Why do dogs take to some people but not others?

Why do dogs take to some people but not others?

Pet Psychology

It is a concept that all dog owners and dog lovers will be familiar with-the sometimes odd preferences and dislikes that dogs will show for different people, often seemingly at random. Most of us know that one person who seems to be a dog magnet, with all of the local dogs clamouring to say hello to them and even shy dogs making a beeline for them-and also some people who just don’t seem to get on well with dogs that they don’t know, even though they might be trying really hard to make a new canine friend!

So, why do dogs like and dislike some people seemingly at random? There are a wide range of factors that are likely to determine how any given dog will feel about any given person, and we will look at some of these in more detail within this article. Read on to learn more.

The environment

First of all, the environment that the dog meets a person in for the first time and for later meetings can make all the difference to how an introduction goes. A shy dog may feel more comfortable meeting someone on their home territory because they see their home as a safe place, while a possessive dog might dislike someone else being in their personal space.

Some dogs will prefer outside meetings on neutral territory, while others will find the stimulus of outside a little overwhelming, and will not be concentrating on meeting new friends.

Interactions with the dog’s owner

How the owner of the dog views and interacts with the other party can have a large part to play in how the dog views them too. If the two parties are laughing together and are clearly relaxed and comfortable with each other, the dog will likely view them favourably-although in some cases, this can go the other way, with dogs that are possessive of their owners becoming jealous and acting out when they feel that someone else is getting attention!

Size and build

People who are tall and large will often find that even sometimes problematic dogs will yield submission to them without them ever giving a command, but again, for small, shy or nervous dogs, a person who is tall or physically imposing may make them more reticent to interact than they might be with someone who is more petite. Crouching or sitting to get down to the dog’s level can help with this.

Movements and actions

Slow, smooth and gentle movements will help a strange dog to relax and see you as a friend not a threat, while people who are heavy footed, use a lot of body language and that move quickly may be more off-putting to shy dogs.

Subtle body language

As well as the obvious body language that people display and that they have the ability to moderate, some body language is more subtle, and harder to recognise or control. This often occurs in people who are scared or nervous of dogs-while they might be trying hard not to show it, some dogs will pick up on this, and it will put them off approaching.

However, for dogs that are shy or nervous, this might help them to see said person as less of a threat, and ergo, be more amenable to approaching them; something that many people who would rather avoid dogs entirely often comment on!

Additionally, people who are shy or nervous of dogs will often avoid making eye contact with the dog, while those that want to make a friend will look directly at the dog while speaking encouragement-indirect eye contact is the height of canine good manners, and so again, may have the opposite effect than desired!

Voice and vocal cues

Your accent, speech patterns and tone of voice all have an effect on dogs, and just as people display marked preferences for certain accents, tones of voice and other elements, so do dogs! A person whose accent or voice has associations with good things for the dog are more likely to be greeted, and moderating your tone of voice to make it welcoming, gentle and encouraging can help.

Other dogs’ cues

Dogs learn a lot from their interaction with and observation of other dogs, and so the behaviour and responses of other dogs can directly influence how any given dog will respond to you as well!

If all of the dogs in the dog park suddenly make a beeline for a familiar face that always says hello to them or brings treats, it is likely that any new dogs or shyer dogs will follow the pack too!

Communication etiquette

How you approach and communicate with the dogs that you meet has a direct impact on the response you will get from the dog, and it is wise to learn good canine communication etiquette for this reason.

Avoiding direct eye contact, using vocal encouragement, approaching from the side and letting the dog approach you for a sniff are all much more effective than marching up to a dog and trying to pat them on the head!

Food and rewards

When it comes to getting a dog to do anything at all, food and reward goes a long way. Not only are food and reward useful training tools, but also highly effective bribery; if you are trying to win a specific dog over, having them associate you with treats, toys and rewards will usually prove highly effective in the long run!

Dogs also form strong memories associated with reward and good experiences, and so you will become familiar to a dog and begin to be associated with positive things in the dog’s mind much faster if your first meeting is positive.


Finally, persistence usually pays off when it comes to dogs-it can take time to convince a shy dog that you are a friend, or that you are not trying to take their human’s attention from them, but combining the right approach with persistence usually pays off!

Newsletter icon
Get free tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.


Pets for StudWanted Pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge Hub


Support & Safety Portal
All Pets for Sale