Few relationships in life can compare.
The special bond established between owner and canine is truly unique. Built on a foundation of mutual love, trust, and respect, a healthy human-dog bond is virtually unparalleled by any other pair of different species within the animal kingdom.
This symbiotic relationship features a boundless degree of affection and companionship that’s enduring and unconditional “until death do you part.” In fact, owners tend to be overwhelmed by grief when they suffer the loss of a beloved canine, bemoaning our ability to outlive dogs.
For some canine owners, the human-dog relationship even rivals the intensity of their strongest human relationships – those typically associated with spouses, parents, and children. Best friends, indeed, and oftentimes full-fledge family members.
Scientists have long been fascinated by humans’ propensity to own pets. We possess an obvious desire to interact with the creatures with whom we share our planet, taking them on as dependents we seek to nurture. But other owner-pet relationships simply don’t compare with the strength of the bonds between humans and canines.
Still, not every dog owner proves lucky enough to achieve this caliber of relationship with their canine, as evidenced by the crowded reality within animal shelters. Just how can you succeed at cultivating a fulfilling, lifelong bond with your dog?
Things That Change When You Get a Dog
When you obtain a dog, your life is forever changed. You have a newfound sense of purpose and source of joy. Provided you don’t have children, you assume a caregiving role that may be foreign to you, as first-time dog owners often carefully monitor their canine for signs of sickness or pain.
While a lifelong bond isn’t formed overnight, the seeds of your relationship get planted almost immediately. As a dog owner, you reap benefits ranging from smiling more as you observe your canine’s silly personality to getting more exercise from walks you take together.
Many new dog owners have difficulty putting into words the emotions they feel upon having a canine companion, but this much is clear: Your dog tends to steal your heart and jumpstart the bond you’ll ultimately share. You find yourself looking forward to arriving home after work to be greeted by your newfound friend.
Understanding the Human-Companion Animal Bond with Dogs
The interaction between a dog and his family has different facets. People and dogs share fun moments, quiet moments, affectionate moments, and difficult moments as their relationship evolves. Ultimately, a mutual level of understanding develops.
Whereas an owner may come to know nearly every aspect of a dog’s mentality – including needs/wants and likes/dislikes – the dog ultimately recognizes what to expect from his human caregiver. Accordingly, a relationship that started as cohabitants progresses to tolerance and, eventually, respect and love.
From a dog’s perspective, each human family member often assumes a different role in his life, ranging from “the nurturer” to “the fun one” to “the sibs.” A mutually intense bond can form whereby the canine comes to view his family members with affection bordering on adulation.
Bonding with Your Puppy
Humans tend to be suckers for cuteness. But while our initial affection upon obtaining a puppy may materialize from the adorableness he exudes, a deeper mutual bond quickly develops.
Imprinting, an elemental form of bonding, occurs most readily during a sensitive period of development between 3–12 weeks of age. It’s a time during which a puppy first becomes fully capable of establishing a relationship. However, a puppy owner must strive to instill a degree of independence and self-confidence within a young dog, or else a future risk of separation anxiety might ensue.
Ever-impressionable and in need of love, a puppy ultimately redirects devotion from his mother to his human caretakers. By the time the pup reaches one year of age, he’s all but forgotten about his earlier days with his litter and adores his human family. And in the eyes of his human caretakers, he’s typically considered an irreplaceable member of the family.