How Do Dogs Choose Their Humans?

Each of our four dogs has a distinct favorite person in our family. How does this happen?

Human looking down at two dogs.
Four on the floor, or in this case eight on the floor. (Dogs looking up at person by Shutterstock.
Last Updated on June 9, 2017 by

We have four dogs matched by four humans in our house. Use simple math and the typical nature of family life with dogs and you’d think they might gravitate toward a particular human, a favorite, right? Well … kind of. As a parent I can’t say I have a favorite child, but when it comes to how dogs choose favorites, they are much less discriminating. They tell it like it is and don’t hide their allegiances. For example:

French bulldog rescued from a puppy mill.

Ralph, our infamous French Bulldog, formed a quick bond with every family member. However, the connection he has with my husband is unlike any other. Ralph will watch for him, wait to be held like a baby, fall asleep on him, sneak daddy kisses, and completely freak when he returns from work. The bond is undeniable.

Ralph also gets upset and displays some jealousy when he’s not getting enough attention from Daddy. He doesn’t hold it against the rest of us, but it’s obvious. To see Ralph so secure after all he went through (he was rescued as a mill dog), it warms my heart, but at times it can be frustrating.

A girl with a black Lab dog.

Payton, my oldest daughter, has a rare sense of affection for all animals. It seems our senior Lab, Dairy, senses that. He’s almost nine and loves Payton like no one else. We adopted him as a puppy from a neighborhood unplanned litter. Just a few short weeks later, Payton became gravely ill, at home for weeks with fevers of 105 degrees. He was her constant companion during those struggles and has been by her side throughout her medical challenges after she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Dairy knew she needed support and ensured he was there to comfort her. Since then, they’ve been inseparable.

Joe, our Pug with cancer, is my baby. It’s rare you don’t see us attached at the hip. He came to us as a foster and never left. As I write this he’s snoring (loudly) on my leg. The comfort he finds in our time together is reassuring, and there are moments I seek him out for comfort. We have a similar outer shell, presenting ourselves as strong to the world but but full of love and compassion you’ll find with time. We keep people at a distance, but once you’re close, you’re cherished … but there are times we both want everyone to leave us alone.

A young girl with an American bulldog.

My youngest, Adison, is the source of special human connection for the biggest dog in the house, Pix the American Bulldog. Both are the most emotional members of their own set, and both are bonded by their desire to support the other through those challenges. They’re both full of personality and individuality, and they identify with each other as a result.

I reached out to some friends with this theory, and more than a few shared similar experiences. Joanna Lainig shared the story of her bond with Pug Lola and her husband, Steven. Lola is losing her ability to walk, but that her Daddy carries her everywhere. Steven texts pictures of Lola to Joanna during the day while he’s at work, and he shares pics of her constantly. Joanna believes Lola found her human in Steven … or maybe it’s the other way around.

A woman with a pug.

Margot M’s bond with Oliver formed when she was five months old. Margot’s daughters took turns sleeping with Oliver, but after a couple of weeks he started jumping off the bed and would cry outside of her door until someone let her in. From that point, he was her dog. He’s constantly on her, near her and following her. When she leaves the house, he watches for her at the door. He even whimpers at times! Since Oliver is only two, they have many years together still to enjoy.

“Our puppy mill survivor rescue, Halo, adores my husband,” explains Lisa S. “She howls at the top of the stairs and goes from room to room looking for him. The only way to prevent this is if he says goodbye to her directly and explains he’ll be back soon.”

One of my favorite Facebook stories comes from Marguriet Gallimore Frazier. She adopted a stray into her home who,in turn, had a litter of puppies. All the puppies were quite loving with Marguriet and her family, except one. This one would play with his littermates if Marguriet and the family weren’t in sight. Once they were, he’d run and hide.

When it was time for the puppies to be adopted, a woman came by with her two sons to pick out a puppy, a gift for one son’s birthday. The younger son wanted a dog of his own (of course), but it wasn’t his birthday and mom said no. He sat down in the yard, arms crossed, and cried. The puppy that, until this point, had feared people came out and laid his head in the boy’s lap. The boy wrapped his arms around the pup and cried more. Marguriet’s mouth dropped open, she started to cry … and on that day, her two boys both found their dogs.

Well, how do dogs pick their human? I guess like us in companions, they see exactly what the other needs and picks that person to love.

Does your dog have a favorite human — and if it’s not you, who is it, and why? How do you think dogs choose their “person”? Let us know in the comments.

About the author: Heather lives in Colorado with her husband, two daughters, and a number of four-leggers depending on how many fosters are residing in the house. She’s primarily a full-time volunteer where her services are needed the most.

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