Dogs are one of the best friends you will ever have, but that doesn’t mean your relationship doesn’t take work. Building a bond with a dog can actually be quite challenging, especially if your best friend has a past life that wasn’t very nice. Here are 11 ways you can strengthen your bond with your dog – whether you just adopted him or you have owned him for 8 years.
#1 – Train Together
Positive reinforcement training is all about strengthening the bond between you and your dog. Your dog will come to see you as “the giver of all good things” and working together to solve problems will make you stronger together.
#2 – Have Quiet Time Together
This may sound strange, but when was the last time you really just sat with your dog and focused on him? Petting him in his favorite spots, telling him your secrets? No TV, no smartphone – just you and him? Trust us, your dog notices and appreciates a little “you and him” time.
#3 – Compete Together
If you have a competitive spirit, allow your dog to be a part of that by competing with her. There is a sport for anyone nowadays – from canine freestyle (dog dancing) to agility and everything in between. Sharing the struggles and triumphs will bring you closer together.
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#4 – Feed Her
Well, obviously! What we mean, is feed her yourself. Instead of free-feeding or even just dumping the kibble in the bowl and walking away, use her meal for training. This goes back to the “giver of all good things” – if every meals comes directly from you, your dog’s bond to you will definitely be strengthened.
#5 – Respect Him
A lot of the times, we are so focused on what we want, that we forget our dog is a living being with his own likes and dislikes. If your dog hates to have his belly rubbed but loves ear scratches, respect that! Your dog will trust you more if he knows you are not going to force him to do something he doesn’t like and your bond will grow stronger.
#6 – Make Every Experience Positive
Sometimes, you have to do things your dog hates, however. If you have to do something your dog hates, like a bath, work toward turning it into a positive experience. Use toys, treats, and a gradual introduction to make the event more enjoyable. Sometime turning something into a trick can help (For example, I taught my dog who screamed when I touched his paws “shake” and now he has no issue with me touching them or trimming the nails).
#7 – Play Together
Play is SOOO important! Dogs love to have that time with you and it truly does strengthen your bond. Check out this book, Play Together, Stay Together by animal behaviorists Patricia McConnell and Karen London.
#8 – Build Trust Together
You can’t have a strong bond without trust. Help your dog trust you by remaining calm and not using aversive training methods. Don’t call your dog to come to you for punishment or something he hates (bath time) – next time, he probably won’t come.
#9 – Set Rules
Dogs like rules and a house with clear rules that your dog can understand and follow will mean a happier dog and a better bond between you. So, don’t let him on the couch one day and the next punish him for it. Instead, decide on rules both you and your dog can live with, and stick to them.
#10 – Travel Together
Next time you go on a trip, don’t leave your best friend behind. Instead, take him with you – new adventures are a great way to strengthen any bond.
#11 – Learn Your Dog’s Language
You expect her to learn yours – so why shouldn’t you learn her’s? Knowing canine body language can vastly improve your relationship and thus, your bond. Check your Dr. Sophia Yin’s FREE charts – they are awesome as quick reference guides.