Dog Affection: Why is My Dog Ignoring Me?
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Dog affection — there's nothing quite like the bond between you and your pup, especially when curling up together or basking in her joyful greeting when you walk in the door. What if your beloved canine companion starts ignoring you out of the blue, though? Perhaps she stops greeting you at the door or doesn't respond immediately when you call her name. It's not an uncommon problem. Here are some possible causes and relationship-saving solutions.
Your Pup's Life Stage Can Influence Behavior
Your dog might interact with you differently depending on her stage of life. For example, a young pup's exuberance may settle down over time as she adjusts to daily life with you. Here are a few of the ways life stage can affect your relationship.
When your pup is very young, she depends on you for everything, so you spend a lot of time with her. You supervise her, making sure she doesn't get into trouble or eat anything harmful. You watch her every move to encourage good habits. You spend time training her. In turn, she watches you closely for cues on how to behave. And, yes, she's super cute — so you cuddle her all the time. These activities help forge a great relationship. We enjoy dog affection, and dogs seem to enjoy it back. As she grows out of puppyhood, you may notice her taking on more independence.
Your puppy undergoes many changes as she starts to mature. She'll depend on you less. She'll challenge boundaries and explore things on her own. This is good news: Your canine pal can learn to cope with new experiences and setbacks, even when she's home alone. However, like human teens, your adolescent dog might test you and start to assert herself. As she becomes more opinionated, it might seem like she isn't being as affectionate as she once was. Try not to feel hurt. This is a normal and healthy part of a dog's development.
Hormones are also kicking in. If dogs aren't spayed or neutered, they'll feel a biological urge to find a mate. Male adolescent dogs have higher levels of testosterone than they do in adulthood. Females sometimes won't feel well and will want to spend more time resting. Your dog's priorities have changed at this life stage, but this will likely pass.
As you would with a human child, you may want to change your expectations at this point. You can continue building a great relationship with your young adult dog, though. Encourage your four-legged friend to play with you and create opportunities to reinforce training. Find activities you can do together, and help her build skills she enjoys, such as agility or scent work. Having fun is a sure way to strengthen your bond.
At various life stages, dogs undergo what veterinarians refer to as "fear periods." The first one happens when they're separated from their mothers. But there's a lesser-known fear period, which occurs when they're between 6 and 14 months old. This period can make your dog worried and want to spend time in a secure place — and this place might not include you. If you do things at home that make your dog nervous, like practicing martial arts or renovating your house, she may become fearful of you. If you do something by mistake that scares your dog while she's in this stage, she may associate you with fear and stop showing you affection.
This life stage is short, and you can work through it by avoiding activities that may frighten her. When you're with her, try lying down on the floor and encouraging her to hang out with you.
Changes in Affection May Signal a Health Concern
Your dog's health can play a role in how she shows — or doesn't show — affection.
Here are some possible explanations for a change in her demeanor toward you.
Discomfort or illness
If your dog starts to give you the cold shoulder, she might not be trying to withhold her love for you. Instead, she may be feeling unwell. See your vet to rule out any underlying health issues. Dogs instinctively hide when they're ill. Physical discomfort may also cause dogs to avoid social interactions. Your pup may have an injury that you cannot see. Treating any causes of illness or discomfort should help your pooch become more sociable again.
Like humans, dogs can experience melancholy. This can make your girl less interested in being around others or doing things she once enjoyed. A change in household circumstances can also affect your pup's mental health. For example, bringing a new baby into the house changes everything for your dog. New odors, strange noises, parental stress, and new objects appear everywhere. Make sure your pup gets some attention. If your dog is grieving a companion, give her time. Try changing her routines. If there are activities that once included her departed friend, find some new ones for her to enjoy.
Your Dog May Be Responding to You
Some of your own behaviors, actions, and moods can affect how your dog feels around you. Her perceived distance may be a response to your actions, demeanor, or feelings. Just as you're sympathetic to your pup's feelings, she may be sympathetic to yours. If you're struggling to reignite your bond, here are a couple of things to consider.
Use positive reinforcement
Puppies can seem easy to teach. When your dog reaches adolescence, though, you may feel like she's forgetting some of her training as she tests new boundaries. This can be frustrating, but don't resort to negative training methods as your pooch matures. Avoid shouting or punishing your pup. Instead, use positive reinforcement to strengthen your bond as you continue training. She'll associate with you things like treats, verbal praise, gentle touches, or games. It's a recipe for a great relationship.
Research suggests dogs reflect their owners' stress levels. Scientists haven't determined the exact reasons for this, but your behavior is likely less predictable when you're under pressure. Even after your tension has passed, your dog may be uncertain of your mood or behavior. The best way to address this is to engage in new and fun activities with her. If you can't avoid a tense situation, create a calmer place for your pup. For example, if you're working a stressful job from home, make a play area for her in another room. This way, your mood won't affect her.
Don't despair if your dog suddenly seems less affectionate. Consider things from her perspective, take positive action, be patient, and above all, don't stop sharing the love. In time, she'll come around and show you some dog affection with slurpy kisses.