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Are you one of those people who says “hello” to every dog you pass on the street? I want every dog that crosses my path to be my friend and am disappointed when a dog doesn’t immediately reciprocate by showing signs of affection. But instant love isn’t always a two-way street; some dogs need extra time and encouragement to bond with a new person.
The good news: dogs are predisposed to like people. In fact, according to Rover’s resident human-animal behavior expert Dr. Phil Tedeschi, “people and dogs need each other.” Our two species share a biological requirement for social connection, and we find it in one another.
Just like with people, you can’t walk up to any dog on the street and expect them to love you right away. However, there are some proven tricks and conditions for winning the affection of a dog. Read on for an inside guide to how to make dogs like you.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could run right up to a dog and say “Hey buddy, let’s be friends?” Unfortunately, even if your words were friendly, the running right up part could be a major turn off. Dogs are all about body language, and charging straight ahead is an aggressive move.
Understanding canine body language is like a cheat sheet for friendship. Once you know how to read their posture, movement, and head position, you can respond to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable. For example, a loosely wagging tail can be a sign of comfort, especially when paired with a curved body and a relaxed gaze.
On the other hand, if a dog is yawning, licking their lips, or turning away with their ears flattened, they may be showing signs of stress. In that case, don’t approach—just get down low, avoid eye contact, and let them come to you. One of the best ways to get an uncertain dog to like you is to start by completely ignoring them. Act calm and relaxed in their presence, but don’t pressure them to interact.
For more on how to speak dog, check out this post on canine body language and behavior.
I know, I just said the words you use don’t matter as much as your body language. However, dogs do understand us when we talk, and they especially respond to tone. As you get to know a new dog, speak to them in a calm, positive tone of voice to show that you’re kind and trustworthy.
As explained in a training post from PetMD, “praising your dog is a super-easy way to let him know that you appreciate his good behavior.” It’s also a great way to show a new dog that you’re worth getting to know. A simple “Hello, good dog!” paired with appropriate body language can go a long way towards making a dog feel comfortable.
The way you speak has the most meaning for dogs. For nervous dogs who need more time to warm up to people, a soft, gentle murmur can put them at ease. Skip the baby talk and simply share a few kind words with them in a quiet, normal tone of voice. Even if they don’t understand every word you say, they’ll respond to your intonation.
Now, I’m not saying you need to bribe a dog to win their affection. But treats, toys, and playtime all help to form and reinforce the bond between people and dogs.
Of course, the way to many dog’s hearts is through their stomach—or, more accurately, their nose! Many dogs respond favorably to food, and it starts with how it smells. If you’re trying to get a dog to like you, bring along the stinkiest treats you can get your hands on to show them you’re the source of the good stuff.
For a dog who’s already inclined to like you, food can sweeten the deal. And for a dog who needs convincing to interact, a tasty treat may be a serious motivator, forming a positive association between food and the nice person who provided it.
If the object of your affection isn’t food-driven, don’t despair: playtime can be just as rewarding. According to Dr. Tedeschi, play is a critical part of the dog-human relationship. When you play with your pup, you release oxytocin, aka the love hormone. And your dog learns that you’re the source of all things fun!
Sharing in a friendly, energetic game that includes touch, movement, reward, and praise is a great way to solidify your bond.
Dogs tend to form the closest bond to the person who gives them the most attention, which can take many forms. In fact, we’ve already covered a few important types of attention for dogs: responding to their body language, offering praise, and giving them treats and toys.
Physical affection is another important way to pay attention to a dog. Pets, grooming sessions, massage, and good old fashioned cuddle sessions help dogs relax and feel close to people. If you’re getting to know a new dog, give them time to warm up to you before diving into the serious petting. Gentle ear scratches or even just sitting close by can be the first steps toward getting a dog to like you. Who knows, they may even climb into your lap!
For dogs who aren’t so physically affectionate, a nice, long walk together is a great way to give them attention. A rousing game of fetch or working on a new trick can also help you win a dog’s adoration.
As Dr. Tedeschi notes, “Dogs are sentient beings, meaning they have the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively.” They’re individuals with complex emotions and cognitions, and they don’t all like the same things. In other words, sometimes you may come across a dog who doesn’t like you.
It’s disappointing, but don’t take it personally! The best way to show a dog you like them is to meet them where they are.
Some dogs like to spend time on their own, while others never want to leave your side. One dog might want to laze around on the couch all day, while another prefers to chase after a Frisbee. The best way to get a dog to like you is to pay attention to their likes, dislikes, and comfort level. Understanding a dog’s personality will help you interact with them in a way that suits them best, leading to a stronger bond.
Sometimes, making a dog like you is simply a matter of showing them that you like them just the way they are.
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