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Bonding With Your Dog – Tips From a Dog Trainer

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Have you recently acquired a pet dog, like many people during the pandemic? Perhaps you would like a special and stronger bond with your dog; one that improves well-being both ways and develops with time?

In this post, we look at the human-dog bond, and talk with dog trainer and children’s books author Susan Day, who shares tips and advice for successfully bonding with your dog.

What is the Human-Dog Bond?

The human-dog bond is one which has evolved over 40,000 years and is remarkably, the closest kind of connection we humans have with another species.

Both humans and dogs are social animals, relying on relationships to thrive. The bond you have with your dog is one such relationship.

When you feed your dog, provide for its needs, do things together, or gaze at each other, you become more emotionally attached to it, and in turn, it becomes more attached to you, strengthening the bond.

It is a reciprocal, beautiful and complex relationship. Dogs have been called our best friends, and many dog owners would agree that their furry friends are among the most loyal animals to walk on this earth.

Why Does It Matter?

Keeping pets in general provides many psychosocial benefits and these are widely recognised. Pets, be they a dog, cat, mouse, rabbit or fish, can relieve stress, fight depression, alleviate loneliness and social isolation.

Dogs have a unique ability to understand human communication cues such as our facial expressions, moods, and gestures, making them important animals for emotional support, general assistance and therapy.

Additionally, having a dog at home leads to positive lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity, and is linked to a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Put simply, we need dogs and dogs need us.

The human-dog bond is one of the most important relationships in a dog’s life. When you build that bond with your pup, you create a lifelong connection between the two of you. You also get the chance to learn more about each other and how to communicate effectively.

So how can you build a stronger bond with your dog? We put the following questions to canine behaviorist and trainer Susan Day for her advice and tips.

What are the key things to do and remember when it comes to bonding with my dog?

I have often heard people complain that the dog they had acquired for themselves had bonded with their partner instead. My response is to ask them, ‘’Who is in charge of food and fun?’’

Food and security, and games are the most important things in your dog’s mind. They are therefore the keys to building a long-lasting bond with your dog.

Dogs are pack animals and in the home, the pack members are the dogs as well as the humans living there. The most important person in your dog’s life is the person who feeds, trains and plays with it. Feeding is straight forward but there are some things you should know about the other two.

Always use positive reinforcement and reward-based training

This is when you reward the dog for doing what you have asked and ignore it when it hasn’t. Rewards can be in the form of pats, your ‘good-dog’ voice and, of course, treats. For example, if you command sit and the dog sits, you give a reward. If you command sit and the dog doesn’t sit, no reward. It’s as simple as that!

Include tricks in your training

In your dog’s mind, it doesn’t make any difference if it is learning obedience or tricks; they are all the same. Truth is, people love showing off the tricks their dogs can do. I should know, I’m one of them! And because you (and me) enjoy training tricks, your dog will too.

Be the pack leader

The process of learning new commands, whether they are to sit, stay or weave between your legs, will raise your status and importance in your dog’s eyes. Also, going for a walk is like going on a packhunt in your dog’s mind. As leader of the pack, you decide when and where you go and your dog will love you for it.

Spend time and do things together

Like human relationships, spending time with your dog and enjoying each other’s company are important for bonding. So is doing things that will make your dog feel loved and valued. Playing with your dog might include throwing and fetching a toy or a ball in the yard, pottering around the garden or simply lying on the grass staring at the clouds together.

What changes do we need to make to our lifestyle or routine?

The most important is to simply make time for your dog. You don’t need to spend hours a day playing or training it. Just ten minutes for training and a walk long enough to tire your dog out will do.

If the weather is bad or you can’t walk your dog, ten minutes of obedience training in the hallway is the equivalent of a 20-minute walk because it makes your dog tired.

Be prepared for a bit of mess because dogs are messy. You might want to cover your couch with towels or blankets or make a special wet-paws area where your dog can dry off if the weather is rainy.

How do I know if I’m bonding with my dog or not?

If you haven’t bonded with your dog, it will ignore you. As well, it won’t be happy to see you when you come home and it may begin to take control of situations itself.

That last point is important because a dog that thinks it needs to take control often becomes aggressive. Dogs will behave aggressively towards other dogs or people if it doesn’t think its owner is capable of keeping it safe.

If you have bonded with your dog, however, your dog will be happy to see you, snuggle up with you. It will be a calm, relaxed and happy dog in your company.

How soon can I expect to see a change?

Dogs are super smart. Your dog may not understand what it’s doing when you are training it, but it will know it to be fun, and rewarding.

While it may take a few weeks for your dog to learn how to stay properly or jump through hoops, for example, your bond with your dog will strengthen as soon as you start playing and training it.

The more you do, the quicker this bond will occur and if you make time for training and activity every day, the bond between you will strengthen faster.

Is bonding with my dog any different from bonding with my cat?

It is often thought cats and dogs are opposites. Dogs bounce around and yap when you get home, super excited to see you. While some cats hardly acknowledge you’ve walked into the room.

However, as a dog and a cat lover, I find spending time with my cat and feeding her has allowed me to develop a strong bond with her, just like my dog.

She sits on my lap while I’m watching TV and often wants to sit right in front of the computer screen while I’m working. She purrs when she sees me and is often eager to sample my dinner should it be made available to her whether I feel like sharing or not! She gets up and comes to see me when I get home and will often meow until I pat and make a fuss of her.

Personally, I think cats make wonderful pets, especially if you don’t have the time to train or walk a dog. Mind you, cats also respond to positive-based, reward training and can be clicker-trained to do tricks and obey commands! And why not?! Why should dogs have all the fun!

Closing

And with that, we have somehow managed to turn this topic about dogs into an ode to cats!

That aside, we hope this article has provided you with the insight and tips to successfully bond with your dog, be it a new puppy or an older adult you’ve adopted. As we’ve seen, the key to a stronger bond with your dog lies in how you treat and behave towards your dog. Done right, you will enjoy a mutually-beneficial relationship with your dog and a loyal friend for life.

If you would like to learn more about obedience or trick training for your dog, get Susan’s ebook Dog Obedience & Trick Training: from My Puppy Club, available from Amazon in Kindle edition.

Got a cat instead? Download our free A-Z Guide to a Happy and Healthy Indoor Cat

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