What Makes A Dog Notice A Person?

The world is divided on many issues, but there's one thing we can all agree on: there's nothing better than a dog taking a liking to you.

But what, exactly, makes a dog notice a person?

happy african american couple with labrador dog moving to new home
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Sensory Information

Dogs are drawn to interesting smells, sounds, and sights (usually in that order). Dogs use their amazing sense of smell as their primary way of gathering information. So if you happen to smell like steak, the chances that an approaching dog will notice you are high. Similarly, if you're squeezing a squeaky toy, that's likely to intrigue any dogs in the area.

Dogs respond to human emotions.

Dogs have co-evolved with humans for many millennia, and they've gotten pretty good at reading our facial expressions. As Popular Science reports, a study out of the University of Helsinki suggests that dogs know to look away when they see an angry expression on a human's face. So if you meet a dog while you're in an angry mood, the dog may be less inclined to approach you.

That said, dogs don't always understand the nuances of human expression. If something amazing just happened to you and you're shouting with joy, a dog might think you're acting weird and choose to stay away.

A dog's background influences how they interact with people.

The way a dog reacts to you is also based in the dog's own experiences and state of mind. Some dogs simply love everyone. But some dogs are afraid of taller people, either because of past experiences or simply because they feel intimidated by them. Some dogs don't like people are wearing hats. In my dog's case, if you're riding a skateboard, you are her enemy for life.

Some dogs also tend to be more fearful of men than women. Again, this might be due to negative past experiences, or it may simply be an association they've made because men tend to be taller and larger.

Additionally, a dog may be dealing with factors that have nothing to do with you. If a dog has a stressful day, is experiencing pain, or is losing vision or hearing, they might be in a less friendly mood. There are dozens of other factors that might affect their mood as well. So if a dog isn't in the mood to meet you, don't take it personally.

Can you make a dog like you?

So how can we get dogs to notice and love us? The unfortunate answer is that we can't. In an ideal world, we would all be covered in dogs all the time. But in the real world, we have to respect dogs' space. You might be tempted to approach every dog screaming about how much you love them. But keep in mind all the factors we discussed above. Approach dogs in a calm and friendly way, and let them guide the interactions — don't force anything. To minimize your intimidation factor, crouch on the ground and extend a hand to the dog, if they seem receptive to it. And if their owner gives you the go-ahead, it never hurts to give them a treat.