Despite it being me that takes the dog for a walk, me that feeds him, and me that gives him treats, he still appears to be more attached to my wife than to me. I jokingly call him a traitor! I’m not alone either. Many friends with dogs tell me their dog has a favorite person in the family.
The whole topic has me fascinated. So much so that I asked one of those friends who believes that dogs have a favorite person to write about their own experiences and research. You can read what she said below.
Do dogs have a favorite person in the family?
In short, dogs can have a favorite person. Not all dogs will be attached to just one person, but some do, and it’s believed this attachment can form during the initial months of the dog’s life.
You will know this, but some dogs love everybody, no questions asked. Others choose a human and stick to them like glue – and it isn’t necessarily the “hand that feeds” them.
Why do dogs get attached to one person?
So why do dogs have a favorite person?
I can speak from experience here, and what I’ve researched. I own a Rottweiler. Rottweilers are naturally aloof to strangers, and my dog Kiki is no exception. You can read more of my personal experience lower down the page.
Dogs get attached to one person due to learning most of their social skills in the first six months of their lives, while their brains are still rapidly developing.
Whoever gives them the most positive interaction with them during this phase determines who they choose to befriend later in life – that’s dogs get attached to their owners, or one particular favorite person in the family.
This is why it is so very important to properly socialize dogs as early as possible.
For example, when my dog was a wee tiny pup, I took her with me to visit with the elderly widows who lived in my neighborhood and they would shower her with love and belly rubs.
Since then, Kiki the Rottweiler turns into a goofy ham when she meets a little old lady.
How do dogs choose their favorite person to get attached to?
How a dog chooses their favorite people depends largely on the dog’s personality, who they grew up around and the quality of attention the person offers. Dogs are naturally attracted to people who match their energy level or who provide them with the type of positive interaction they love the best.
For example, a nervous dog may prefer people who are soft-spoken and calm. Others like people who are just as hyperactive as they are.
Like us, dogs like people who like them. They know who their adoring fans are!
Dog breeds that get attached to one person
Some dog breeds are naturally one person and one person only. These breeds tend to be stubborn, opinionated and highly intelligent and require owners who are unwavering leaders.
A few such breeds that get attached to one person are:
- Shiba Inu
- Chow Chow
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Blue Heeler
Can dogs change their favorite person?
Your dog’s favorite person they are attached to isn’t set in stone. It can change for several reasons.
- Change in the home environment: Dogs are sensitive to the many major transition’s we humans deal with over the course of our lives. The arrival of a new baby, a new housemate, moving to a new location, or the addition of a new pet can make your dog very uncomfortable. He will naturally gravitate to whomever he feels gives him the help he needs to adjust.
- Change in routine:If we get a new job that requires longer hours, or perhaps start spending more time in the dating world or take up a new hobby that takes away time from home, our dogs will seek attention from someone else if they can. “Fine,” he thinks. “You don’t take me for walks anymore, then I’ll love on the dog walker!”
- Illness in the family:You’ve heard of dogs who sniff out cancer. Dogs who are empathetic towards their owners can sense when something is wrong with their humans, even if their routine or environment never changes. Some dogs respond by offering comfort and attention to the sick human.
For example, a friend of mine owned a 10-year-old pug who shadowed her everywhere.
One day the pug ignored her entirely and attached himself to her husband. Doctors later diagnosed the husband with a rare, but treatable disease.
Even after regaining his health, the pug continued by his side – alert in case he relapsed.
Handy Hint: You might experience the opposite where your dog follows you all the time, and not your husband, wife, or partner.
How to become your dog’s favorite person in the family
If your dog does decide to give the bulk of his love to someone else, don’t worry. There are ways to win him back, so the dog gets more attached to you.
Firstly, consider some of the following questions.
Are you being fair with your dog?
A 2008 NPR study (published on their website, www.npr.org) discovered that dogs who do not get a treat for performing a trick will stop performing if they see another dog get a reward for the same trick.
Dogs are not picky about what kind of reward they get, but they definitely have a sense of fair play.
Are you meeting all of your dog’s needs?
Some dogs are content to be couch potatoes. Others are high energy and need more than a short daily walk to tire them out.
Still others are highly intelligent and need new experiences such as challenging toys or exposure to new things to keep them happy. Some dogs need to satisfy their urge to chew, protect, or chase.
Is your dog frightened of you?
Of course, you should never shout at your dog or physically punish them, but let’s face it – we’ve all got those days where we want to scream or chuck a pillow across the room.
Some dogs just can’t handle this.
But even if your dog never sees this from you, a change in medication or diet can change the way you smell and that alone may confuse and scare your dog.
In these cases, a little time and reassurance from you is all it takes for your dog to like you again. You might even want to read my tips on how to apologize to your dog.
Things you can do to strengthen your bond with your dog
- Regular training: Dogs are hardwired to work as a team. Regular training – even if you think the tricks are silly or stupid – will strengthen communication between the two of you, and communication is the key to all healthy relationships, canine or otherwise.
- Regular exercise:A tired dog is a happy dog. In the wild, packs of dogs (or wolves) travel great distances to track down food. Exercise will help your dog release pent up tension and anxiety and satisfy his instinct to travel. Teaching your dog to fetch is a great way to work out your dog without working out yourself. But if you’re not afraid of extra exercise then consider a canine sport like skijoring, hiking, or agility.
- Grooming sessions:Dogs LOVE pampering! Make him feel special and he will see you as his adoring, number-one fan.
- Take a trip – Just you and Fido:Some one-on-one time with your dog exploring an unfamiliar location will encourage your dog to rely on you for guidance and reassurance.
- Watch your tone: Dogs cannot understand our language but are great at picking up our intentions through our tone of voice. If you say to your dog in a sweet tone, “I’m gonna make tacos outta you,” he’ll think you’re giving him a compliment, but if you roar “I LOVE YOU!!!” like a raging lion, he’ll trip over himself trying to get away.
- Give your dog a job:I don’t see this advice often, but it is important. In the wild, every dog in the pack plays a certain role, guarding, hunting, leading, or raising young. It gives them a sense of purpose and belonging. When a dog is not given a job, he may choose one for himself – and it may not be a job you want him to do (like terrorizing the mail man). My neighbor’s Pitbull mix wears a backpack loaded with diapers and baby wipes whenever they go out for a stroll with the baby. The dog alerts her owner whenever baby needs changing, too.
My own experience
You can imagine my shock and disbelief when one day, while exercising my dog in the front yard, she suddenly stopped everything and bolted towards a woman walking along the opposite side of the street.
Before I had time to react, Kiki had come to a sliding-butt-stop in front of this complete stranger, halting the poor woman mid-step and startling her nearly out of her wits.
“It’s okay, she’s friendly!!” I shouted as I dashed over, expecting the worse. But the woman had already calmed and was giving my dog a nice face rub – something Kiki adores.
“Oh, I know,” she said, smiling sweetly at my dog.
“I used to raise Dobermans. She just scared me because she came out of nowhere. But you’re a sweet baby, aren’t you?”
From then on, this woman became part of Kiki’s daily routine, and would get quite upset at me if I didn’t get out of the house in time for a visit.
They were best buds until the day we moved.
In my personal story above it was almost like my own dog had chosen a new favorite person who wasn’t even in our family. How do they make this choice? Can their favorite person change? What can you do to make yourself your dog’s number one?
I hope I’ve answered that for you and more.
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More guides to why dogs behave the way in which they do.