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I Don't Think My Dog Likes Me

Written by Ella White


dog hiding

Dogs: they’re man’s best friend, right? Well… not always. And this old adage only adds to the pain for owners who have brought home a new dog that just doesn’t seem to like them that much. For dog adopters, our rescue pets’ past can have a lot to do with the relationships they build with the new humans that enter their lives. But even owners who buy new puppies from breeders can experience the anguish of their dog not warming to them as much as they’d like.

So if your dreams of cuddling on the sofa, playing fetch at the park, and being covered in endless doggy kisses just aren’t coming true, you may have had the thought, ‘I don’t think my dog likes me.’ In this article we’ll look at the reasons dogs might be distant from their owners, and how to turn things around.

Why Doesn’t My Dog Like Me?

There are plenty of reasons for dogs to dislike humans – just like humans find lots of ways to dislike each other. Some of the most common reasons for dogs not bonding with their owners are down to the owner’s behavior. This could be obvious things like yelling, aggression, excessive punishments, and even violence. Or it could be more minor actions that you don’t even realize are irritating your pet – like getting in their face, teasing them, or touching and hugging them too much.

On top of this, there are reasons for dogs to be apprehensive of humans that might only be known to them and that they’ll be unable to communicate with you. For example, if you remind them of someone who has treated them badly in the past, if you’ve scared them in the past, or even if they don’t like the smell of your perfume!

In short, dogs don’t like humans for much the same reasons that we don’t like other people. So if you know you’re doing something to your dog that might make you not like another human, this could be the cause of their contempt.

Just like humans, different dogs will have different levels of what they find tolerable or amusing. Some humans respond well to a tough love approach whereas others prefer a more gentle attitude. Some find practical jokes amusing, others could view them as cruel and unnecessary. Dogs are the same, you might think your cuddles are demonstrating your love but you might have a dog who prefers less physical contact. Remember, dogs are incapable of thinking the same way as humans, so it’s up to us to try and see the world from their perspective. 

Is My Dog Incapable Of Affection?

Like humans, there are some dogs that just aren’t as affectionate as others. This could be because they are afraid of humans and have been abandoned or abused in the past which makes them cautious about getting close to new people. Or, they might just like their personal space.

So, whether or not your dog’s lack of affection is personal towards you or just their character will depend on their reason for keeping their distance. After all, dogs don’t exist as cuddle buddies for us humans – as much as we might like to believe it.

If you have a dog that’s slow to show affection, give them space, time, and encouragement. And if it turns out your pup just prefers to be left alone, respect their need for personal space. Invading it against their will isn’t going to make them like you any more.

It can take some dogs months or even years to learn a new behavior, especially if they have experienced trauma in the past. Just because they’re not showing you affection now, it doesn’t mean they won’t learn to eventually. 

How Do Dogs Show Affection?

If your dog doesn’t like to be touched and cuddled, it doesn’t mean they don’t show you affection in other ways, so keep an eye out for some more subtle signals that, actually, they think you’re alright.

When a dog considers you its family or pack leader, it is in their nature to try to please you. So even if you’re not speaking the same love language, you will come to notice the things they do for you – like bringing gifts, walking or running by your side, or lying in the same room as you or by your feet while you’re relaxing at home.

Getting to know your dog’s baseline levels for showing affection will mean you’re more likely to notice changes – both positive and negative – in how they interact with you. And it also helps you to set realistic expectations of their affection. 

So if they never like to cuddle, you might want to start motivating them to be more affectionate by encouraging belly or head rubs, or even high fives, before working up to full hugs. Similarly, if you notice your once-cuddly dog has withdrawn, you will be able to quickly consider the causes for their change in nature.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Doesn’t Like Me?

There are a number of tell-tale signs that indicate your dog might not like you, ranging from the extreme to the subtle. If your dog displays any of these behaviors when you are around or when you enter a room, it could be because they’re apprehensive of you:

  • They bark, growl or cry 
  • They become aggressive and bare their teeth
  • They cower or hide 
  • They leave the room
  • They tuck their tail between their legs
  • Their body stiffens
  • They flatten their ears
  • Their fur stands up
  • They arch their backs around you
  • They stop or refuse to wag their tail
  • They become nervous or anxious
  • They don’t take treats from you
  • They won’t play with you
  • They keep an eye on your movements
  • They either avoid or make excessive eye contact
  • They won’t be touched by you
  • They ignore you
  • They won’t eat or sleep
  • They approach others but not you

Some of these behaviors might not be related to your presence – for example, some dogs are naturally anxious, don’t make eye contact, and tuck their tail between their legs. Some dogs are more prone to barking than others, and some prefer to eat or sleep alone. But if you notice that your dog consistently displays a number of these behaviors when you (or others) are around, it is probably a sign that they’re not comfortable with you for whatever reason.

How Can I Make My Dog Like Me?

With patience and encouragement, you can almost always get your dog to grow more fond of you – or at least tolerate your presence. As long as you are kind and respectful to your dog, they will learn that you’re a safe person to be around and should eventually begin showing you slow signs of affection (in their own way). Try these tips, and even look into behavioral training if you don’t have much luck at home.

  • Accept you’re working on their timetable, the situation won’t be resolved in a few days
  • Don’t tell them off or punish them for avoiding you or displaying the negative traits listed above
  • Understand the kind of affection your dog is comfortable with
  • Help develop a clear routine so they understand how they fit into your life and home
  • Make sure they are fully trained and socialized, as lack of training can lead to confusion and anxiety
  • Try positive reinforcements to help them understand that you’re their friend
  • Allow them to approach you at their own pace and don’t force them
  • Don’t show annoyance or frustration if they don’t approach you as quickly as you’d like
  • Offer regular affection like belly rubs, scratches, and head pats
  • Be calm and don’t make sudden movements or other actions that might scare an anxious dog
  • Take them on walks and for other activities that can help bonding
  • Offer them plenty of toys and treats so they build a positive association
  • Avoid any actions that you know they dislike, like getting in their face, hugging, or touching their feet
  • Understand their body language and pay attention to the signals they are giving you
  • Bring them out with you when you can, to help avoid separation anxiety and fear of abandonment

Will My Dog Ever Start To Like Me?

The best thing to bear in mind when working on making your dog more affectionate towards you is that they have the right to like and dislike whoever they want. And while this can be very frustrating for owners that do everything they can to treat their pets like princes and princesses, just remember that it probably isn’t personal.

Of course, owners that abuse, punish, yell at, and are aggressive towards their pets will likely never be rewarded with their dog’s affection. But so long as you are calm, kind, considerate, and keep on encouraging them, they will soon start to learn that you don’t pose any threat.

Be aware of the behaviors you might be displaying that are not favorable with your dog, and reward them with treats, toys, and other signs of love to help them form a stronger bond with you and the rest of their family.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re trying to do what’s best for your dog. You might even be trying to improve the life of a rescue pet. These things alone make you a good person and already stand you in good stead for winning your furry friend over!