Can A Dogs Favourite Person Change?

The bond between dogs and humans is a special one. Over 30,000 years ago, dogs were the first animals humans domesticated, and they’ve been by our side ever since [1]. Dogs offer us unconditional love, support, and companionship. They greet us with enthusiasm when we come home, snuggle up next to us at night, and intuitively know how to comfort us when we’re sad.

With this strong connection, it’s natural for dogs to form attachments and show preferences for certain people in their lives. You may notice your dog following a particular family member everywhere, always sitting next to the same person, or waiting eagerly by the door when a specific person is due home. Dogs tend to bond most strongly with the people who feed, play with, train, and care for them the most. But can a dog’s favorite person change over time? Let’s explore the nuances of canine bonds and what impacts their depth.

How Dogs Initially Bond

Dogs begin bonding immediately after birth through their senses of smell and touch. Newborn puppies imprint on their mother’s scent along with littermates in the litter ( Scent plays a key role in connecting puppies to their mother and identifying each other. Physical contact and nursing also promotes bonding among the litter during the first few weeks.

During the early socialization window between 3-12 weeks old, puppies start building social skills with their littermates, learning dog communication and behaviors ( This is an optimal period for them to bond with humans as well through handling, cuddling, playing and training. Exposure to a variety of people and experiences helps puppies become comfortable interacting with humans.

Imprinting is the rapid process of forming attachments during a sensitive period early in life ( Puppies generally imprint onto one or two primary caregivers who feed, socialize and care for them during imprinting. This imprinting facilitates an initial bond with humans that serves as the foundation for the dog-owner relationship.

Factors in a Dog’s Favorite Person

There are a few key factors that contribute to a dog choosing a favorite person:

Who feeds, walks, plays with dog – The person who regularly cares for the dog’s basic needs like feeding, walking, and playing tends to become the favorite. These activities create positive associations and help form a close bond.Rover

Quality time and positive interactions – Spending quality one-on-one time doing fun activities helps create a strong connection. Dogs bond with people they share positive experiences and interactions with.K9 Basics

Dogs are very perceptive of human emotions and form attachments to those who provide them with comfort, attention, praise, and affection. The person who regularly cares for and interacts positively with a dog often becomes the favorite.

Can Preferences Change Over Time?

A dog’s favorite person is not necessarily set in stone. Preferences can shift over time due to changes in the dog’s life and environment. Here are some common reasons a dog’s favorite person may change:

Changes in family routine – If the dog’s favorite person moves away, gets a new job, or goes away to college, the daily routine and interactions will change. With that person suddenly less available, the dog may start to bond more closely with another family member who becomes the new primary caretaker.

New baby – When a new baby enters the home, routines shift and the dog likely gets less attention. They may start favoring another person who can provide more care and quality time.

With training and effort – While dogs often do imprint on a favorite human early on, preferences aren’t necessarily permanent. With effort and positive reinforcement training, another family member can become the new favorite over time. This takes patience and consistency.

So in many cases, yes, a dog’s favorite person can change depending on shifting life circumstances. The key is managing these changes gradually and giving the dog ample attention/affection, especially from the new preferred human.

Encouraging Bonding With a New Person

A dog will initially bond most closely with whoever provides the majority of their care and attention. However, it is possible to build a strong bond with a new person over time by consistently engaging in caregiving, play, and training activities with the dog. Here are some tips for forging a close bond between a dog and a new person in their life:

Have the new person take over or assist with daily care routines like feeding, walking, grooming, and playing. Feeding time is especially impactful for bonding. As the dog consistently associates this new person with providing for their basic needs, attachment will naturally grow (source).

Schedule special one-on-one playtime and walks for just the dog and new person. Novel experiences also help build strong memories and associations. The new person can bring the dog to explore new places like hiking trails, stores that allow dogs, or training classes (source).

Have the new person participate actively in the dog’s training, reinforcing commands and tricks. Mental stimulation from training strengthens connections. Offering treats during training provides positive reinforcement. Praise and affection from this new person will also help the dog bond with them.

With dedication, patience, and consistency, a dog can form a close attachment to a new person in their life through care, play, training, attention and quality time together. The same tactics can work when introducing a new family member like a spouse, partner or child into the household.

Signs of a Strong Bond

There are some clear signs that indicate your dog has formed a strong bond with you. Some of the most notable signs include:

Seeking you out for comfort – When your dog is scared, anxious, or just wants affection, they will likely come to you first. A dog with a strong bond sees their favorite person as a source of safety and reassurance.

Excitement when you come home – Dogs who are closely bonded will show exuberant excitement when you return after an absence. They may jump, spin, whimper, or give you their favorite toy.

Cuddling and closeness – A bonded dog will often initiate close physical contact and cuddling. This includes sitting on your lap, leaning against you, or sleeping next to you.

Frequent eye contact – Dogs who have bonded with someone will seek out eye contact. Maintaining eye contact releases oxytocin and reinforces the bond.

According to Reddit user ThatNovelist, signs of a strong bond include a dog leaning on you, gently nibbling your elbow, and licking your feet. The user also mentioned their dog stands between their legs, showing a protective attachment (source).

Challenges in Changing Bonds

One of the biggest challenges in changing a dog’s favorite person is that dogs have strong memories and tend to remember past positive associations. For example, if a dog’s previous favorite person gave them lots of treats, belly rubs and playtime, the dog is likely to remember that fondly even if that person leaves for a while (1). Trying to get the dog to bond with a new person in the home can be difficult because the dog still reminisces about the past good times.

To successfully change a dog’s favorite person, the new person will need to be very consistent in establishing a new routine with the dog. This means sticking to a regular schedule of feeding, walking, training, grooming and quality time with the dog. The more positive and fun experiences the new person can create, the more likely the dog will be to form a strong bond over time. But this takes patience and persistence, as the dog may be resistant at first if still attached to their previous favorite human (2).

Should You Try to Change It?

In some cases, you may want to gradually transition your dog’s favorite person to someone new in the household. However, you shouldn’t force a change if it causes your dog distress or anxiety. Consider your dog’s history, temperament, and attachment style before attempting to alter their preferences.

For instance, an anxious or clingy dog that has bonded strongly with one person may become extremely stressed if their favored human is no longer available. On the other hand, a friendly, social dog may readily accept a new favorite if that person offers positive attention and experiences.

If you do want to encourage your dog to bond with someone new, do so gradually through calm, structured interactions like walks, playtime and training. Make sure your dog still gets individual time with their original favored human as well. With patience, some dogs can form equally strong attachments to more than one person.

However, if your dog shows severe distress, agitation, or other problematic behaviors when separated from their favorite, they may have an unhealthy over-attachment. In those cases, speak to your veterinarian or a certified dog trainer before attempting to break the bond.

When to Seek Help

In some cases, it may be necessary to seek professional help from an animal behaviorist or certified dog trainer. Signs that expert assistance is needed include:

Aggression or depression in dogs – If a dog shows aggression like growling, snapping, or biting towards family members, or seems depressed and withdrawn, this indicates an underlying issue that needs addressing. Left untreated, these behaviors can worsen over time. Professional training can help modify aggressive responses and improve a dog’s mood and demeanor through positive reinforcement techniques.

Destructive behaviors – Persistent destructive acts like chewing, barking, howling, or eliminating indoors are signals a dog is struggling emotionally. A trainer can teach alternative behaviors to stop destruction and determine the root causes of distress. They may recommend changes to the dog’s routine, environment, or interactions to relieve anxiety.

Inability to change favorite person – If interventions to shift a dog’s preferred human companion are consistently unsuccessful, then more intensive training may be required. A specialist can evaluate the dog-human dynamics and create a customized plan to strengthen new bonds.

Safety concerns – Dogs that exhibit bite risk or aggressively target certain individuals require immediate action to prevent harm. Consultation with a behavioral expert is highly recommended in these situations.

By turning to qualified professionals for assistance, dog owners have the best chance of modifying unwanted behaviors, enhancing communication, and establishing healthy, positive relationships between pets and people.


In summary, a dog’s preferred human companion is initially determined by who cares for and bonds with the dog from a young age. However, preferences can shift over time as dogs form new bonds. While challenging, gently encouraging positive interactions with a new family member is better than forcing a change. Look for signs of acceptance like play, affection, and listening to commands. But some preferences may remain constant, and the strength of a dog’s bond should be respected. Healthy relationships require patience, consistency and mutual trust. As the essay “A Dog’s Friendship” ( states, the lifelong companionship of a dog is a gift to be cherished.

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