Wednesday, November 21, 2012
While visiting a rescued pup we had placed in a new loving home, his female owner commented that he was a “guy’s dog.” This had me wondering if some dogs really do prefer males or females. After all, it was a variation of comments we hear from pet owners all the time, like “my dog hates men,” “she’s a girl dog, so she bonds better with men,” and other similar phrases. But is there any science to back up our observations?
Man’s Best Friend?
There are few studies on the issue, but it turns out dogs in general may prefer men. Neurotic or anxious men, that is. A study conducted at the University of Vienna, “Relational factors affecting dog social attraction to human partners,” showed that dogs approached male owners more often than female ones.
More so if the male owner was neurotic, as determined by a personality test. But personality may play as big – if not bigger – role than gender, as the dogs also stayed close to neurotic female owners.
The study actually brought up more questions than answers, as more independent behavior from the dog could be an indication of a more secure attachment and not gender preference.
Does Nurture Trump All?
A large number of pet lovers on dog forums believe that dogs simply like best whichever person takes care of them. Therefore, they tend to like the gender that typically feeds them and doles out the CANIDAE dog treats. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it, but since I work from home and am the main caregiver and num num dispenser in my household, I can attest that this isn’t always true.
I have spent a hugely disproportionate amount of time with Cody – even when he was our only pet – and still simply don’t exist when Mike is in the room. Oh, he may make a big deal when I make my first appearance of the day, but after that it’s all about Dad.
Does It Come Down to Original Ownership?
No matter what science tells us, we would have to be blind not to notice that some dogs actually do prefer men or women. Common sense tells us that this could be learned behavior or preference for the familiar.
Dogs that aren’t around one gender or another might simply develop a preference for them. Likewise, they may see the opposite gender as an unfamiliar threat and exhibit aggressive behavior.
Going back to the rescued pup, his first two owners were male and his current owner is female. She insists that he likes men better because he listens to them. However, I have witnessed him interact with enough people to know he was merely responding to a deep voice. Which to him meant authority, but he doesn’t seem to like his newest female owner any less.
Dogs Pick People, Not Genders
That’s my totally unscientific conclusion. I’m basing it, of course, on personal experience. A dog’s preference seems to be based on as many varied factors as we base our preference for certain people.
Besides, sometimes pet and owner just know when they have found each other, regardless of gender. It’s the reason you choose a certain puppy out of a litter, why that stray dog always comes to visit only you and why you just have to adopt that one certain shelter dog out of hundreds you’ve seen on your Facebook feed.
It’s how I knew my Wuppy was mine, before he was. He followed me around when I first saw him as a pup, and laid on my feet when his adored owner and kids were present. After that he would unlock his cage and come to find us whenever we were working on a nearby rental.
When his owners – primarily male caregivers – couldn’t keep him any longer, he was brought to me. We’ve been attached ever since, but he also likes Mike.
Does your dog seem to prefer men over women or vice versa? Why do you think that is?
Photos by Sini Merikallio
Read more articles by Tamara McRill