A dog is a cuddle buddy, an exercise partner, and sometimes even a therapist. He’s a taste tester in the kitchen and a look out on the trails. Your dog has potential to be a lot of things, and the greatest of all is your best friend.
The bond between human and canine has been celebrated for generations. One of the reasons we love dogs so much is their unerring ability to offer unconditional love. Once you have a dog’s heart, you have a loyal friend who will always be by your side. Some dogs are nervous around people or take time to develop trust, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of bonding.
Here are the best ways to start strengthening your bond with your dog.
1. Train Your Dog
Training is about more than teaching a dog the dos and don’ts of the household. It’s an opportunity to work as a team and spend time together. The training process is something you’ll start the day you bring your dog home, and it should continue throughout your dog’s entire life.
Even short training sessions to review old skills are good for bonding. It shows your dog that you’re partners in training, and therefore partners in life. Not to mention, a well-trained dog enjoys greater freedoms than a dog that hasn’t been taught their manners. You’ll be able to take your dog to more places and enjoy more experiences together when you know he’s trained.
2. Show Your Playful Side
Training is important, but it’s also important to let loose and play with your dog on a regular basis. Some dogs enjoy playing more than others, but it’s guaranteed every play session will be another step in strengthening your bond. You want your pup to associate you with the happiest moments of his life, and play is the perfect way to do that. If playing doesn’t come easily, don’t give up.
Some dogs, especially rescues, need to be taught how to play with people and toys. Take it slow, and try out different games. If your dog isn’t into fetch, try tug toys or brain games.
3. Spend Quiet Time Together
Dogs are big fans of being rough and rowdy, but at the end of the day, it’s the quiet moments that could really seal your friendship. Not every dog will be up for a marathon cuddle session, but you don’t need to be touching to spend quality quiet time together. After dinner and before bed, dedicate part of your night to simply being near your dog.
If your dog is a cuddle machine, that’s great! Get comfy on the couch and gently stroke his head as he falls asleep. But if your dog needs more time to be completely comfortable being close to you, that’s okay too. Sit near him while you watch TV, and he’ll gradually get used to your presence.
4. Learn to Communicate Clearly
The language barrier between dogs and humans often gets us into trouble. We think our dogs are saying one thing, but actually, they mean something entirely different. Misunderstandings like this will be your biggest hurdle when trying to strengthen your bond with your dog. Your dog isn’t going to speak English any time soon, so it’s up to you to become competent in his language. No, we’re not telling you to start barking at your dog. We’re talking about canine body language.
When you break it down, dogs communicate clearly through their actions and behaviors. The problem is, we humans often misinterpret those signals. Yawning, for example, could mean your dog is tired, but it could also mean he’s worried. Take time to brush up on your canine body language skills, and you’ll start communicating better with your pup.
5. Respect Your Dog’s Likes and Dislikes
The more time you spend with your dog, the better you’ll get to know him. Your goal should be to know and understand his complete personality, and you need to use that knowledge to make his life as wonderful as possible. The key is recognizing the fact that not all dogs are the same. It’s assumed all dogs love belly rubs, but that might not be the case with your dog. Some dogs couldn’t care less about balls, but they go crazy for a good tug toy.
It’s your job to learn what your dog likes and dislikes. And once you have a good idea of what’s going on in his head, use that knowledge to make your dog’s life as perfect as possible. Don’t force him to tolerate things he’d rather not deal with (like hugs), and give him plenty of opportunities to enjoy the things you know he loves. If you regularly supply him with good things and help him avoid the bad things, he’ll recognize you as an important part of his life.
Dogs are social animals, and they thrive when they have humans who treat them like family. It might not happen overnight, but all dogs are capable of offering unconditional love. Some dogs (like rescues) have been traumatized by humans in the past, and bonding won’t necessarily be easy. They need to learn to trust you, and that takes time. Don’t rush your relationship with your dog, but you also don’t want to sit back and do nothing. The strongest bonds require you to actively work on your relationship. Apply these tips to your everyday life with your dog, and you’ll start seeing your pup return the favor.