Aloof dogs are the focus of today’s post.
Over my seven years at the vet and on many dog forums, I’ve seen the same question asked and again and again.
“Why isn’t my dog more affectionate?”
Today, we’ll find out the answer & learn a few tips on how to interact with aloof dogs.
FYI: You may want to check out the Top 10 Most Aloof Dog Breeds, too!
Why Isn’t My Dog More Affectionate?
As I mentioned above, I’ve seen this question more times than I can count.
Another statement I’ve read and seen over the years is “my dog doesn’t seem to like me very much.”
It’s such a common concern among dog owners because, contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are cuddle bugs.
In fact, there is a large percentage of dogs that are decidedly not into cuddling.
That’s not to say they don’t love their families.
It just means they don’t need the constant interaction that other breeds need.
Today, we’re going to talk about aloof dogs, why they are the way they are, and how to interact with them.
Why Aloof Dogs are the Way They Are
There are many dogs out there that don’t particularly love being cuddled and smothered with attention.
It’s a hard concept for many owners to get their heads around because almost all of us think of dogs as needing constant interaction.
While many dogs do, in fact, seem to want to be attached to their owners at the hip, lots of dogs are for more independent.
There are several reasons that aloof dogs are the way they are, ranging from being born that way to abuse.
Some Dogs Were Bred That Way
While many breeds want to be with their people at all times, snuggle with them, following them into the bathroom, and other things we’ve seen in every meme on the internet, there are some dogs who just don’t need that.
In fact, there are a dog breeds that were bred especially to be aloof and independent so they could do the work required of them.
For example, the Afghan hound was bred for hunting in the mountains of Afghanistan.
They needed to be able to make decisions on their own to aid their masters in hunting in the harsh terrain.
Likewise, the bloodhound, bred for tracking, was intentionally instilled with a high level of independence.
This is because he needed to be able to roam off-leash and on his own to keep on the scent.
Highly independent breeds which were bred for solo work like this tend to come off as very unaffectionate.
However, don’t mistake your dog’s independence for a lack of affection.
While your dog may not be the kind who follows you into the bathroom, he’ll still enjoy interacting with you in one form or another.
He just doesn’t have that “never leave me ever” mentality.
Some Were Born That Way
Although you can fairly accurately gauge a dog’s personality based on his breed, like humans, each dog is an individual.
Some dogs are just born without the need to be cuddled at every opportunity. It’s just not in their personality.
While it’s somewhat rare to see dogs deviate from their inherent personality traits, it does happen.
For example, when I worked at the vet, we had a client with a Maltese named Lulu.
Lulu was the complete antithesis of what we think of when we think of lapdogs. She hated to be held. She was fiercely independent.
She let you pet her when she was in the mood for it and not one second sooner or longer than that. Frankly, she reminded me of a surly cat.
She was raised by her owners from puppyhood, never abused, and came from a highly reputable breeder that everyone in the state trusted and liked.
Lulu was just simply born to be a bit of a tyrant queen. So yes, some aloof dogs are just born that way.
Some Were Abused
There are many cases out there of abused dogs being mistaken for aloof dogs.
If an owner has a rescue dog that was either intentionally abused or simply neglected, he might come across as aloof.
However, in these cases, the dog is more than likely either afraid or simply incapable of giving or receiving affection.
Dogs who have been abused in their early days are often taught to fear everything on such a deep level that they never come out of it.
These dogs may accept food and enjoy their new, soft bed in their new home, but they might never come to trust their owners enough to fully engage with them.
They’re just too deeply scarred from the abuse.
Along the same lines, dogs who have been abused simply through neglect may not have trust issues or fear so much as they have no concept of affection.
These dogs are often devoid of a desire to interact with their owners past the basics of eating and going outside to do their business.
Having all their formative days filled with a lack of affection can leave some dogs completely incapable of giving or receiving affection.
They simply don’t know how to do it.
Aloof Dogs or Something Else
So now that we know why some dogs are aloof, let’s try to figure out if your dog is actually aloof.
Some owners mistake aloofness for something else.
We all have an image in our heads of dogs following their owner incessantly, constantly begging for attention and pets.
This leads to a misconception that all dogs are like this, which isn’t true.
It’s up to us as owners to determine if our dog is aloof or if he just needs something different from us.
Aloof vs. Independent
Highly independent dogs do not need constant reassurance, pets, or cuddling.
In fact, it can feel overwhelming to them.
If you have a highly independent dog, he will most likely prefer a nice game of fetch or a good walk over being smothered with hugs and inundated with baby talk.
Aloof vs. Dominant
Dogs with an extremely dominant streak may come off as aloof because they tend to ignore their owners and only seek out affection on their terms.
If you have a very dominant dog, you might find that with ongoing training, your dog is far more affectionate than you think.
Once your dog figures out that you’re the boss, he might drop the cold shoulder act.
Aloof vs. Fearful or Abused
If your dog is fearful or was abused before he was adopted, you may find that he lives in a constant state of fear.
Fearful dogs find it difficult, if not impossible, to trust humans enough to interact with them on a very affectionate level.
They’re always looking for the thing that they were abused with as puppies to pop up with their new owners. Sometimes, this can’t ever be remedied.
How to Interact with Aloof Dogs
There are two sides to this: interacting with aloof dogs as an owner or interacting as a stranger.
Strangers need to be particularly mindful of how they approach aloof dogs, while owners simply need to learn what their dogs actually consider to be meaningful interaction.
Interacting with Aloof Dogs as a Stranger
First and foremost, don’t attempt to interact with an aloof dog at all until you get the owners okay to do so.
If you encounter a dog who doesn’t immediately want to slobber all over you, keep away from him. You don’t know why he’s aloof. He could be scared or on guard.
- If the owner says it’s safe, the first thing you should do is squat down to get on the dog’s level. This takes away the appearance that you are larger than him.
- Hold your hand out, hand down and palm towards you, to allow the dog to sniff the back of your hand.
- Make no moves to pet him. If he’s interested, he’ll move towards you. If he does, that’s your cue to initiate a careful pet.
- If he’s still interested, continue on.
Interacting with Aloof Dogs as an Owner
The first step here is to figure out if your dog is aloof or something else. If you know his history and breed, that will be easier.
If your dog has a naturally aloof personality, there’s not much to be done. He is what he is. Just love him for that and try to make the most of it.
If your dog is highly independent, try doing things with him that allows for that independence to shine.
- Play in the backyard off-leash (if you have a fence).
- Fetch or tug of war are always nice for that.
- A nice walk can be a great way to connect with your independent dog. Finally, just wait for him to come to you.
Many times, an independent dog will avoid an over-eager owner because the smothering puts him off.
If you have a rescue dog, determine if he’s aloof or simply scared.
If he tends to stay in confined areas or another room, he is most likely frightened.
Take that into account and adjust his home life accordingly. Be sure you don’t raise your voice, make quick movements, or generally do anything that could be construed as aggressive.
If you have kids, it’s important that they know to be gentle with the dog. You can’t force a fearful dog out of his shell. Rather, you have to coax him out.
Aloof Dogs Still Crave Attention – Usually
Unless your dog has been abused, he definitely still wants affection from you, just not the way you imagined.
Even abused dogs can come around, as well. The important thing to remember with aloof dogs is that it’s not always aloofness.
Even if it is, you can’t change that. You just have to work with it. Find what makes your dog happy and do more of that.
Also, don’t take it personally if your dog doesn’t want to be in your lap or constantly next to you.
As with any relationship, it’s all about acceptance. Accept that your dog isn’t a cuddle monster, and just enjoy him for who he is.