How to Encourage the Strongest Bond With Your Dog
Have you ever noticed the love affair that some dogs and their owners have? I’m not talking about a clingy, neurotic, unhealthy dependency but rather a bond in which dogs are oblivious to everyone and everything but their owners. They’re the dogs and owners who only have eyes for each other, the pooches who think their owners hang the moon. Do you wish your dog swooned over you-instead of dashing off to chase bugs or eat poop?
What separates the swooners from their unruly counterparts is a strong human-canine bond built on a foundation of mutual love and respect. Everything about dog training and human-canine interactions comes down to the relationship you have with your dog. Bonding takes time and work. A strong bond doesn’t necessarily develop overnight. Falling in love with your dog at first sight is pretty common, but loving a dog isn’t the same thing as sharing a connection. Think of it this way: you may love your in-laws or siblings, but you’re bonded with your best friend. You spend time together-laughing, goofing off, sharing your deepest feelings, and a million other things. You relish and look forward to being together because you enjoy your relationship.
Love and bonding connect you to your dog. Developing that relationship is an ongoing process so you may experience different levels of bonding. There’s nothing wrong with having a different relationship with each dog in a multiple dog household. We have dogs that we love, and then we have dogs that connect to us on a much deeper level. These dogs seem to read our minds and think we are the best thing since chopped liver. They become a part of us. They make life better than it ever could have been without them. Some people call these dogs “heart dogs” or “soul dogs.”
Why Bonding with Your Dog Is Important
Owners who form a strong bond with their dogs are more inclined to train them, and trained dogs are more apt to be included in family activities such as hiking, camping, jogging, swimming, and so forth. After all, isn’t that why people have dogs-to share their life? Research by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy indicates that owners who are emotionally invested in their dog’s happiness are less likely to surrender him to a humane society or give him away.
Building a One-on-One Relationship with Your Dog
A key component of a strong canine-human bond is fostering one-on-one relationships. With other dogs or toys around, it can be difficult for your dog to focus on the growing friendship between you. Your dog need not focus on you 24 hours a day-after all; he’s a dog, not a robot! -but devoting time to just the two of you is crucial for this kind of connection. It may sound silly, but when a dog sees you as the dispenser of all things fun in his life he’s more inclined to want to be with you. He still gets to play with his favorite toy or canine buddies and do normal dog stuff such as sniffing, playing, and rolling in something stinky. However, making your time together the most exciting aspect of his world is a powerful motivator for a close bond.
It’s an ideology that many trainers pooh-pooh, feeling it’s unnecessary to be ground zero for your dog’s fun. Yet millions of dogs end up in shelters every day for being destructive, disobedient, or running off and not coming when called. If your dog wants to be with you, looks to you for direction in his everyday interactions, thinks you rule the universe, and comes when he’s called, what’s wrong with that? If the alternative to being discarded at a shelter is to make yourself the center of your dog’s world, maybe it isn’t such a ridiculous idea.
Reinforce Your Relationship with Your Dog
Simple everyday tasks and interactions with your dog such as feeding, walking, grooming, playing, snuggling, and loving words and touches are great ways to facilitate and strengthen the bonding process. These interactions teach him that your relationship goes beyond a 15-minute a day training session-it’s a 24/7 commitment.
Spend a few minutes every day engaging and connecting with him, getting to know his behaviors and personality quirks, what he likes and dislikes. Is he keen on tummy rubs and snuggling? Does he love asparagus? Where’s his favorite spot to stretch out and daydream? What’s his favorite toy? Is he a loner? Social butterfly? Lover boy?
Depending on your dog’s personality, temperament, and threshold for social interaction, he may enjoy activities such as walking in the park, hiking in the mountains, swimming in a lake, or riding in the car. But don’t just take him walking, hiking, or swimming; explore your surroundings together. Actively engage with him by exploring a new trail or praising him for finding a cool stick. Learn together how to bark, run, slide, and swim. Take him someplace new as often as possible, and let him know it’s okay to play.
If your dog loves learning (as many do), training can be a wonderful way to bond. Teach him entertaining tricks such as waving, walking backwards, rolling over, speaking, and high-fiving. Grab a camera and teach him to “model” by posing on tree stumps, picnic tables, playground equipment, benches…whatever else you can find. Not only is training fun and interactive, but it also teaches him problem solving and body awareness and improves his fitness.
Having fun simultaneously builds a strong bond and teaches trust. Let him know you have his back-no matter what-and you will never intentionally put him in harm’s way. Help him to be successful by always setting him up to succeed. This helps a fearful dog gain confidence, and helps a bored or energetic dog burn excess physical and mental energy and feel a little more fulfilled.
Let him know how much you love him and how delighted you are that he’s yours. Show him it is you who is privileged to be sharing this journey together. Give your dog an environment of mutual love and respect and he’ll be less likely to wander off and find something more exciting like chasing squirrels, uprooting shrubs, or destroying every conceivable object within his reach. Be your dog’s best friend and biggest supporter, and a strong bond is inevitable.