the door like you’ve been away for weeks rather than just a few hours.
If you’re not their absolute favorite, they may save such over-the-top reactions for the person who is. Maybe they prefer the company of another member of your family. Alternatively, maybe they’re especially eager to spend time with a dog walker, sitter, even a neighbor.
In these cases, owners may wonder if there’s anything they can do to become their pet’s favorite. Fortunately, the answer is yes. Favoritism in canines comes down to socialization, attention, affection, association, and personality. With a better understanding of the roles these factors play, owners can potentially become the #1 person in their pet’s life. Let’s dig in.
Favoritism in canines: the five parameters
Puppies are especially impressionable during their first six months of early brain development. They’re likely to form strong bonds with anyone who interacts with them in a positive way. While treats and rewards are important socialization and training tools, the best way to build a healthy and long-lasting relationship with your pet is to play with them and provide for their physical needs in a consistent manner.
Affection (and attention)
Pets don’t just wake up one day, lift their heads off the dog bed, and think, “I don’t like that person anymore.” When they offer their affection and loyalty, it’s for life. You can just about always count on a dog repaying you (and then some!) for the affection and attention you offer them.
Although dogs occasionally favor a family member who isn’t their primary companion, they often especially like the person who feeds and walks them. Throw in lots of one-on-one play and regular pampering sessions and you’re virtually guaranteed to be their favorite family member. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not just about the amount of time you spend with your pooch, but also the quality of attention you give them. Sitting on the couch watching TV together isn’t really the same as playing fetch or tug-of-war in the backyard. Turn the tube off and play a game, rub their tummy, or have a ‘chat’ with them. They know the difference. This type of attention really counts!
A dog’s brain, especially during the early months, quickly builds associations (both positive and negative). Build and reinforce a positive bond with your dog by creating and embedding strong positive associations in their mind. Be the source of ‘good stuff’ by indulging in enthusiastic play, taking an interest in everything they do, and handing out the occasional treat. If possible, stimulate even more positive associations by enrolling in agility and obedience courses with them. These will not only help reinforce their bond, but will help your dog build positive associations with other humans. Don’t worry, the owners of your dog’s classmates aren’t rivals for their affection. Whatever you do, avoid negative interactions and punishment. Dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement than to negative. Fill their life with positive associations and they’ll reward you with their heart.
Owner and breed personality
How many of your friends are similar to you in character and personality? Though opposites are said to attract, most of your pals probably have a lot in common with you. Well, dogs are no different. Their favorite person often turns out to be someone who matches their personality and energy levels. A dog that gets excited by long country walks isn’t going to consider a devoted couch potato very good company. In contrast, a dog that exhibits a lazy streak is more likely to form a strong bond with someone who is less active or prefers to spend their day lazing around at home. A timid dog will feel more comfortable with a shyer, more introverted owner while a dog that likes to make itself heard will pair up happily with a larger-than-life human companion.
A dog’s breed also plays a part. It’s always important to do some research before making a choice and committing to a new canine companion. Some breeds such as the Greyhound, Shiba Inu, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Akita, and Cairn Terrier tend to bond with a single person. Other breeds like to go with the pack and are happy to share their affections equally with every family member. Such breeds include the Labrador Retriever, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Irish Setter, Beagle, and Border Collie.
You simply smell right!
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and often favor one person over another based on their unique scent. A dog can detect subtle odors such as pheromones that humans cannot thanks to an impressive number of especially strong scent receptors. It’s quite possible that your dog has selected you as their favorite person out of other family members because of your smell!
How to tell if you are your dog’s favorite human?
If you think you occupy the prime position in your pooch’s life but aren’t quite sure, there are few signs and clues to look out for. You know you’re the ‘top dog’ if your dog:
- Follows you everywhere
- Can’t get enough of licking you
- Stares into your eyes with obvious devotion
- Reacts positively to the sound of your voice
- Leans up against you at every opportunity (or jumps onto your lap every time you sit down)
- Wags their tail when they see you
A few tips on securing that favored position
Don’t despair if you’re not yet the chosen one. There are things you can do to forge a closer, more affectionate bond with your pet:
- Spend time with them: Give your dog at least 30 minutes of focused and active one-on-one time each day. Talk to them, walk with them, rub their tummies, and scratch behind their ears. Believe us, most dogs will love the attention.
- Pamper them regularly: Give them an indulgent massage session or brush their fur gently. If they want a cuddle or a tummy rub, make sure you’re always available to oblige.
- Provide for their daily needs: Filling your dog’s bowl, offering up occasional treats, and helping them stay active and fit all go a long way in securing their undying devotion. Make sure not to overdo it with calorie-dense snacks. A dog who equates food with love may begin to gain weight and suffer serious health consequences as they age.
- Play with them: This is the most important bonding activity of all. Fetch, hide and seek, and tug-of-war are all firm favorites with most canines. Try inventing some games of your own that take advantage of the unique geography of your home.
When a dog picks you as their favorite person, it is an incredibly special feeling. You’re in for a lifetime of love. With this favor, however, comes responsibility. Your dog relies on you for all of its needs. These needs include keeping them healthy and providing the best possible standard of care. A pet insurance plan from Animalia can help ensure you always do what’s best for your best friend.
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