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Chances are, when you first adopted your dog, you imagined a future when you and your puppy spent as much time together as possible. Whether chasing balls at the park or cuddling on the couch, you thought you'd be best pals. Instead, you find yourself wondering why your dog isn't affectionate toward you and trying to figure out if it is you or your dog that is the problem here.
Aren't dogs supposed to be man's best friend? And if so, why doesn't yours seem to want to be very physically close to you?
Why Are Some Dogs Not Affectionate?
If you're thinking that your dog isn't affectionate toward you, don't take it personally. It's likely not about you at all. There are many reasons why dogs don't show a lot of affection. First, if your dog was adopted, his former home may have improperly cared for him — or worse, abused him. If so, your dog may have trust issues or even feel afraid of humans.
Additionally, just like some humans, your dog may enjoy his personal space. Not everyone enjoys a lot of physical closeness. Animals and humans alike have different attitudes toward petting, physical proximity and cuddling. And dog cuddling behavior varies from pet to pet.
Dogs can also be territorial or consider another member of the family as their best friend. If your dog shows affection toward other members of the family, or you're being introduced to the dog for whatever reason, it just may take some time for him to warm up to you.
Finally, your dog may simply be showing his affection for you in other ways. Don't miss the signs he cares, just because you hoped he'd show affection by cuddling. He's likely already showing you in a different manner.
Dogs Show Affection in Many Ways
It's a bummer to discover that you and your pet don't speak the same love language. However, this doesn't mean your dog is incapable of showing you he cares.
Dogs aim to please their pet parents, and every pet is different; consider how your dog may be seeking your attention. It could be as simple as chasing and retrieving a ball or stick. By playing along, it's as if your dog is saying, "I have brought you this gift of a slobber-and-dirt-covered ball because I care about you." If you run with your pet, notice how he keeps your pace. If you let him, your dog would probably outrun you from the start, but his training and desire to please is just another way to show that he cares.
There are many other possible signs of affection. Do you come home from work to see your dog staring out the window, waiting for you to return? Does he bring you a toy or treat to share with you in moments when you aren't playing? Though your dog may not like to cuddle on your lap, he may be trying to show you how happy he is your presence — just look for the clues.
Know Your Pup's Baseline
Not all dogs are affectionate, but if your dog once was cuddly and suddenly isn't, consider this a sign that something could be wrong. Any major changes in your dog's behavior or activities may warrant a trip to the vet to make sure there are no other issues, such as an illness or injury.
Finally, if you want to encourage more cuddles from your pet, you'll have to work on training him to be more affectionate. Based on his personality, set reasonable goals. Maybe you can train him to give high-fives or praise him with a healthy treat every time he lets you pet his head for a short moment. Never let food be your main source of affection because you'll teach him bad habits and, worse, you can put his weight at risk by overfeeding him.
Remember that positive encouragement is the key to success. The more you motivate your dog, the more he'll be willing to show affection — within the boundaries of his personality.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.