Perhaps you've found yourself in this situation: You and your dog's co-owner are standing on opposite sides of the room, frantically calling the dog to see which of you she runs to first. If you've ever had your feelings hurt after losing out, don't take it personally! Dogs are social creatures, but the reasons they pick and choose whom they're drawn to don't always come down to, "I just like him better." While you can't always be totally sure why the other person is her fave, you can practice a few tricks of your own to get your dog to bond more with you.
Why dogs choose favorites
When dogs pick their "favorite" person, it's not so much a matter of preference as it is familiarity. Dogs learn by association, so in the same way that they might associate the jingling of car keys with a trip to the park or a rustling plastic bag with a tasty snack, they associate certain people with certain experiences. According to Rover, one of the best associations to have with your dog is not that of the walker or even the feeder, but as the one who gives the best affection.
Dogs who are petted, groomed, massaged, and just generally adored by someone will likely bond more closely with that person. Why? Well, to put it simply, feeling good feels good, and dogs yearn for these joyful experiences just the same as people do.
The importance of quality time
Another reason dogs may play favorites is the amount of quality time they spend with a person — the key word here being quality. You could work from home and spend nearly every minute with your dog, but what are you doing to really bond with her during that time? Are you embarking on new experiences, like hikes or meeting new dogs or people? Is your pup being given the opportunity to associate you with something particularly positive, like learning a new skill and being rewarded with a treat?
If your answer to these questions is no, don't be too hard on yourself. Consider seeking ways to implement these interactions if you want a closer connection to your dog.
How to be your dog's fave
Capturing a dog's heart isn't all that hard when you practice some simple tips on a regular basis. But because all dogs are different, there are no hard and fast rules to earning their love. Try to have fun and explore different options and see what elicits the best response, because dogs will let you know what they like! If your dog is partial to belly rubs, indulge her with a lavish one. If she's an outdoorsy type, take her on an outing to her favorite dog park or hiking trail as often as you can.
Making new associations
When you walk your dog, make it a joint effort by practicing simple commands. Having her sit before crossing the street and treating her when she complies can strengthen your bond and make walking an enjoyable and stimulating outing for your companion.
If you have to share unpleasant moments together, like bath or vet time, do your best to make the experience as positive as possible. Project confidence and be generous with praise and yummy rewards, which may eventually lead to more positive associations.
Things to keep in mind
Although dogs are known for their resilience and ability to forgive and forget, some behaviors are hard to unlearn. The socialization of puppies in the first few months of their lives is the prime time for forging strong associations and is a key element in the development of well-adjusted dogs. Reader's Digest states that the types of people dogs are around when they're young may leave them with a biased preference, for example, women over men or adults over children. If your dog doesn't seem to be taking to you as much she is to someone else, it may be as simple and impersonal as a lack of familiarity.
Of course, it can be especially hard to figure out how your dog was socialized as a puppy if you adopted her later in her life, but try not to worry too much. Giving your dog generous helpings of care, kindness, patience, and compassion will be sure to go a long way toward ensuring that both of you get the most out of your relationship.