It’s generally believed and accepted that dogs are the most loyal animals on earth, so they won’t ‘cheat on’ their owners over anyone else, right?! Right?! Well, it’s more complicated than that…
As much as Bowie likes to hang out and spend time with me, he does ‘cheat on me’ from time to time. For example, when my mum comes for a visit, he forgets about me and follows her like a bad smell, and when we go out, he often shamelessly gives his backside to strangers for a scratch.
Recent study has given insight why and how dogs behave with their owners vs. strangers, and it all depends on the context, the task and the environment the dogs are in. In an unfamiliar place, dogs would spend more of their interaction time with their owners – nearly 80 percent. But in a familiar place, they would spend more with the stranger – around 70 percent.
In new places or during moments of discomfort, dogs incline to seek out their owners. When comfortable, dogs are more likely to interact with unfamiliar people. The owner’s presence helps make dog feel safe and comfortable enough to spend time with a stranger.
Should your feelings be hurt that you don’t always come first? Well… you shouldn’t – take that as a compliment – it means you have a confident dog who trusts you, and let’s not forget, in the stressful, unfamiliar context, you’re still important – you’re your dog’s number one.
Did you know…
Shelter dogs start to treat a person differently from a new stranger after just three 10-minute interactions, in fact study suggests it happens within the first ten minutes. This is reassuring information for anyone who’s considering adopting a rescue dog. While losing a home is no picnic, they readily form new bonds. When you adopt one, you become their person.
Watch how dogs behave with their owners vs. strangers