How to Teach a Puppy to Love You

Mikkel Becker and her Pugs, Bruce and Willy
Credit: Stephanie Becker
Trainer Mikkel Becker and her Pugs, Willy (left) and Bruce. Willy loves Mikkel more than anyone.

Falling in love with a puppy can be effortless and instantaneous, and we tend to take it for granted that the puppy will reciprocate. I’ve been in puppy love countless times — and by that I mean I have fallen in love with multiple puppies. It is truly a hazard of my job: When I look into their round puppy dog eyes and I smell their sweet puppy breath, I’m hooked every time! But can you make a puppy fall in love with you?

I believe that in some cases, puppies feel love for a new family from the very beginning, in an instant connection that doesn’t need any encouragement to flourish. For other puppies, the initial connection might be less dramatic, but over time, it can grow into a strong devotion.

Some puppies don't click with people right away; these dogs may benefit from a trainer’s professional insight, especially if they have challenges like anxiety, fear, shyness or aggression. If you feel that your puppy needs extra help, start by talking to your veterinarian for guidance or a referral to a behaviorist or positive-reinforcement trainer.

Recognizing Puppy Love

Our dogs can’t tell us that they love us with words, but I believe they show us their love in various ways. My Pug, Willy, shows his feelings for me in his behavior. He is my constant companion, choosing to be with me over everything else in his life, including other people, dogs and even food.

Willy is also tuned in to my moods and will come to comfort me when I’m upset or sad, often before I am even fully aware of what I’m feeling. I can tell by the way Willy looks at me, snuggles up to me and checks in with me throughout the day that he cares deeply for me.

Other dogs may show love in more active ways. You know your dog loves you when he greets you before everyone else, does a special doggie dance just for you or brings you his most treasured toys. He may also display specific signs of trust and security around you.

Training Your Puppy to Love You

Loving relationships with dogs are founded upon trust and mutual respect. Positive-reinforcement training is an important component of this relationship. My parents, Dr. Marty and Teresa Becker, have been working on this with QT, their new Chihuahua puppy. QT was rescued from a litter of puppies who had contracted distemper; QT was the only one to survive, and he spent a long time in intensive care at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University. Now that he’s home, my mom and dad are working to earn his trust and love through consistent positive interactions.

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