You and your pup are curled up on the bed, sharing a bag of Doritos and binging on Friends reruns. It seems like there's no other place your pup would rather be ... until your significant other walks through the door and then it's like you never even existed.
Why Does My Dog Prefer My Boyfriend?
As the one who does all the work feeding, bathing and taking care of your dog — it's no wonder you feel offended and are taking this cold-shoulder response to the heart. You obviously really like your S.O., but why is your pup suddenly switching teams?
It's not you, it's them.
While it would be reassuring to dog owners everywhere if there was a complex, scientifically tested reason why your dog is showing preferential treatment to someone else — but there's not. Sometimes, that's just the way it is.
If your pet constantly travels back and forth with you to your boyfriends house and spends alone time with him, it may be that their personalities just mesh together better. Or it could be that your pup just really enjoys the activities they do together. Dog trainer and author Mikkel Becker explains, "Your dog associates people with different activities and emotions, for better or for worse." For example, if your S.O. takes your high-energy dog for a run everyday and then rewards them with treats afterwards, your dog is likely associating your partner with the positive, fun experience they share together.
Veterinary behaviorist Terry Curtis has a cat that moved in with her after ditching her first owner. She told NBC that "I don't think it's any more complicated than they find a different place that's more attractive to them," Curtis says.
It could also be something as simple as your demeanor vs. your S.O.'s since Becker goes on to say that dogs generally "prefer people with soft voices and calm mannerisms over those who are loud and boisterous."
And sometimes, your dog's personal preference towards a particular human was engrained in his mind before you even entered his life.
Understand the prime socialization period.
From the time a puppy is born, they are constantly introduced to new people, sounds, smells and surroundings. The American Kennel Association says the most crucial socialization period is from about 7 weeks - 4 months old.
This time in a puppy's life is one that "permanently shapes his future personality and how he will react to things in his environment as an adult." What that means is, if your pup was primarily cared for by males before you adopted him, it may be that he just genuinely feels more comfortable and relaxed around your boyfriend. And vice versa.
It's time to repair the relationship.
Before you start packing your dog's belongings so he can live happily at his new house and torturing yourself by listening to that depressing Sarah McLaughlin song on repeat, you should know that you can totally repair the relationship.
Start by going back to the basics. Take your pup on that run he loves so much. Spend a few extra minutes giving him extra belly rubs. A few extra treats wouldn't hurt either (hey, we are not above bribery here). Celebrity pet expert, Harrison Forbes, suggests that you "make sure your dog knows who the caregiver is by giving clear signals. Be the one to feed him and fill up his water bowl. Be the one to walk him." Basically, tell your beau to back off for now.
Your dog might be tuning you out since he's sick of hearing you giving him commands all day and sees your S.O. as a fresh change, too. Forbes delves further saying his hunch is that you're probably giving your dog too many instructions in your day-to-day life, and doing that waters down their effect. Instead, he says you should work on conserving your commands for times that are absolutely necessary.
If none of that works and you feel like your dog is truly happier living at your S.O.'s place, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to let them go. You might be heartbroken, but it's a good excuse to keep your boyfriend around so you can see your dog as you please and when you two finally start cohabitating in the future, you'll all be reunited as one big happier family.
Dog trainer Andrea Arden offered this reassuring piece of advice to People magazine — "Life is complicated. Sometimes, the most unselfish thing to do is to say, 'Is this the right situation for this dog? The dog is telling you something. And that's a sign of love, that you do what's in the best interest of the dog."
Try and look on the bright side because it could be worse. At least your dog actually likes your boyfriend and isn't jealous of all the extra attention you're getting lately. Now if only you could get your boyfriend to go back to giving you back rubs instead of
your his dog.