Imprinting, connecting, bonding — whichever term you prefer to use, this bond that dogs develop with their humans is quite special.
If you’ve ever seen your dog’s face light up or their tails wag excitedly when they see you, you know what we’re talking about. But, apart from being a sign of connection between a dog and their human, imprinting is also a crucial learning process in your dog’s life that can shape their overall temperament and behaviors.
Let’s take a look at what exactly “imprinting” means and some of the most common signs that your dog has imprinted on you.
Table of Contents
What Does Imprinting Mean?
Imprinting is a form of learning that takes place during a dog’s early years when they are just a small puppy. It starts right at the time of birth when the puppies learn from their mother and littermates and continue for a few weeks when they are most influenced by their surroundings.
During this training period, dogs tend to learn to trust their mother dog, how to interact with other dogs, and can also learn to trust humans.
Dogs’ social lives are influenced by the information they receive. Imprinting allows dogs to gain a better understanding of themselves as well as the species and personalities around them.
Stages of Imprinting
There is no particular period for the imprinting to take place. It can often differ depending on the breed, its environment, and what the dogs are exposed to.
However, there are specific timeframes when dogs are more impressionable. These periods form critical stages of imprinting.
1. Canine Stage (0-8 weeks)
Puppies are born with no sight or hearing and thus have no notion of what is going on in the world or how to survive on their own. For the first 3 weeks, from the moment they open their eyes, they exclusively rely on their mother. Their first bond is thus with the dam.
Then, from 4-8 weeks, they start interacting with their littermates and learn about their species and canine behaviors.
2. Human Stage (8-12 weeks)
This is typically the period when humans adopt puppies and bring them into their homes, exposing them to new environments and behaviors. As humans, we have a critical role to play in educating our dogs on how to interact with other people and their dogs.
We should also introduce them to various animal species so that they can learn how to react to animals who are not like them.
3. Fear Imprinting Stage (8-10 weeks)
Any learned experiences or events can have a lasting impact on dogs and may even cause trauma. Any sort of distress can trigger phobias, and they can last a lifetime. During this phase, you should try to prevent discomfort as much as possible, such as relocating to a new home.
11 Signs Your Dog Imprinted on You
If you want to know whether your dog has imprinted on you, here are 11 major signs to look for.
1. They Mirror Your Actions
If your dog imprints on you, he will try to imitate your actions. That’s because imprinting is a process of learning, and dogs’ behaviors are often based on whoever they have imprinted on.
As a result, they gradually learn how to act in the same way that you do. For example, your dog might learn to open the door the same way you do! It might seem a bit strange but it’s actually quite interesting to watch!
2. They Can Detect Whether You Are Okay
It is widely known that dogs can sense your emotions and even read facial expressions. While dogs may not be able to express themselves like us, they still communicate with humans in their own ways.
Dogs are unique creatures that can extract and process the emotions that your voice conveys when you’re furious, upset, disappointed, or hurt. If you’re having a rough day, you will often find your canine companion coming up to you and nuzzling or trying to cuddle with you — it’s their way of making sure that you’re okay.
3. They Take Care Of You
Dogs tend to be sensitive towards their humans. If you have a baby at home, your dog will be more considerate of the baby’s needs since they recognize that the baby is vulnerable, sensitive, and unaware.
You may notice your dog lying next to you, follow you around, or glance at you frequently. They will also bring down their energy and be calmer. If your pet demonstrates any of these behaviors, that’s your sign that they have imprinted!
4. They Seek Affection From You
Dogs are known for showing physical affection to humans and are eager to touch them because it makes them feel more connected. A pat on the back or a small boop on the nose can feel very loving to your dog.
Dogs communicate with humans using their bodies. So, if you notice that your dog becomes bouncy and tries to lick your face now and then, it means that they trust you and want to show their love and affection towards you.
However, according to several studies, hugging isn’t something dogs appreciate very much because it makes them feel cornered and immobilized. Of course, you can always touch their back and give them scratches and belly rubs.
5. They Are Fond Of Lying About In Your Possessions
Dogs have a strong sense of smell that is a thousand times better than humans. If you have a strong bond with your pet, you will usually see them lying in the piles of your laundry.
You may even have noticed your dog carrying your shoes in their mouth because it smells like your feet. Those behaviors are because they are attracted to your scent and thus are attached to you.
6. They Are Always Excited To See You
Don’t you just love it when you come back from work and are greeted by your dog running towards you with their tails wagging and their face all lit up! Well, if you experience that, your doggo has imprinted on you.
This excitement and love that your dog shows is a genuine reaction to seeing you and it’s a behavior that only shows when you have formed a bond.
7. They Make Eye Contact
Eye contact can be daunting even for humans, so you can only imagine how dogs may feel since eye contact can be a sign of dominance. But, eye contact is also a sign of trust.
If your dog has imprinted on you, they will maintain eye contact with you, expressing their trust and intimacy.
Your dog may initiate eye contact with you for various reasons, including asking for food, demanding your attention, or attempting to read you. The majority of dogs, however, use eye contact to express their love. This can help strengthen your relationship by emphasizing their bond with you.
8. They Will Follow Commands
Your dog will act in accordance with how you have raised them. A dog will take orders from you as it considers you the alpha. That’s, of course, once your dog has imprinted on you.
Though dogs can understand the phonetic aspect of what you are saying, they more often sense your tone, voice, and facial expressions to understand your verbal communications.
As dogs belong to a family of canines, they are raised to understand that they must follow the leader of a pack. And to a dog, you represent that leader if you provide them with the love and care they need.
9. They Will Be Alert Around You
When you’re going for a walk or on a hike with your dog and you’ve noticed your dog running up ahead of you to survey the area, it’s because your dog wants to make sure the environment is safe for the two of you.
Your dog will stand still with ears pricked to observe your surroundings before sprinting back to you, indicating that the area is safe to proceed.
Your buddy just conducted an investigation to keep you safe. This is because you are important to them and demonstrates that your dog has imprinted on you and wishes to defend you at all costs.
10. They Feel Happy And Calm Around You
If your dog has imprinted on you, they will show their excitement and joy when they are with you. They feel a sensation of fulfillment for being around you.
They indicate this in several ways such as leaning in close to you, keeping their gaze fixed on you, and their eyes relaxed, among other things. This signifies that they have faith in you.
11. They Enjoy Sleeping With You
Your dog sleeping with you is an indication of their comfort with you. Generally, a dog sleeps in comfortable places, but if your dog has imprinted on you, it will most likely follow you to bed.
Your surroundings can have a significant impact on how your dog feels when lying in your bed. Of course, you must consider the benefits and drawbacks of having a dog in your bed!
Ways to Strengthen Your Bond with Your Dog
So, you’ve gone over these major signs and found that very few of them apply to your dog. Don’t worry. You can take steps to strengthen the connection between you and your pet.
Train Your Dog
Working with your dog to develop new abilities or reinforce existing ones is a terrific approach to training them. It will help develop trust and loyalty and encourage them to imprint on you.
Establish A Routine
Structured routines are beneficial to dogs. Food timings, exercise timings, bedtimes, and other patterns will help them find you a trustworthy companion. Your dog will soon recognize you as the leader and follow your schedule.
Engage In Athletic Activities
Dogs enjoy being active, so you and your dog can participate in team activities that require agility, such as flyball. This will encourage the two of you to work as a team, which aids in the bonding process. You can also play games with your dog like hide-and-seek and tug.
Incorporate Healthy Foods
Be your dog’s personal chef and cook homemade protein-rich food for your dog. It is imperative that you maintain eye contact while cooking in order to boost the bonding process.
Spend Quality Time With Them
The time you spend with your dog is the most crucial period to allow your dog to form a bond with you. It helps them feel like they’re a member of the pack, which encourages them to work together to learn and connect with you.
Spending time with them while walking and playing will aid in the imprinting process.
Groom Your Dog And Give Them A Good Massage
A good massage will let your dog’s muscles relax, making your dog happy and comfortable. This will strengthen your bond with your dog as it will help your dog learn to trust you.
Keep in mind, though, that bonding with your dog will necessitate love and attention. Simultaneously, you must let the process unfold at its own pace.
Patience is vital. Sometimes, developing a bond with your dog will take time. All dogs are unique. You need to give them the space, time, and attention they need to connect with you.
In some cases, dogs that have been taken from rescue shelters will take time to bond as they could have been victims of abuse.
All you need to do is let them take their time and avoid rushing things with them.
There are a number of ways in which dogs show their affection to their humans, which also shows that they have imprinted on you. If your dog has formed a bond with you, it means they have imprinted on you. We hope the signs listed in this article will help you determine whether your dog has imprinted on you and how you can encourage it.
Remember that the more time you spend with your dog and provide them with attention and affection, the stronger the imprint will be.