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Can Dogs Imprint On Humans? 13 Signs Your Dog Imprinted On You

Signs Your Dog Imprinted On You

Unlike ducks, which are widely known for imprinting, your dog didn’t come out of a shell…

What a puppy does is open their eyes and get welcomed to the world.

Once they have their first gaze, do puppies imprint on the first being that they see?

Or are they even capable of that behavior?

Continue reading to discover:

  • 3 stages of imprinting in dogs.
  • How to make your pooch imprint on you.
  • 13 signs that your dog has imprinted on you.
  • And many more…

What is dog imprinting?

Dog imprinting is when a dog observes and learns from their parents. Unlike in birds, dog imprinting is a developmental thing. It’s a process that every puppy undergoes. During this, a puppy imitates their parents and explores the world around them.

Can dogs imprint on humans?

Dogs can imprint on humans. But, the behavior’s different in them. That’s because, in dogs, it’s more of a process of learning than an instant event of familiarity.

Imprinting is seen as an occurrence where a young opens their eyes. Then, whoever is the first being they see, they’ll imprint on them.

That idea of imprinting is limited to a few species of birds. The full term for it is ‘filial imprinting.’

After imprintation, the young gets attached to that parent, which they see as their mother. 

Once they do, they imitate the ways of their chosen being.

Mammals, like dogs, model the occurrence with their mother or foster parent. However, it’s unlike the former idea of filial imprinting on birds.

As I said, dogs follow a process of imprinting. And unlike in ducks, dogs don’t just imprint on one being.

Moreover, dogs don’t necessarily see themself as human. But they’re willing to regard your efforts of nurturing them. 

Additionally, the purpose of imprinting is to guide the young. 

By following their parents around, the juvenile learns how to navigate the world and how to behave in it.

Your pooch experiences the same when they imprint on you. They also do so once they imprint on other beings they choose to learn from.

So, in a sense, dogs can imprint on their mother, foster human parent, and even other animals. But the more relevant term for it is ‘bonding’ as it’s a progressive occurrence.

Regardless, it’s still acceptable to use the term imprinting.

13 signs your dog imprinted on you

#1: They follow you around

The sun doesn’t make its rays inside your house…

However, you’re still followed by a persistent shadow…

I’m talking about your pup, who seems to follow you everywhere.

They’re that shadow as they go along with you wherever you go.

Wherever you are in the house, your pooch is there behind you.

Well, congratulations, as that’s the first sign that your pup has imprinted on you!

It’s similar to baby ducks following their mother. Those ducklings form a single and unbreakable line behind their mom and waddle…

We don’t need to debate which version is cuter…

So, as I already mentioned, imprinting is different from ducks and dogs.

There’s a factor that adds to this behavior in your fur baby.

It’s their ‘pack mentality’ that contributes to this habit.

As pack animals, dogs are drawn to keep their family members close.

That aside, vets from AKC has something to say regarding imprinting on dogs:

They say that imprinting is a scientific reason behind your dog’s clingy behavior.

When did your dog imprint on you

Your dog started imprinting on beings during their puppyhood.

Here’s a table with the different stages of imprinting in dogs:

Stage of imprintingWhat happens
Canine imprinting stage
3 to 7 weeks of age
They’re learning from their mom and littermates. It’s the stage where the puppy learns that they’re a dog.
Human imprinting stage
7 to 10 weeks of age
They learn to socialize with other species, especially with humans. Vets call this a sensitive period for socialization.
Fear imprinting stage
8 to 10 weeks of age
Dogs are most vulnerable to trauma in this stage. Any negative experience might cause a lifelong phobia to the puppy.

What to do for your puppy to imprint on you

As I mentioned, the term ‘bonding’ is more of a befitting name in the process.

With that, you might already get a sense of how to make your dog imprint on you.

Here are ways to become the dog parent that your dog imprints on:

  • Socialize with them through play.
  • Spend time with them. When you do, focus solely on your pooch.
  • Remaining consistent with your dog (on their training, feeding schedules, and activities).

All in all, the key is to maintain positive interactions and experiences for your puppy.

Note: It’s more helpful if you let your puppy imprint on their mother first. After 7 or 8 weeks, that’s where you can appear as their parent.

#2: They follow your commands

As a child, you’re bound to follow the commands of those that raised you…

Well, your pooch is prone to doing the same.

This time, it’s you whose commands would be followed.

When a dog imprints on you, you become their source of behavior. Of course, given that you train them as well along the way…

So, if your pooch can tell your instructions from another…

That’s an indication that they have indeed imprinted on you.

“But how does a dog know how to follow a command?”

As I previously mentioned, dogs are pack animals.

In the wild, early canines used to follow a pack leader.

Now in your modern home, you take that role.

More specifically, your pup who’s imprinted on you sees you as their mother.

And with you as such, your pup looks up to you. With that, they’ll follow your instructions.

Then, they can assess those commands using your tone and voice.

Moreover, you tend to give out cues when demanding something from your pooch.

In this study, dogs’ ability to determine those cues is investigated.

Results show that dogs, independent of age, can follow cues given by humans.

#3: Your dog listens to you

Your Dog Imprinted On You When He Listens To You

In the previous part, you can say that your dog already listens to you. That’s because they have to do so to follow your commands.

Now, this one’s different…

Your fur baby will listen to you as if they can understand what you’re saying.

Can your dog understand you?

There’s no straight answer to this.

As I previously said, dogs can tell your tone and voice. That’s what makes them follow your instructions.

Moreover, they can determine cues. Plus, they observe your intonation and body language.

With that, it’s safe to say that dogs listen to the speech. But, linguistically speaking, it’s a bit complicated…

Here’s a little evidence from a study:

The subject dog is named Sofia.

She’s trained to respond to actions like fetch or point. To pair with that, she’s also trained to identify objects (ball, key, stick, bottle, and bear).

Researchers put that together and called the command object-action.

So in that command, there are only 2 words in the sentence. Like, “Fetch ball!”

When instructed with that kind of syntax, Sofia’s able to respond properly. 

They also found that she’s flexible by changing the object-action combinations.

The study proves that dogs can extract messages. After that, they can respond through an intended performance.

But, this study only tried two-item sentence comprehension.

On the other hand, this research focuses on dogs’ phonetic abilities.

The findings are:

Dogs are sensitive to words they know.

But, they can’t access phonetic details. 

That’s what researchers came up with after making dogs listen to nonsense words.

#4: They make eye contact

Think about it…

It’s intimidating to make eye contact with a person of authority. They can be anyone that makes you nervous.

Moreover, strangers make an awkward recipient of eye contact.

But, when it’s a person close to you, there’s no problem with maintaining that eye-to-eye.

You don’t feel that awkwardness because there’s trust and intimacy between the gaze.

Well, your canine experiences the same way…

According to AKC, there are many reasons why your pooch stares at your eyes. Those are:

  • Begging for food.
  • Attention-seeking.
  • Trying to read you.
  • Resource guarding.
  • Communicating something with you.

But most of all, eye contact is an expression of love for dogs.

And they’re likely to do this on a human that they imprinted on.

That’s because for your pooch to do this, you have to have a strong bond with them.

Moreover, eye contact is a sign of a bond. It’s also a reason for a relationship’s strength.

That’s because the love hormone, oxytocin, is present during these interactions.

Oxytocin (OT) earned that nickname because it has an essential role in social bonds. 

Based on this research, OT levels in humans increase when they interact with a dog.

Moreover, OT rushes even more when the canine initiates eye contact.

With that, the beings involved in the gaze could grow attached.

Continue reading: My Dog Stares At Me (9 Burning Questions Answered + Tips)

#5: Your dog does some recon

Imagine this:

You and your pup are on a hiking trail.

They’re walking beside you, and they’re leash-free.

During the hike, your dog often walks forward and goes ahead of the trail from you.

But they don’t leave you at all…

From afar, you see them stop and notice them become alert.

VCA Hospital helps us identify the body language of an alert dog.

In this scenario, there’s no existing threat. But your dog needs to make sure.

They’re alert but not aroused. With that, their tail is in a neutral position.

Then, their ears are relaxed and resting on the side. Their body is at ease and isn’t stiff.

Now, back to your dog from afar…

After a while, they stop and come running to you. Now, they’re back beside your feet.

What did your dog do?

Fido just did a little recon for you.

For your pup, you’re an important part of their life. They imprinted on you!

With that, they desire to protect you as much as they can.

You’ll notice this scenario in any new environment that you bring your dog to.

#6: They check in on you

Visualize this scenario:

You give your well-trained pooch their freedom for the day.

You do your thing while they do theirs…

Say you’re currently sitting on your office chair…

Then, your dog pushes the door and looks at you.

“What?” you ask them…

But they just stare at you. After a short while, they’re sniffing around the room and circling.

Then, they come to you…

Regardless of whether you pet them or not, they leave the room.

Then, they repeat the process again and again…

Well, that’s your dog checking in on you.

They’re like a guard who’s doing their regular rounds.

Some dog parents think that this behavior is something to worry about. They fear that it’s a sign of their dog being anxious.

But, as long as there’s no whining, the behavior’s normal.

Your pooch just intends to check what you’re doing.

They won’t do this if they haven’t imprinted on you and want to protect you.

You’ll also see this behavior in new environments. It can also show during walks.

Your fur baby would come up to you, sniff, and nudge at you.

It’s like their way of asking, “Are you okay, hooman?”

Then after they confirm that you are, they must be like, “Good…good…good….”

You might also like: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Checks On You When You’re Sleeping

#7: They’re happy but calm in your presence

Your Dog Is Happy But Calm In Your Presence

Say there are 2 kinds of happiness…

The first one is when you’re feeling cheery. Where happiness gives your system a rush similar to caffeine…

That kind of happiness makes you want to run and jump around.

The second one is happiness due to contentment.

Where you just sit and think about how grateful you feel.

Both feel good, don’t they?

And it’s a pleasure to share these feelings with your pooch.

Yes, they experience the same!

In this part, I’ll talk about the second kind of happiness.

That’s because when your dog imprints on you, they feel that happiness around you.

Your pooch feels joyful, but their contentment makes them calm.

Here are some signs of a happy dog, according to PetMD:

  • Leaning to you.
  • Their ears are relaxed.
  • Your dog’s body isn’t stiff.
  • They’re showing smooth brows.
  • They roll on their back and wiggle.
  • They stare at you with a soft gaze.
  • Their mouth forms something close to a smile.
  • They’re wagging their tail along with their body.

#8: They’re excited to see you

The day you had might’ve gotten the best from you…

But once you get home, you’re greeted by your excited canine.

With their yelping and jumping. Then, their tongue is also out from what seems like a smile…

Don’t you just love it when your dog does that?

Sure, sometimes you’re not up for it. But most of the time, you appreciate such a welcome.

Moreover, there’s no reason to be mad for this behavior.

Your dog’s intention is genuine.

And as the person they imprinted on, they’ll likely show this sign.

They’re just happy to be with you again. And your pooch loves you so much. Being near you excites them.

Your dog loves you

According to this research, your mere scent can excite your fur baby.

The researchers used fMRI scanning for this study.

In the experiment, subject dogs reacted uniquely to their dog parent’s scent.

This reaction is similar to a bizarre human experience.

To make you understand even more, here’s something you can do:

Look at a picture of your loved one or think of a moment you love with them.

Note your reaction…

If it made your heart happy, then you know how your dog loves you. And that even just your scent can yield the same reaction.

Check out also: Quiz: Does My Dog Love Me? Test It With These 27 Signs

#9: Your dog like your belongings

Your pooch has no use of your socks, clothes, or shoes…

But you often see them with those.

Sometimes, you see Fido making a mess of your laundry. After they do, you catch your pup sleeping in a pile of your clothes…

Other times you notice them bringing your shoes around the house. They don’t wear it, it just hangs in their mouth…

Those behaviors aren’t for nothing…

It’s one of the signs that your pup is attached and has imprinted on you.

That’s because they’re attracted to your scent…

Your belongings have traces of your smell in them.

That’s why this behavior is mainly practiced by Fido when you’re not around.

Moreover, dogs thrive on the different smells around them.

It’s through their amazing sense of smell that they get more familiar with the world.

Dogs’ incredible sense of smell

Research-given facts about a dog’s olfactory ability:

Fact #1: Canines can detect 10,000 to 100,000 better than humans.

Fact #2: A dog’s heightened sense of smell can detect various chemical compounds.

Fact #3: Environmental conditions can impact a dog’s sense of smell. An example of that condition is the place’s humidity.

Fact #4: Sniffing is more useful than inhaling for dogs. That’s why if they want to detect something, they sniff rather than taking the smell in entirely.

Fact #5: Panting can decrease the quality of a dog’s smelling ability.

#10: Your dog seeks physical affection

A little bad news for dog parents first. I say so for clarification…

Dogs don’t generally enjoy hugs.

Some canines, like therapy dogs, can endure them. However, for others, it’s an intimidating interaction.

Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychologist, says that hugging dogs is a big no.

He investigated 250 pictures of dogs who’s hugged by a human. His findings came out to be:

Reaction to the hugHow many dogs showed the behavior
Dogs show at least a sign of stress, anxiety, or distress.81.6%
Some dogs are comfortable with the hug. 7.6%
Dogs display a neutral response to the hug.10.8%

“But the heading says that they seek physical affection…?”

Yes, your dog craves such interaction…

Just not in the form of hugs.

But AKC tells dog parents not to worry.

Your dog might dislike hugs, but they’ll seek the following:

  • Petting.
  • Belly rubs.
  • Back scratches.

So, if your pooch comes up to you and asks for any of those…

Congratulations are in order as it’s a sign that they imprinted on you.

#11: They can tell if you’re not okay

This is a sweet sign that your dog has imprinted on you…

It’s when they develop an ability to tell if you’re okay or not.

Yes, your sweet pooch is capable of knowing that…

Like I previously said, dogs can tell your tone, voice, and intonation.

What they also have is the ability to extract emotions from your vocalizations.

Take it from this study:

Researchers used 2 speakers to determine how a dog perceives sound. They placed those speakers between a bowl of food.

Now, they aim to find out which side a dog will face.

When playing a sound that has a negative impact, the dogs look left.

Now, what does that tell us?

The left part of our brain is to process emotionally negative sounds.

Note: I used ‘our’ because we have the same brain controls as dogs.

The results show that dogs can identify which sounds are negative.

With that, dogs know if something’s wrong with how you feel.

Some dog parents report their fur babies coming to them when they cry. It’s as if their canines are asking them, “Are you okay, hooman…?”

#12: They’re looking after you

In the previous section, it’s made clear that your dog can tell how you’re feeling…

In this part, I’ll talk about how your pooch can act on that ability.

That’s because when your dog senses you’re not okay, they act on it.

Isn’t that what humans do?

If you see someone struggling, or they’re sick, you show your care for them.

Your pup has the urge to do that, too.

Dog parents say that when they’re sick, their dogs show their support through:

  • Gazing at them.
  • Lying next to them.
  • Following them around.
  • Dogs lower their energy and become less demanding.

Those are bound to happen if your canine has imprinted on you.

Moreover, it’s also because dogs have empathy towards someone they’re close with…

A dog’s empathy

The stronger your bond with your dog, the better they are at telling how you feel. Then, the more chances that they’ll react accordingly.

That’s the result of this experiment:

Dog parents were instructed to cry in one of the trials.

There’s a door that separates the dog from their crying guardian.

So, there’s a barrier between humans and dogs. However, the subject canines can still hear and see their guardian in distress.

After a while, some canines opened the door to see their parents. On the other hand, others didn’t.

Regardless, the study shows that dogs are able to empathize with their dog parents.

Here’s a video of the experiment in action:

#13: They mirror you

It’s ironic because, in this situation, your dog becomes a copycat…

Once your pooch imprints on you, they begin mimicking your behaviors.

Remember: Imprinting on dogs is a learning process for their development. It makes sense that they’ll start mirroring your personality.

That’s because they base the things they learn from whomever they imprinted on.

With that, they might start to do what you do.

Like what author Claudia Fugazza shared on AKC. She found out that her dog knows how to turn on the bathroom faucet.

It might be bizarre, but your pup’s bound to learn things like that from you.

Moreover, researchers say that dogs can automatically imitate.

In the investigation, dog parents trained their fur babies to open a sliding door. They did so by demonstrating the action.

To note, there’s a compatible group that includes the dog’s guardian.

Consistent results show that compatibility shapes a dog’s ability to imitate. 

That includes having a strong bond with your dog, which you have since they’re imprinted on you.

Can older dogs imprint on humans?

Older dogs can imprint on humans. That’s because imprinting in dogs is a learning process rather than a one-time thing. However, dogs imprint best during their puppyhood.

The real meaning of imprinting in dogs is different from the way birds do.

On birds, whoever the young sees first is their mother.

Dogs, on the other hand, follow stages. Those periods allow them to “imprint” on their mother, human parent, and other animals.

Imprinting for dogs is more of a process of bonding.

That’s why the more time you spend with your dog, they’re more likely to imprint on yourself. With that, it’s safe to assure that older dogs can imprint on humans.