Skip to Content

Do dogs prefer one human?

It’s a common belief among dog owners that their furry friend has a special bond with them over anyone else. The way your dog’s eyes light up when you walk through the door or how they curl up next to you on the couch seems to suggest they’ve chosen you as their favorite. But is it true that dogs really do prefer one human companion above all others? There are some interesting theories and scientific research on the matter that may surprise you.

The Science Behind Dog-Human Bonding

Research has shown that there is a real emotional bond formed between dogs and their human caregivers. A 2009 study found that dogs produced higher levels of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” when interacting with their owners compared to other people. This seems to suggest dogs do feel a special affection towards their chosen humans. However, it’s important to note that dogs are capable of forming attachments to multiple individuals provided they have positive experiences.

One reason dogs may appear most fond of one person is because that individual spends the most time caring for them. The person who regularly feeds, walks, plays with, and cares for the dog will naturally build the strongest bond through this consistent, positive interaction. The dog connects its provider to these enjoyable activities and responds accordingly. That’s why dogs often appear especially excited to see the family member who performs most of their daily care after a long absence.

Pack Bonds in Dogs

Dogs are descended from wolves and retain their natural pack mentality. In the wild, wolves form incredibly strong social bonds with other members of their pack. It’s an evolutionary advantage for them to feel attached to their fellow pack mates and have an alpha leader they follow. This instinct doesn’t disappear in our domesticated dogs. They view their human families as their “pack” with similar social relationship dynamics.

Just as wolves have bonds with the whole pack, dogs can have meaningful emotional connections to each member of your family. But they will usually demonstrate a special attachment to one or two family members who care for them the most. Your dog doesn’t love you more than your spouse, child, or roommate per se. But you may be higher ranked in their social pack structure. Showing deference and respect to the “alpha” leader while feeling secure following their direction is simply in their nature.

Multiple Human Bonds are Possible

While your dog may choose one special person who ranks highest in their affections, that doesn’t mean they don’t bond with other humans too. Dogs are perfectly capable of establishing meaningful, loving relationships with multiple people. Having more than one close canine-human friendship is good for both your dog’s mental health and their socialization skills.

Your dog’s second-favorite person may be the one who takes them on long walks, plays tug-of-war, or gives treats just for being cute. They have their own unique, cherished way of relating. It’s a great idea to have each family member regularly participate in care duties like feeding, exercise, training, and playtime. This helps ensure your dog bonds well with everyone.

Signs Your Dog Favors a Particular Person

How can you tell if your pooch has chosen someone as their number one? Here are a few subtle signs to look for:

  • Greets them first or most enthusiastically
  • Constantly follows them from room to room
  • Makes eye contact and checks in most with them
  • Sleeps closest to them at night
  • Gets most excited when they return home
  • Listens most attentively to them
  • Misbehaves more when they leave
  • Seeks their attention the most

Keep in mind you can have a very well-bonded dog who doesn’t display all these behaviors. But if you notice several of these cues, it’s likely you’re their chosen favorite human.

Why Do Some Dogs Favor One Person?

There are a few key reasons why dogs often form the tightest bond with a single special caretaker:

They’re the primary caregiver

The human who spends the most time feeding, walking, training, grooming, and playing with a dog becomes most associated with the pleasures of care. Your dog is predisposed to form attachments with caretakers, so the primary one often becomes number one.

They were the first caretaker

The person who first cares for a dog when it arrives to a new home often holds a valuable first place in their heart. Early care shapes much of the dog’s social development and expectations. They learn to rely on this initial caregiver, forging an early bond that can persist.

They have the preferred personality

This is subjective, but certain personalities and dispositions may appeal most to an individual dog. The human who respects their space, is calm and confident, and takes them on fun adventures becomes a favorite companion.

They fill an emotional need

No matter how loved a dog is, they still have their own preferences. Your pooch may be naturally drawn to the man, woman, or child who provides something unique emotionally that other family members do not.

They’re around the most

The simple fact is dogs bond most closely with humans they spend the most time with. Retired persons or those working from home are often chosen favorites.

They communicate effectively

Dogs gravitate toward humans who understand them best. If a particular person has taken the time to learn their signals, moods, and personality – that establishes an improved relationship.

Does One-Person Preference Cause Problems?

You might initially feel a bit jealous or sad if your dog seems to have chosen someone else as their primary human companion. But this is completely normal canine behavior and not something to view negatively. Allow your dog’s preferences while doing your part to build a rewarding bond too through training, care, and quality time. Here are some potential issues to watch for though:

  • Separation anxiety when the preferred person leaves
  • Guarding behavior around preferred person
  • Aggression toward other humans (resource guarding)
  • Depression or lethargy when the preferred person is absent
  • Destructive behavior from stress without the preferred person

As long as your dog doesn’t display problematic behaviors, their bonding preferences are perfectly healthy. If you do notice signs of anxiety, let your dog warm up to time alone gradually as you reinforce independence and confidence.

How Can I Become My Dog’s Favorite?

Don’t fret too much if it seems your pooch feels a bit more affection toward another human in your home. Here are some tips to strengthen your own puppy love:

  • Take over as the primary caretaker with feeding, exercise, training, etc.
  • Initiate plenty of petting, brushing, massages, and cuddle time
  • Become their main playmate and source of exciting adventures
  • Have them sleep in your room or right next to you
  • Take over supervision when the preferred person can’t be there
  • Offer delicious treats and meals they don’t get from others
  • Work on dog training skills together every day
  • Shower them with your own affection and praise

If you become your dog’s sole provider of everything they love – food, play, comfort, security – they’re guaranteed to form an increasingly strong bond with you over time. But be patient, as your dog’s core personality and early imprinting plays a role too.

Should I be Concerned if my Dog Prefers Others?

In many cases, a dog being slightly more attached to one person isn’t problematic. But if your dog highly favors other human family members, friends or strangers over you, it could be a sign of one of the following issues:

  • You don’t spend enough quality time together
  • You travel or are away too frequently
  • You haven’t trained or socialized them properly
  • You demonstrate inconsistent leadership
  • You engage in punishments or negative reinforcement
  • You exhibit anger, anxiety or instability
  • You fail to meet their basic needs

Before feeling rejected, reflect on whether you need to improve your own dog parenting skills. With more dedicated training, play, patience and affection, you can still build a rewarding bond.

The Importance of Multiple Human Bonds

While it’s perfectly normal for your dog to prefer one special companion, they should still have relaxed, happy relationships with every human in your home. Pets that bond exclusively with only person can develop behavioral problems down the road, like separation anxiety, aggression, possessive behaviors, and difficulty socializing with strangers or visitors. That’s why it’s essential all family members invest time providing care, training, exercise and play.

Make sure your kids, roommates, or partner also practice establishing leadership, offering rewards, communicating positively, and having one-on-one time together. You want your dog viewing all humans in the home as trusted members of their pack.

Can Dogs Have Multiple Favorite Humans?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s both possible and ideal for dogs to form strong attachments to more than one special person. While dogs naturally look to one leader or provider for guidance and security, their hearts have room for many meaningful relationships.

It’s not uncommon at all for a family dog to bond equally with Mom and Dad, or with multiple children, or with Grandpa who visits every weekend. Dogs don’t have a pre-determined limit on human friends. The more loving bonds, the better!

Should I be Concerned About Rivalry?

You may notice your dog competing for the attention, affection, or approval of their favorite person. They may push another family member aside or act out when they’re not the center of focus. This is one manifestation of resource guarding.

To prevent this, make sure each human establishes themselves as a fair leader and never tolerates aggression or pushiness. Give your dog attention when they’re being calm and polite, not demanding. Dogs will act out less if everyone works together to provide consistent rules, stimulation, and shared quality time.

How to Handle Changes in Dog-Human Bonding

It’s natural for our relationships with dogs to evolve over time as life circumstances change. Perhaps you’ve gone from being your pup’s favorite human to taking the back seat to a new love interest, baby or rental roommate. Or maybe your senior dog has grown more aloof as they aged. Here are healthy ways to handle shifts in your dog’s preferences:

  • Accept that change is normal and focus on what you can control
  • Evaluate if you need to invest more focused time in care and training
  • Reinforce leadership skills if your dog tries to take advantage of divided attention
  • Maintain a calm, consistent presence and routine
  • Try to schedule one-on-one quality time each day
  • Keep meeting their basic needs of exercise, nutrition and veterinary care
  • Continue providing affection and be patient if it’s no longer reciprocated as much

While it can be tough on your ego, remember your loyal companion still loves and needs you – even if someone else has momentarily become the favorite.


At the end of the day, the depth of love between owners and their dogs has less to do with rankings and more with the quality of time spent together. While preferences are natural, be sure you continue to strengthen your own bond through caretaking, communication, training and play. When everyone pitches in, you just might find your family dog loves you all equally in their own special way.