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Hi all,

About 1.5 years ago, my husband and I (we're both guys) adopted a 2 year old poodle-terrier mix. They didn't know much about his history other than that he had originally been owned by a homeless person and then was passed around by a few people before finally being surrendered to the humane society. Needless to say, he's a pretty fearful dog and it's pretty obvious he was abused in the past. We've worked with him a lot with a behavioralist, and he has become a lot less fearful in general.

Our problems now primarily stem from his interactions with me. He is very attached to my husband. He follows him everywhere, cuddles with him constantly, and stares at him all the time. If we leave him alone and both come home, he only greets my husband. If I'm alone with him, he is more interested in me. Specifically, he will usually want to be in the same room with me and is happy if I come home (and he's home alone), but he doesn't seem overly interested in me. Even when my husband travelled for a month and I was with him alone, he never seemed to bond with me. The only thing he will do with me (that he doesn't do with my husband) is play. He really likes chasing me or for me to chase him, and he doesn't really do that with my husband. Also, when he does interact with me, he is obsessed with licking my face. If he's in my lap or something, he HAS to be licking my face. He doesn't do that with anyone else (is this a sign of submission or something).

I had always assumed he was one of those one-person dogs, but I don't think that's the case anymore. I recently had a friend dog sit him, and I stayed over at the friend's place for the first night, so that he wasn't too freaked out by it. He had no interest in me while I was over there... he clung to my friend as he does with my husband, and didn't even come to greet me when I stopped over. When my husband's niece was over at our place this weekend, he sat in her lap and cuddled with her the whole night--something he's never done with me.

I don't get it. I'm the only one that feeds him. I take him for walks after work and before bed. I try to give him lots of treats. I've never really punished him or anything.

Does anyone have any ideas? I'm not sure if maybe I smell like one of his previous owners or something? I just get the sense that there's something about me that makes him uneasy and afraid of me. It's just frustrating that I am unable to interact with this dog, who I care about a lot, especially when I see him fawning over my husband (and pretty much anyone else he interacts with). I'll occasionally pick him up and make him lay by me or cuddle with him, but my husband thinks that makes him hate me more. He thinks I should just let him interact with me on his terms, but after 1.5 years of this, I think his ideal terms would be 'never,' haha.
 

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Dogs have different relationships with different people. My dog is an attention seeker and even owning her for 7 years before I met my husband has no affect on her following and seeking attention from him.

The way I see it is she knows me, but she dosn't know friends, family and even my husband as well so they are more fun. It's like my niece...she obeys and is the perfect kid for me and anyone else but she can be a terror and most disagreeable for her mom.
 

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there was a crazy similar thread a while back- a guy whose small dog was obsessed with his husband/partner, was mildly fearful of him, and showed no desire to interact; I tried searching for it and couldn't find it, maybe someone else will have better luck finding the thread.

If my memory serves right, he figured out the dog was naturally fearful and was just more intimidated by him because he was larger/taller than his husband and had less of a naturally calm energy; the dog had such a soft personality that even though he only yelled at him a handful of times in the time he'd had him, the few times he did stuck in the dogs mind. I think his course of action was to make every interaction between the two of them as fun as possible- constantly giving treats and praise, very careful never to yell/ upset the dog in any way. I believe he also had success with having the dog wear a thundershirt- that's something you might want to look into if your dog seems to be stressed all the time. I think eventually the dog warmed to him- not as much as to his husband but enough not to run from him anymore/sometimes solicit affection.

Dogs definitely can sometimes latch on to certain people- I've seen dogs with separation anxiety linked to only one family member in a three or four person family. Is there a notable difference in appearance or temperament/energy between the two of you? Is one of you taller/larger? More amped up or very laid back? I would say it's certainly possible you remind him of someone in his past.

Honestly the first thing that came to my mind would be to get a dog that is confident and friendly in order to help balance out this one, although it is a rather large step to take and not necessarily the right path for everyone. I have seen the improvements that a confident dog can make on a fearful one- I had a severely dog aggressive dog (which was rooted in fear) that went from lunging uncontrollably at other dogs to giving an occasional growl/snap to ask for space after we brought a confident, happy, rambunctious 8 month old lab/BC/mutt into the house who loved other dogs- we did no other work with her other than just having the other dog. I do tend to be someone that prefers to have dogs in pairs, also, so I am a little biased in that regard.

The other idea would be to constantly reward positive interaction between the two of you. As in carry high value treats with you as much as possible (even something like cooked chicken) and if he so much as makes eye contact/looks at you he gets a treat. Anything he does that you like he gets a treat. You did say you try to give him lots of treats, but this would be in a more structured way.

You could also try enrolling in training classes or training on your own- IME training is one of the best ways to form a good bond with your dog.
 

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I'm not a dog behaviorist, but I don't think its unusual for a dog to favor one member of the family over another, and be pretty obvious about it. Since he plays with you, willingly, and I believe dogs base their human relationships based their perceived needs, and who fulfills them best, IMO he has simply figured which of you is best at fulfilling which of his needs. I don't think you should lose any sleep over this.
 

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My dog will play with me and cuddle more with my wife. He looks at me as play time. I try to pet him and he wants to bite. If I sit on the floor he goes into a frenzy. My youngest son will sit on floor and the dog will kiss him like crazy then lay on him. I totally understand your frustration as it's been a long time.

If I was you I would just make hanging with you so positive that he wants that more and more.
 

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Hi anomeric!

Please don't make the dog to lay by you or interact with you when he is not willing it as it will make him to really avoid you. Love should be mutual, shouldn't it?

If you want to improve your relationship with the dog, please consider reading about calming signals and learn to use them.

Always stop interaction if the dog turns away from you or steps back. Respect his personal distance.

Try to involve him in different games.

Teach him simple tricks using positive reinforcement.

Praise and give him a treat for an eye contact with you.

Those should help a lot :)
 
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