With attention, affection, adoration become thy favourite!
Rupali Auti with Aara
Garima Singhal with Bruno Boo
Everybody wants to be their pet’s favourite person. But how do pets choose their favourite person? Is it possible to change their minds? Let’s understand how they choose their favourite person, so you too can become your pet’s favourite person.
People who prefer dogs over cats often like to point out that dogs are more loyal and form deeper bonds with their masters. But have you ever watched in disbelief as your pet—the one you feed, walk and give so much love to everyday—sprints to you sibling, spouse or friend as soon as they arrive home? You wait for them to calm down and return to you but they act like you don’t even exist! It slowly daunts you that you—the primary caregiver—might not be your pet’s favourite person.
It’s all about early socialisation. Many dogs bond hardest to whoever cares for them during their key socialisation period which is between birth and six months. At this age, their brains are most receptive, and their early social experiences influence them for the rest of their lives. Hence, it is critical to ensure that your puppy has positive interactions with people, scenarios, places and things. For example, some puppies who don’t interact with people wearing hats might forever reject, or be afraid of people or men wearing hats in their later lives. If however, your pet came to live with you already as an adult, not all is lost. Continued socialisation through experiences like doggy day care, play dates and daily walk will help go a long way.
Give them a lot of attention and affection
Puppies and adult dogs thrive on attention, affection, and love. A person who indulges in play sessions and talks to the pet will automatically become their favourite as opposed to someone who doesn’t enjoy play sessions. Involve your pet in your daily activities. Something as simple as car rides, or going to buy groceries can become a fun activity with your pets along. It’s all about their choice and freedom. For some pets, it’s the quality of play sessions, and not just the quantity that matters. Some doggies like to sit in laps and if a person allows him to climb into his lap, snuggle, and play, he will become the most loved by the pet.
Positive associations are crucial
Make your presence around your pet a positive one. It is a huge factor in developing the bond between pet parents and dogs. Whoever provides the ‘good stuff’ will automatically become the more favourite person. The person, who plays more with the pet, gives them yummy treats, and feeds and walks them will automatically become more of a favourite with the dog as opposed to one who just hangs around and gives the occasional pat on the head. On the other hand, dogs respond poorly to ‘bad associations’. So if you are going to introduce a new person in your household, do so with yummy treats and a positive and friendly attitude. This helps build positive relationships.
Dog breed and the personality of the human
If the pet and pet parent start to act like one another, you aren’t just seeing things. They both influence each other’s personality to a great extent. Dogs choose their person based on personality and energy levels. If you are quiet and introvert whereas your pet is lively and energetic, he will automatically look for a human who matches his energy levels. They may have a stronger bond, even if you are the primary caregiver. Certain breeds are a one master dog. They tend to form deep bonds with one person and this favourite person will be their ONLY favourite person. Breeds like Dobermans, Rottweiler, Shiba Inus, Greyhounds, etc. are all one master dogs.
How to be your pup’s favourite person?
Despite doing all this, if you are not your dog’s favourite person, despair not, because you can still fix this. Spend at least a half hour one on one time with your pet every day. This strengthens your bond. Give him frequent pats and talk to him. Take him for walks and play games. Devise some engaging games like hide and seek, treasure hunts, etc. that are engaging and enjoyable at the same time. Play fetch, tug of war, take him to the dog park or try a sport like agility or flyball. As long as you take good care of your pet and provide them with positive experiences, your bond will be stronger than ever.
The idea is to work together as team with your furry fellow and be one strong happy team! It is these small things that make a huge difference when bonding with your pets. Make them feel wanted and loved, and they’ll shower double the love and affection back.
(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and a long-term pet parent of her pooch Dobie).