Can Dogs Have Two Favorite People?


Dogs form powerful bonds with their human caretakers. It’s common for dogs to show a preference for one person in a household. However, while some dogs do pick a single favorite human, others show equal love for multiple family members. The key is understanding canine emotions and the nature of the human-dog relationship.

Dogs Form Strong Bonds

Dogs are highly social, pack animals. According to the Wikipedia article “Human–canine bond” the relationship between dogs and humans dates back over 15,000 years to the Bonn-Oberkassel dog which lived with humans long before domestication. Dogs naturally form strong social attachments and close relationships with family members who provide food, care, and affection. According to an article in Science “How dogs stole our hearts,” when dogs look into their owner’s eyes it activates the hormone oxytocin which helps form the bond between parent and infant. This shows the deep emotional attachment dogs can develop with their human families.

Signs of a Favorite Person

Dogs will often show preferential treatment to their favorite person. According to Newsweek, some clear signs that you are likely your dog’s favorite include an excited greeting when you return home, following you from room to room, and wanting to sleep nearby or on your bed.

Dogs who are closely bonded with their favorite person will become visibly excited when that person returns after an absence. They may jump, lick faces, and wag their tails enthusiastically. This is a sign that the dog feels a strong connection and has missed that person.

Dogs also tend to follow their favorite person around the house from room to room. They want to stay close, keep an eye on them, and participate in whatever they are doing. This shadowing behavior demonstrates the dog’s preference for one particular member of the household.

Many dogs also show their bond with their favorite person by sleeping in their bedroom or even on their bed. Dogs feel safe and secure with their chosen person, so they prefer to sleep in close proximity and keep them near at night.

Dogs Have Complex Emotions

Dogs experience a range of complex emotions, much like humans do. Research has shown that dogs feel basic emotions such as happiness, fear and anxiety. But they are also capable of more complex emotions like love, jealousy and empathy (source).

One study published in the journal Animal Cognition in 2009 found that dogs exhibited jealous behaviors when their owners displayed affection for a stuffed dog. The dogs tried to get between the owner and the stuffed dog, push the stuffed dog away, or even snap at the stuffed dog. This demonstrates that dogs have an understanding of jealousy (source).

There is also evidence that dogs are capable of empathy. A 2021 study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science showed that dogs who witnessed people crying had an increase in behaviours associated with empathy and concern, such as approaching the crier, laying their head in their lap, or licking their hands. The researchers concluded that dogs have the capacity for empathy towards both humans and other dogs (source).

Overall, scientific research indicates dogs have a rich inner emotional life. Like humans, they feel a full spectrum of emotions ranging from simple to complex.

Rotating Favorite Person

Some dogs rotate between favorite people depending on circumstance. For example, a dog may bond most closely with the person who takes them on walks or plays with them the most. So if one family member is away at college, the dog may switch their preference to whoever is home more often and taking over those duties. According to pet experts, “dogs can definitely have multiple favorite humans and their preferences can change depending on mood, circumstances, and stages of life.”

This makes sense when you consider that dogs form preferences based on who provides them with the most positive attention, affection, exercise, training, and care. So as people come and go or have changing schedules, the dog may shift preferences. However, most dogs have one consistent primary bond that remains stable. The rotating favorites tend to be secondary bonds that fluctuate more over time.

Multiple Strong Bonds

While dogs often bond very closely with one person who becomes their “favorite,” they are also capable of forming strong attachments to multiple people. Here are some key points on dogs bonding with more than one person:

Dogs, like humans, have complex emotions and can have meaningful relationships with more than one individual at a time. According to animal behavior experts, the neurochemical oxytocin facilitates bonding and attachment in both dogs and humans. When dogs interact with their favorite people, oxytocin is released, which strengthens the bond.

Since oxytocin release is prompted by positive interactions, dogs can potentially form attachments with anyone in their life who regularly has pleasant experiences with them. This includes activities like playing, cuddling, training, exercising, or feeding.

While a dog may be slightly more attached or responsive to one favorite person who cares for them the most, they are fully capable of establishing strong bonds with multiple members of their family or pack. According to a PawSafe article, “dogs don’t love in a finite way like we do.”

Having more than one close bond is also natural dog behavior and reminiscent of how dogs live in stable packs. Even when dogs have a favorite, they remain loyal, affectionate, and connected to the rest of their human family members. Fostering positive interactions with your dog will strengthen your mutual bond over time.

Bonding Activities

There are many fun and rewarding activities that can help build a strong bond between you and your dog. Playing together is a great way to strengthen your connection. Playing fetch, tug-of-war, or just chasing your dog around the yard helps reinforce the positive association between you and your dog having fun together.

Training sessions are also excellent bonding opportunities. Working on obedience commands or teaching new tricks allows you to positively engage with your dog both mentally and physically. Your dog will look to you for guidance and rewards during training, increasing their attentiveness.

Simply feeding your dog can help build trust and affection. Rather than just leaving a bowl of food out, hand-feeding part of their meals or using food for training rewards bonds you as the provider. Your dog will learn to associate you with their most basic need – food.

The key is finding activities you both enjoy and making time to regularly interact in ways that strengthen your relationship.

Signs of Bonding

There are several clear signs that indicate a dog has bonded with a person. Some of the most notable signs include increased affection, obedience, and comfort with that person.

Dogs who feel a strong bond will be more affectionate with their chosen person. They may initiate more physical contact like cuddling, leaning, and nudging for attention. Bonded dogs often lick and gently mouth their favorite people as a sign of affection. They also tend to have more relaxed body language like a loose wagging tail and soft eyes when interacting with their special person.

Along with increased affection, a bonded dog will show a greater desire to obey commands and please their favorite person. They are eager to engage, focus attention on, and follow directions from someone they feel deeply connected to. This obedience stems from trust and wanting to make their person happy.

Lastly, dogs who have bonded will act more calm and comfortable in the presence of their chosen humans. They feel secure and at ease, even becoming extra cuddly. Dogs may nap against or sleep by their favorites when given the chance. Overall, bonded dogs simply gravitate toward and happily engage with the people they feel closest to.

Favorite Person vs. Alpha

There is an important difference between a dog’s favorite person and the dog’s alpha leader. The favorite person is someone the dog feels an extra strong bond and affection for. This is often the person who spends the most quality time with the dog through play, training, exercise, and caregiving. However, the alpha leader is the one the dog views as being dominant and in charge within the family pack.

While there may be some overlap, the roles are distinct. Some signs that you are the alpha leader include if your dog respects your commands, lets you eat first, waits for permission from you, or defers to you in uncertain situations. Alternatively, signs of being the favorite person include if the dog gets extra excited to see you, insists on physical closeness, follows you everywhere, and prefers to sleep next to you.

According to dog behavior research, dogs view human family members as their pack and need an established order similar to wolf packs. The alpha provides stability and leadership, while the affection and bonding from a favorite person meets the dog’s emotional needs. Understanding this distinction allows owners to fill both roles and have a fulfilling relationship with their pet.

For example, the parent who enforces the rules and trains the dog may be viewed as the alpha, while the child who spends hours playing and cuddling with the dog becomes the favorite. As pack animals, dogs are capable of forming multiple strong bonds.


Dogs are capable of forming strong bonds and connections with multiple people in their lives. While they may show preference for one person in certain situations, like who walks them or feeds them, dogs have complex emotions that allow them to have more than one special human in their life. The key signs of being a dog’s favorite include being greeted with excitement, receiving affectionate behaviors, being able to calm or comfort them, and being chosen as a companion for activities or sleep. However, having a strong mutual bond is not the same as being seen as the “alpha” or pack leader in the dog’s mind. Through regular positive interactions like playing, training, caregiving and quality time together, dogs form meaningful relationships with all members of their human family.

In summary, the evidence shows dogs are able to have more than one favorite person. While a dog may show situational preference for one person depending on the activity or circumstance, they have the capacity to create deep connections with multiple individuals through bonding experiences. With time, effort and affection, most dogs will come to see more than one person as a special trusted ally and companion.

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