Why does a dog favor one person?
9 Signs Your Dog Imprinted On You. How Much Does Your Dog Love You?
If your dog frequently checks in with you and can’t stop looking at you, they have probably imprinted on you. Pet parents love their furry companions deeply, and dogs do too, but most form a special connection with that one person, a deep bond surpassing that of others.
Dogs form deep attachments with their primary caregivers, particularly during puppyhood. When a dog imprints on their favorite person, they follow them, light up around them, and snuggle their items. Anything to feel closer to their chosen one. Irrespective of this, dogs still love other people deeply.
Here, we take a closer look at how dogs interact with the world around them, particularly humans, who form the biggest part of a canine’s life. So grab your favorite dog cologne because it’s about to get cuddly with your dog if they have or will imprint on you.
How Do You Know Your Dog Has Imprinted on You?
Your dog following you, getting incredibly excited when you return, and seeking your companionship are signs they’ve imprinted on you. While dogs are overall affectionate creatures, they seem to crave the attention and affection of their favorite humans a bit more.
Dogs greatly depend on their imprinted person, like checking in with them in new environments and mirroring their behaviors and actions. Some dogs don’t seem to favor any particular family member, while most don’t hide their preference. It all really depends on the individual dog and their personality.
To better know if your dog has imprinted on you, you need to understand what dog imprinting is and how it comes about.
What Does Imprinting in Dogs Mean?
Imprinting in dogs means bonding with the primary provider of comfort, safety, and food. The dam (mother dog) is the first being that a dog imprints on during the early critical stages of life while their eyes are still closed and undeveloped. Dogs usually attach to humans after they are weaned.
Imprinting was initially described among precocial species (animals born with sight, smell, and other senses formed), where the animals modeled the behavior of the first moving thing in sight. You may have seen or heard of a duck following a human as their mother.
Unlike ducks, healthy dogs don’t see themselves as human when they imprint on someone; but dogs have evolved to become deeply attached to humans.
Dog imprinting happens in stages:
Canine Imprinting Stage (0 to 8 weeks)
As newborns with no hearing and eyes that don’t open for about two weeks, puppies exclusively rely on their mothers for survival. The first bond a dog makes is, therefore, with the dam.
After four weeks and with their senses, puppies begin interacting with their littermates. During the canine stage, dogs basically learn how to be a dog, especially from the dam. Due to this crucial socialization stage, responsible breeders let go of puppies at 8 to 12 weeks.
Human Imprinting Stage ( 8 to 12 weeks)
Most people adopt and buy puppies at this age. Here, puppies interact and start forming bonds with humans. It’s essential to expose your puppy to various people and animals at this time for a well-socialized dog in the future.
Fear Imprinting Stage (8 to 10 weeks)
Puppies are vulnerable to racking up lifelong trauma at this stage. It’s crucial to avoid uncomfortable situations as much as possible at this age because distress can quickly turn into a phobia. As puppies develop, they go through “fear periods” where they suddenly become far more cautious around objects they may previously have ignored.
Fear periods are a delicate time in a dog’s development, as a bad experience can cause a lifelong phobia. For example, a bad experience with a bigger dog during a puppy fear period can cause a lifelong issue with other dogs. The dog breed also plays a large role in how dogs imprint at this stage.
Some signs your dog has imprinted on you include:
1. They Follow You
If your dog is your self-appointed shadow, they’ve imprinted on you. Your dog will follow you constantly because they see you as their best friend. As pack animals, your dog will follow you everywhere to ensure that the most valuable pack member is adequately protected.
AKC shares more on dogs following your around. However, keep an eye out for this behavior as it can indicate separation anxiety which should be addressed promptly.
2. They Get Incredibly Happy to See You
Your dog greeting you with uncontrollable wags is probably the highlight of your day; theirs too. Dogs get excited when their favorite people return as their way of showing them how much they’ve missed them.
You may have been gone for only a few minutes or hours, but your dog’s big smile could swear it’s been days. The wagging greetings are your dog’s way of saying they love and miss you.
3. They Mirror Your Behavior and Mood
New studies have shown that dogs mirror their owner’s stress. Dogs are intensely emotionally in touch with humans reacting to anger, fear, happiness, surprise, disgust, and sadness. Owners that spend the most time with dogs observe increased synchronization of emotions between them.
Emotional contagion occurs when dogs portray empathy for their loved ones experiencing negative emotions. You’ll see your dog trying to nuzzle you more or stay by your side when you’re having a bad day. Other dogs can start exhibiting the same emotions as their owners, such as depression.
Dogs also mirror the actions of those they’ve imprinted on. You’ll see your pup lift their hands like you; We’ve even seen some try to do yoga like humans.
4. They Seek Physical Affection and Attention from You
Dogs are eager for physical connection with humans as it makes them feel closer to them. Your dog will try to lick your face and lie on your or your body. This is actually instinctual, dating back to when dogs lived in packs and lay on each other for warmth and protection.
A small nose bop or a pat on the back can feel very satisfying for your dog, even increasing happy hormones like oxytocin. Your loving pooch will also appreciate belly rubs and scratches, although not all dogs love them equally.
In case your pup’s snuggle session ends in a smelly mess, fix that by making your dog smell good without a bath.
5. They Maintain Eye Contact
Dogs stare at loved ones to express affection, which is essential in human-dog communication. Eye contact is one of the signs that your dog is obsessed with you when they look up at you with those puppy eyes. Another subtle sign of affection in body language is dog winking at you.
Usually, eye contact is an implicit sign of threat in the animal kingdom signaling physical aggression. While dogs have evolved non-threatening eye contact with loved ones, it can trigger aggression in unfamiliar dogs.
6. They Check in on You, Especially in New Environments
You’ll notice your dog sneaking a peak when you’re going for a hike or even when visiting friends. Your dog checks in on you to ensure you’re okay and to reassure themselves too. In new environments, your dog will look at you constantly to relax.
It’s a sign of affection when your dog randomly pops in to have a look, then goes back to their business, such as sleeping. Frequently checking in on you is also a strong sign that a dog has a high level of engagement with you, which means that communication between you and your dog is going well.
Side note: Don’t confuse dogs who show aggression or tension if somebody comes near you as signs your dog is guarding you. This is resource guarding. This is bad behavior in dogs because the dog sees you as a possession, like a bone, that they need to guard. This is not a healthy mindset.
7. They Listen to Your Commands More Readily
A well-trained dog listens to commands from most people, but if your dog has imprinted on you, they’ll listen to you more. High responsiveness is a positive sign that your dog has bonded with you deeply because they’re trying to please you.
A strong recall is particularly important as it can save your dog from potentially dangerous situations. Take advantage of your dog’s increased affection and eagerness to please you to train them from puppyhood.
8. They Like to Snuggle Your Stuff
Dogs are notorious thieves of shoes and socks. While it may be hard to grasp their fascination with such smelly items, these make them feel close to their loved ones. Dogs have a sense of smell thousands of times stronger than humans.
Dogs are attached to their loved one’s scent, so they snuggle their possessions, like piles of laundry, shoes, and beds. We have covered why your dog smells if you’re having an issue with doggy odor.
9. They are More Relaxed Around You
A dog loves you when they have a relaxed posture, wiggling body, and a soft gaze when relaxed around you. Dogs show their bellies as a sign of trust and comfort because, in this position, many vital organs, such as the stomach, are exposed.
How to Make Your Dog Bond with You
Perhaps you got your dog past their puppy age and want them to bond with you. Spending more quality time with your dog allows them to form an attachment and imprint on you.
- Feed your dog because they bond most deeply with their nurturers that provide food and comfort
- Take your dog for walks and play dates to increase the bond by spending quality time
- Train your dog to establish trust and obedience when they see you as the leader of the pack
- Establish a firm play and food routine so that your dog has something to look forward to daily
- Groom your dog to spend quality time
- Give them their alone time, especially if they’re crate trained, and view the crate as a safe space
Dogs are affectionate beings capable of showing an immense love for their owners. Most dogs bond most deeply with the special person whom they imprint on, even though they still love others intensely. The human imprinting stage happens mostly as puppies, but older dogs can still form deep bonds with their owners.
Tamsin De La Harpe
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
About The Author
Hi! My name is Tamsin, and it’s my job to ensure we bring you only the best-researched and expert advice on caring for your dog. From puppies to golden oldies, Chihuahuas to Great Danes, we have the answers to all your doggy questions.
New Study Shows Dogs Don’t Return the Favor After Strangers Feed Them
Food has long been the currency of the 10,000-year-old friendship between humans and dogs. The rapport started with our ancestors sharing food with wolves, and today, we show our love to our canine pets with treats and train them with goodies as motivation. However close the bond is between humans and dogs, though, food sharing may just be a one-way street: Dogs don’t seem to pay back the hand that feeds them.
That lack of reciprocated food sharing in dogs is the key finding of a study published today in PLOS One by dog researcher Jim McGetrick and his team. The comparative psychologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria found that in lab experiments, dogs who received treats by humans pushing a button didn’t then return the favor by pushing the same button so humans gained a treat in kind.
“In terms of dog domestication and the evolution of dogs as a species, their cooperativeness with humans might not be related to this form of cooperation: this reciprocal cooperation, where I help you and then you help me at some point in the future,” says McGetrick.
Previous studies have observed that dogs repay other generous dogs with food tit-for-tat, and take the initiative to rescue distressed humans from entrapment. McGetrick says his study is the first to look at reciprocity between humans and dogs. His team wondered whether fed dogs would reward food to beneficent humans.
To probe this question, the researchers trained 37 pet dogs to press a button for food from a dispenser. These dogs came from over ten different breeds and mixes, with diverse idiosyncrasies to match. Some dogs were gentle, laying their paws delicately on the button and nibbling their reward. Other dogs mauled the button and chewed on the box that enclosed it. One dog only pressed the button with its hind leg.
“The personalities definitely varied hugely,” says McGetrick.
Once each dog associated the button with food, the button was placed in an adjacent room with a human stranger inside. The dog would remain in a different room with the food dispenser. A wire mesh fence separated the two rooms—through which the dog could observe the human controlling the coveted button. A helpful human would press the button and the dog would receive food. An unhelpful human would steel his or her heart against the dog’s pleading eyes—unbeknownst to the dog, the volunteer usually felt terrible—and press a decoy button that didn’t release any food from the dispenser.
“When they were with the unhelpful human, it surprised me how big of a deal it was for them when they didn’t get food in a situation where they expected to get food,” says McGetrick. These dogs whined and made a fuss. “It could look effectively like throwing a tantrum.”
The researchers then reversed the situations. The working button was transferred to the room with the dog, and the food dispenser—with chocolate candy replacing the kibble—was relocated to the human’s room. This time, the dogs weren’t nearly so eager to press the button in their room when the food ended up with the human next door. Moreover, when it came to reciprocating the helpful human who had previously fed the dog via the button or the unhelpful one who had refused, the dogs didn’t seem to distinguish between the two. The dogs pushed the button equally for both groups.
Moreover, after each button-pressing experiment, the dogs and humans had the chance to interact in the flesh. The dogs didn’t seem to hold the volunteers’ unhelpfulness against them. They approached the volunteers equally, whether the humans had been helpful or not.
“[The result] could indicate that dogs might not necessarily … relate to something like gratitude,” says McGetrick. Or, “they don’t necessarily strongly regard or consider others in their actions” in an attentionally blind kind of way, he adds. But “I would highlight that this was a very specific experimental context.”
The findings don’t necessarily rule out reciprocity by dogs with humans, says McGetrick. The experimental outcome could be specific to the conditions that the researchers used, such as the dogs’ unfamiliarity with the humans. Perhaps the dogs would be more helpful in kind to their original owners. Or, button-pushing was too much of a mental leap for the dogs to associate with returning the favor. He suspects that the dogs may go by a more straightforward rule: push the button only when the dispenser is in their room. More likely, he speculates, dogs simply don’t see themselves as food providers to humans. What humans have going on with dogs is more of a master-servant relationship, rather than two partners on equal footing.
“The key thing is, are we asking the question in the right way that the animals understand?” says Jeffrey Stevens, a psychology researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who wasn’t involved in the study. “Dogs in particular, they have a completely different world than we do right there.” For example, dogs perceive their environment mainly with their sense of smell rather than their sight. Experiments should be designed from the perspective of the dog, not the human, such that the pooch can easily recognize the task at paw. “You want to make sure that you’ve really tried to set up a situation where the animals have the best opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.”
More research is needed to rule out all the possibilities that could explain why the dogs didn’t reciprocate with food, says Angie Johnston, a psychology researcher at Boston College who didn’t participate in the research. A good starting point would be to look at dogs who have received more training, such as military and service dogs. If even trained dogs don’t keep score, it would imply dogs in general are hopeless at tracking this information. But if they reciprocate, then training might make all the difference, allowing any canine to pay more attention to the humans they work with.
“Knowing about the dog-human interaction is important for things like training service dogs and assistance dogs,” says Johnston. “Anytime we know more about the human-dog connection and where it came from and how it evolved, that can inform our training processes with those populations.”
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Shi En Kim is a writer and researcher at the University of Chicago who studies the physics of nano-sized objects. Outside the lab, she freelances for various publications, including National Geographic, Scientific American, Science News, Slate and others. She is Smithsonian’s 2021 AAAS Mass Media Fellow. Follow her on Twitter at @goes_by_kim.
How Does a Dog choose who to sleep with?
While dogs love every member of the family, they can also play favorites. If you are a big family, you might have already noticed this.
Your dog seems to have a favorite person whom he loves hanging out with him.
He will also pick another one to cuddle with and another to sleep with. One family member can do all for him.
It can be a really depressing thing if your canine puppy chooses to spend most of his time with another more than you.
Of course, if you are on the receiving end of things, count yourself lucky.
In today’s post, we’ll look at how dogs arrive at their preferred persons, especially how they choose sleeping buddies.
The information can help put things at rest if you are not picked.
It will also help you know what to do if you want your pooch to sleep with you.
How Dogs Like To Sleep
Before we find out how dogs choose their sleeping partners, let’s take a look at the basics of sleep in the canine world.
Essentially, dogs are pack animals. Granted, each dog can sleep on his own but they prefer snuggling in groups.
In the wild, the entire pack comes together when it’s bedtime. This way, they derive warmth from each other.
It also helps keep the dogs safe in a non-vulnerable sleep state.
Finally, it strengthens the bond between the pack members.
So, the next time your fur baby comes to your bed, just know that it is out of nature and instinct.
How Dogs Choose Who to Sleep With
There are a number of factors that affect a dog’s decision of who to sleep with. These include the following:
1. Alpha Over Beta
This doesn’t apply to every case but if you are the boss of the family, you may be the best sleep buddy for your canine companion.
See, dogs live in hierarchies. At the top of the pack is the tough Alpha dog who is the overall leader of the pack. The rest of the dogs submit to him.
In return, he provides security, grooming services, and entertainment to the other dogs.
Dogs can perceive who the boss of the family is.
And no, it doesn’t have to be daddy. It can be your 12-year old daughter who grooms the pet, keeps him entertained, walks him, and feeds him.
Or your wife, who is assertive and knows how to train the dog.
Whichever the case, a dog can easily choose to sleep with someone that looks like the Alpha to them.
2. To Offer Safety And Protection
Does your dog prefer snuggling with your toddler rather than you?
It could very well be because he feels the need to protect her from harm.
While some dogs prefer choosing an Alpha to sleep with for their own security, there are those that go the other way.
They know that the toddler needs more protection from harm than the adult and will sleep next to them to step into the role.
In the wild, fierce animals and other dog packs would attack when the dogs were asleep.
Albeit domesticated and away from danger, dogs will always know that sleep can bring danger.
It may not be your toddler but whoever your four-legged friend chooses to go to bed with is likely the most vulnerable according to him.
The number three probable reason your pup likes to sleep with one family member over another is purely because of personality differences.
Dogs, in general, are attracted to people that match their own personalities.
The old adage ‘like poles attract’ comes to play here in more ways than one.
Therefore, if you are a bubbly and energetic individual, your high-energy dog is likely to want to climb up to your bed.
On the other hand, if you are laid back and quiet, you may attract a dog that has the same character.
Your dog knows that he won’t get surprises when he hangs with you.
If he likes his quiet sleep, he won’t expect loud calls and other destructive noises from you.
4. Early Socialization
The most crucial stage of a puppy’s life is when he is 0-6 months old. His brain is very receptive and active.
For this reason, any experiences, people, and places influence the dog for the rest of his life.
If one person is constant during this phase of his life, the dog will want to spend more of his energy, including sleeping with the individual, more than others.
If you have a young puppy at home, you have a chance of creating a solid relationship with them.
Be sure to let him interact with different people, places, and things to enhance his interactions.
For instance, a dog that is exposed to men only in his early years of life may have a liking for that gender alone. In such a case, he will be repulsive towards women.
If your fur baby came home after six months of age, don’t lose hope.
Continued socialization like daily walks, doggy daycare, and play dates will go a long way in mending the relationship.
5. Attention, Affection, And All
Dogs know and interpret affection and attention directed at them. They are like babies.
If you treat your baby right, he will naturally fall in love with you. The same story goes for dogs.
Your fur baby will want to hang with you and sleep in your bed if you fill his bowl every morning, go for a walk around the block every evening, and play fetch with him whenever you can.
Physical affection basically solidifies the bond between humans and dogs.
If you are unapproachable, distant, and detached from your dog, he will repay the favor by being the same way.
Else, if you offer him lots of hugs, pets, massages, cuddles, and grooming sessions, he will love to be with you always.
While you are at it, make sure the affection and attention is genuine and quality.
Don’t be in the habit of yelling at the dog during walks, reprimanding him when he makes a mistake or losing your temper when he chews your shoes.
They can pick those cues and will interpret them as well.
Everyone, including your canine buddy, appreciates sleeping in a comfortable bed.
Where and who he sleeps with has a direct relationship with his comfort.
Perhaps he prefers your bed over his little crib because his bed is too soft, too hard, too warm, too cold, you name it.
Even in the same bed, the dog may enjoy snuggling next to your husband over you because perhaps his area is more comfortable.
You’ve seen a dog dig up the sofa or an area in the backyard before resting his head.
It’s all in the quest for the best position for maximum comfort.
7. Positive Association
Last but not least, dogs pick their sleep buddies based on positive associations.
If you are a constant source of entertainment for your Fido, he may choose you as his sleep mate.
We do that too as human beings. If your mummy is always gifting you, you will always have plenty of love for him.
If she never cares how you eat, go to school, or who your best friend is, you will have no motivation to want to spend more time with her.
Your Fido behaves the exact same way. His favorite sleep mate would be the person that deliberately goes out of his way to make the dog happy, comfortable, and entertained.
Different dogs choose different people to sleep with based on a number of reasons. We’ve listed the seven major ones.
The good news is that there’s always something you can do to get picked.
From enhancing positive associations to keeping socializations going to giving your dog plenty of attention and affection, you can never run out of ideas.
Last Updated on September 12, 2021 by
Sable McNeil is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.