Canine Behavior

Why Dogs May Prefer Certain People Over Others

Jane Davis

Note: If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we may receive a commission but at no extra cost to you

Dogs often have preferences for certain people over others, a behavior that can be both endearing and puzzling.

Your own experiences with canines might have shown you that, much like humans, dogs can display favoritism.

The reasons for these preferences are rooted in dogs’ intricate social and emotional capacities.

They form strong bonds with individuals who provide them with attention, care, and consistent positive reinforcement.

Beyond the tangible aspects of feeding and playing, dogs are highly attuned to human behavior and emotions, responding to subtle cues such as body language and tone of voice.

Sensory preferences also significantly influence a dog’s inclination toward specific individuals. Dogs have powerful senses of smell and can be drawn to or repelled by particular scents on a person.

Moreover, how a person interacts with a dog upon first meeting can set the stage for their relationship.

Dogs may prefer those who respect their space and calmly approach them over someone who may be overly enthusiastic or assertive.

Your interactions with dogs reveal more than your ability to care for them. Dogs observe how people treat their owners and others in their environment, which can influence their preferences.

Positive associations with certain people or regular engagement in fun activities can endear you to them, while inconsistent or negative interactions may lead to a dog keeping their distance.

Canine Affection Dynamics

A complex interplay of emotional connections and learned behaviors influences your dog’s preference for certain people.

The Science of Bonding in Dogs

Dogs have evolved as social animals, with a capacity for forming attachments that can be as strong and nuanced as those in human relationships.

Oxytocin, a hormone involved in social bonding, is released in dogs and humans during petting or eye contact, strengthening the emotional connection.

Studies have demonstrated how dogs can read your emotions and body language, often gravitating toward individuals whose behaviors and energies align with their comfort and happiness.

Influence of Owner Behavior

Your interactions with your dog fundamentally shape their affections. Consistency in your behavior, such as regular feeding, walking, and playtime schedules, establishes reliability in your dog’s eyes.

Positive reinforcement, which includes treats, praise, or petting, will associate you with pleasure in your dog’s mind.

  • Consistent routines build trust.
  • Positive interactions foster a stronger bond.

Your dog reads and interprets your nonverbal cues, and your calm and assertive energy can make you a preferred companion.

However, your dog can also sense emotions like anxiety or impatience, potentially leading to a distanced relationship.

Dog’s Social Preferences

Dogs have complex social behaviors and often prefer specific individuals. Their choices can be influenced by a person’s personality and past interactions.

Personality Matching

Your dog is likely to be drawn to people whose personalities match or complement its own.

For example, a timid dog might prefer a calm and gentle person, as their calmness can be reassuring. Conversely, an energetic dog might find a lively individual more engaging.

This alignment between dog and human personalities can significantly impact the dog’s preference.

  • Timid dogs may prefer:
    • Calm individuals
    • Gentle approach
  • Energetic dogs might enjoy:
    • Playful people
    • Lively interactions

Familiarity and Memory

Dogs remember individuals who have provided positive experiences and are more inclined to show a preference for them.

Your dog’s memory plays a crucial role in developing these preferences. Regular, enjoyable interactions reinforce their fondness for someone.

  • Positive experiences include:
    • Consistent reward-based interaction
    • Quality playtime
  • Memory factors:
    • Past kindness
    • Familiar scents and voices

Genetic and Breed-Specific Factors

Your dog’s preferences for certain people may have a genetic component deeply rooted in its breed’s DNA.

Different breeds possess distinct genetic predispositions that can influence their behavior and interactions with humans.


  • Behavioral Traits: Genes shape behaviors such as fearfulness and aggression, which may affect a dog’s affinity toward particular people.
  • Personality: Evidence suggests that a dog’s personality is not solely determined by upbringing. Genetics contribute to personality traits, which may lead to patterned preferences for certain human behaviors.

Breed Characteristics:

  • Herding Breeds: Border Collies may be more reticent with strangers but are closely bonded to their family due to their protective instincts.
  • Companion Breeds: Like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, companion breeds tend to be more friendly with everyone and display less pronounced preferences.

Owner Influence: While genetics set the stage, your interaction with your dog is crucial. Reinforcement and socialization largely shape their inclinations toward certain people.

Genetic Research Findings:

Genetic AspectInfluence on Preference
Behavioral genesMay affect sociability
Personality genesContribute to individual dog’s friendliness

Understanding how genetics and breed tendencies play a role can help comprehend why your dog may favor some people over others.

As you shape your environment and social interactions, these inherent predispositions will mesh with experience to form your dog’s unique social preferences.

Environmental and Experiential Influences

Environmental factors and past experiences often shape a dog’s preferences for people, which can heavily influence canine behavior and affinities.


Socialization refers to how your dog learns to interact with other beings and environments.

A well-socialized dog has had positive exposure to various people, animals, and situations from an early age. This typically leads to a more comfortable dog and is sometimes preferential towards people with a familiar social setting.

For instance, a dog raised in a bustling family environment may be more at ease around energetic and expressive people.

Previous Experiences

Previous experiences, particularly during the critical early stages of your dog’s life, can deeply impact whom they are drawn to or wary of.

A positive encounter, such as gentle handling by a particular type of person, can create lasting affection.

Conversely, negative experiences, such as being frightened or poorly treated by someone, can lead to lifelong aversions.

  • For example:
    • Positive experience: A dog that was frequently rewarded by a bearded man might show a preference for similarly bearded individuals.
    • Negative experience: If a dog once had a scare from someone on a bicycle, they might remain anxious around cyclists.


Jane Davis

Hi, my name is Jane Davis, and I love dogs. I own a labrador retriever named Max. When I was growing up, we always had dogs at our house. They provide us with such unconditional love and companionship, and I can't imagine my life without one by my side.

This website does not provide pet medical advice. For professional advice regarding your pet's health, please consult a licensed veterinarian in your local area.