Just like humans, dogs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and personalities. Some dogs are very friendly and love to be around everyone. Other dogs get very uneasy when a stranger approaches them and may even become aggressive.
If a dog isn’t exactly friendly toward you, there are some things you can do to increase the chances of them warming up to you. Just remember to give it time. Some dogs have had very rough pasts and it will take them longer to warm up to strangers. Be patient and don’t try to force it.
You have to win their trust if you want them to like you. If a dog doesn’t trust you, they won’t like you. Three different factors affect the level of trust a dog will have with you. The first is bonding, the second is the environment, and the third is taking care of their health. We will go into detail on each one of these three factors below. Most dogs will learn to like you if you nail one. If you get all three down, they will love you!
The BIG Mistakes That Will Make a Dog NOT Like You
Before we talk about what you should do to get a dog to like you, we first need to talk about what you shouldn’t do. If you take all the right steps toward getting a dog to like you but continue to make these mistakes along the way, they may never warm up to you.
If you’ve made some of these mistakes in the past, that’s ok! We have all made these mistakes from time to time. Just make sure you don’t do them again in the future.
Don’t Initiate The Approach
Most people will tell you that the best way to introduce yourself to a dog is to approach them gently and stick your hand out so they can lick and sniff your hand. This is HALF correct. You should let them lick and sniff your hand but ONLY after they have approached you.
If you initiate the approach, a dog might take it as a sign of dominance or as a threat. Even if you act friendly, it’s still a person they don’t trust approaching them, and that will make the dog feel uneasy.
Instead, don’t make eye contact with the dog when you see them. You almost want to ignore them until they approach you. If it seems like they will never approach you, you can place food by you. When the dog approaches the food, don’t even look at them and don’t try to pet them. Let them grab the food and run off. Do this again, but place the food even closer. After the third or fourth time, start making eye contact and see if they’ll approach you as well. If they do, don’t go in for the pet. Instead, place your hand out and let them sniff your hand.
Don’t Aggressively Pet
Once a dog does approach you, we often get overly excited, place both hands on them and start petting them aggressively with both hands. Dogs may like this with people they already trust, but they will hate it from a stranger.
It’s best to apply the three second rule here. Pet them very gently for three seconds, then stop. Wait for them to initiate contact again. If they run away after the three seconds, they still aren’t comfortable with you. If they stick around or even nudge you with their nose to continue petting, you know you’ve won them over.
Don’t Pick Up The Dog
Most of us aren’t going to be picking up a big dog, so this mostly applies to little dogs. If the dog has approached you and lets you pet them, don’t make the mistake of picking them up! They’re still unsure about you, and if you pick them up, they have no idea what you are going to do with them.
Think about it from their end. A dog’s primary defense mechanism is to run. If a total stranger picks them up and takes away their primary defense mechanism, that’s going to make them very uneasy! Make sure a dog completely trusts you before you decide to pick them up.
The Three Factors in Getting a Dog to Like You
The fastest way to get a dog to like you is through bonding with them. However, dogs will also begin to like you even more when they notice you’re taking care of both their environmental and health needs.
If you don’t own the dog, then it’s ok to focus on just the bonding section below. If you are the owner of the dog, it’s best to focus on all three. We hear a lot about dogs being loyal to their masters. Dogs are much more loyal to those who take care of all three factors below instead of just one.
Play With Them
This is the best way to bond with most dogs. Dogs love playing with members of their pack. When they notice you want to play with them, they’ll begin to accept you as part of the pack. It really doesn’t matter how you play with them. It could be a game of fetch, tug of war, or even just “wrestling.” Having fun and playing with a dog is by far the best way to bond with them. Don’t be surprised to see the dog following you around for the next few hours after you play with them.
Take Them Exploring
When you take them on a walk, don’t just go your usual route and then head home. Let them explore, take them to new places, get that tail wagging from excitement. Dogs love having new scents to smell and new places to explore. Remember, our dogs are either inside all day or in the backyard. They don’t get to explore as much of the world as we do. What may seem boring for us is a big adventure for them.
Cuddle Time + Belly Rub
At the end of a long day of playing and exploring, your dog will want to cuddle up with you. If you don’t mind cuddling with your dog (what dog owner doesn’t!!), then let them lay on your lap. Better yet, rub their belly for a few minutes while cuddling with them. Touch is important for dogs. If you have multiple dogs in your house, you’ll notice they probably sleep very close to each other, sometimes even touching. It’s one of their ways of showing affection. So if they want to snuggle, don’t stop it from happening. This is a great bonding experience.
Provide a Comfortable Environment
It may not seem like taking care of a dog’s environment is important to get them to like you, but dogs notice these things! Any time you can make life more comfortable for them, they’ll appreciate it.
Have you ever noticed that when dogs are in danger, they’ll immediately go to their owner? The reason they do this is because they know the owner has been taking care of them and providing them with comfort. The good news is that it’s easy to provide a comfortable environment for your dog.
Provide a Comfortable Bed
Every dog should have its own bed. This is their ultimate place of comfort and safety for them. You’ll notice they even get anxious when you try to move it. They’re protective of their bed and don’t want anything to change.
Bring Them New Toys
Your dog shouldn’t have to sit at home and be bored all day when no one will play with them. Dogs can easily entertain themselves with toys, so getting them a new toy or two every few months will keep them in a happy and fun environment.
Keep Them Warm/Cool
During those cold winter months, make sure you either keep your house warm or provide your dog with the clothing they need to stay warm (such as sweaters and boots). During the warm summer months, you’ll want to keep them cool. Make sure their bed is in an area with AC and that they have plenty of cold water to drink throughout the day.
As long as you have those three things down, you can rest assured knowing your dog is in a comfortable environment.
Dogs may not like everything you do for their health, such as taking them to the vet. However, there are a few things you can do for their health that will make them like you.
A Well Balanced Diet
You don’t want to feed your dog cheap dog food. Make sure there is a label on the food that says “complete and balanced.” Dogs typically become attached to the person that feeds them most consistently. If you live in the same house as your dog, be the one to feed them the majority of the time and they’ll love you after a few weeks (if not days).
Keeping your dog well groomed is important for their health. It will help prevent fleas, ticks, and other nasty bugs. It can also help prevent infection by keeping them nice and clean. You can always take your dog to the groomers, but if you want them to like you, then you should be the one who grooms them. Dogs understand what’s going on when being groomed. They know you are doing it to keep them healthy, and as a result, they will like you. Even better if you get one of those pet grooming gloves so you can pet them while grooming them!
Earlier, we talked about the importance of playing with your dog to bond with them. If you don’t have the energy to play with them, take them to a dog park to run around and get some exercise. This will increase the chances of them taking a liking to you because they’ll know you brought them there so they could have fun!
What if The Dog is Afraid of Me?
The methods we talked about up to this point are great if you’re a stranger to a dog and you’re trying to get them to like you. But what should you do if the dog is afraid of you?
Again, there are three primary things to focus on if a dog is afraid of you.
Stop Negative Training
Unfortunately, most dog owners decide to go the route of negative training. Negative training includes things like slightly hitting the nose when the dog did something wrong, using a spray bottle to spray them when they didn’t listen, or shoving their nose close to urine if they went to the bathroom where they weren’t supposed to.
There’s never a time for negative training. Unlike toddlers, dogs don’t do things to intentionally make us mad. They want to make us happy, they just haven’t learned that they aren’t supposed to do whatever it is they did. Being a responsible dog owner means being patient with your dog until they learn.
If you’ve been doing negative training and your dog is afraid of you, stop the negative training immediately.
Give Them Treats
One of the best ways to earn a dog’s trust is to give them treats. Their mind will immediately jump to how good the treat tastes and associate you with someone that takes care of them and feeds them tasty treats.
If you continue doing this daily, the dog will quickly overcome their fear of you. Make sure you don’t overdo it, though! If you feed your dog too many treats, they may end up getting sick or gaining a little too much weight.
Get On Their Level
This works exceptionally well on small dogs that are afraid of humans. Instead of standing tall and towering over them, crouch down and get on your knees or sit on your booty. Call them over (with a snack in your hand if possible), and see if they’ll come to you. Don’t make eye contact. Let them initiate coming to you.
These three things should help your scared dog get over their fear of you. In most cases, the third thing (getting on their level) isn’t required. Usually ending negative training and giving them treats will do the trick.
Getting a New Puppy to Like You
To get a new puppy to like you, you’ll want to follow all the steps mentioned above. However, if you know in advance you are going to get a new puppy, there’s one crucial thing you can do that will ensure the puppy loves you before bringing him home.
So what is that one thing? Visit them multiple times before bringing them home! A puppy is going to be much more comfortable going home with someone that has already visited them three or four times compared to a stranger that just picked them up and headed home.
Most breeders will have no problem with this. Puppies can usually leave their moms around eight weeks. It’s ok to begin shopping for puppies that are 4-6 weeks old. Use the remaining 2-4 weeks to visit them and even play with them before you bring them home. The puppy will still be a bit uneasy, but not nearly as scared as they would be if a complete stranger brought them home.
Getting a Dog to Like You isn’t Difficult
Remember, the key to getting a dog to like you is to take care of the big 3, which are:
- Providing a Comfortable and Safe Environment
- Taking Care of Their Health
As long as you take care of those three things and don’t use negative training, your dog will become your best friend in no time!
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.