Reveal: Does Your Dog Really Prefer You to Others?

Your dog — is he or she really your best friend or more like everyone’s best friend? If given the choice, would your furry friend always choose you? That depends, according to research. Dogs are strange and wonderful creatures — click through to get an inside look at their actions to find out if yours prefers you to others.

1. The study

Dogs And Owners Gather For 2012 Crufts Dog Show

A dog on his owner’s shoulder | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior recently published the results of a study in which it gave dogs the option of getting petted by their owner or by a stranger. Some dogs were tested in their own homes and some in an unfamiliar room.

In both cases, the dog entered the room where his owner and a stranger were sitting and he was free to approach either. In their own home, the dogs spent almost 70 percent of the time interacting with the stranger when they were in their own homes and almost 80 percent of the time with their owners when they were in an unfamiliar place

Next: Don’t be insulted.

2. Don’t be upset if your dog chooses a stranger

Family getting to know dogs in an animal shelter

Family getting to know dogs in an animal shelter | kzenon/iStock/Getty Images 

Dogs lean on their owners most if they’re in a stressful situation, which illustrates how important a role owners play, according to study authors Erica N. Feuerbacher and Clive D. L. Wynne.

So, if you’re in a familiar place and your dog doesn’t choose you, it’s because he’s likely comfortable enough to interact with strangers.

Next: Comfort is key.

3. Your dog’s comfort level

Otterhound lying down stretched out by a fence in the shade

Otterhound lying down | LourdesPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

Similar to infants and parents’ relationships, dogs show what’s called “secure base effects.” When their owners are present, they’re much more likely to play and explore — and get to know strangers. When the dog owner is there for support, the dog is more comfortable indulging his urge to socialize.

Next: Shelter dogs vs. pets

4. Dogs love new bonds

Holiday party with a dog

Holiday party with a dog | Mina3686/iStock/Getty Images

The study also tested shelter dogs and pet dogs by having them enter a room in which two strangers were sitting. Every one of the dogs showed an immediate preference for one person over the other and spent more time getting petted by that individual.

Other studies have shown that shelter dogs quickly develop this kind of preference, which is even further proof that our furry friends love to form new bonds.

Next: Good news for those who want to adopt.       

5. Shelter dogs readily form bonds, too

Shelter dog in an animal shelter

Dog in an animal shelter | Mexitographer/iStock/Getty Images

The study suggests that shelter dogs start to treat a person differently from a new stranger within the first 10 minutes. So, if you’re considering adopting a dog, that’s good news because it shows they readily form new bonds.

“Separation and the shelter environment are very stressful to dogs, but I don’t think dogs are going into their new home and pining for their old home,” said study leader Feuerbacher. “When you adopt one, you become their person.”

Next: You’ve probably noticed this about your own dog.

6. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise

Dogs in cage waiting to be rescued

Dogs in a cage waiting to be rescued | Silk-stocking/iStock/Getty Images

Julie Hecht, a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, said the study “joins a growing body of research finding that context and environment can affect dog behavior, preferences, and perspectives,” according to National Geographic.

“In new places or during moments of discomfort, dogs can be inclined to seek out their owners. When comfortable, dogs are more likely to interact with unfamiliar people. People living with dogs might observe this behavior in their own dogs!”, said Hecht.

Next: How do dogs choose their fave person?

7. How dogs pick people

Labrador retriever with its owner

Labrador retriever with its owner | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

Sometimes a dog’s favorite person is not always their primary caregiver. Many factors go into whom a dog “chooses,” according to Daily Treat. Here are some of them:

  • They tend to bond closest with whoever takes care of them during their first six months.
  • They also tend to bond with whoever gives them the most attention.
  • They play favorites depending on associations — when someone is the source of good stuff, they form a bond with that person.
  • They often choose a favorite person who matches their own personality and energy level.

Read more: Surprising Ways You Might Be Killing Your Dog

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