“The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties on this earth will ever be.”
Does your dog follow you around the house? Does he wait by the window and watch for you when you leave the house? Does your dog do the happy dance when you come home? Does your dog (usually) come when called? These are just a few of the many indicators that you probably have an excellent bond with your dog.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bonding as “the formation of a close relationship (as between a mother and child or between a person and an animal) especially through frequent or constant association.”
For thousands of years, dogs have been bred to assist humans in hunting, herding and protection. Humans also looked to breed for traits such as loyalty and devotion. The resulting relationship we have with our dogs simply doesn’t exist with other species.
For working dogs, this close bond enables humans and dogs to work successfully together as a team. For pet owners, developing a trusting relationship will ensure that your dog will respond better to you.
It’s important to understand what traits your dog was bred for; owners may find it more challenging to develop a bond with certain breeds.
For example, guard dogs were purposely bred to be independent and make decisions without human input in order to perform their job. They are incredibly loyal but may never enjoy a big old hug!
Terriers were bred to chase off vermin; they can be difficult to live with if their energy isn’t channeled into an activity the dog enjoys (and can do with his owner) such as agility or earth dog work.
Herding breeds are also very independent but with training – and a job such as herding –a fantastic relationship can be developed where your dog will work with you and not against you.
And beagle owners know that their pet’s sense of smell and the thrill of the chase often overrides their desire to stick with their humans. Harness your beagle’s nose and strengthen your bond by participating in nose work activities.
Moderndogmagazine.com notes that the “human/canine bond is a deeply rooted understanding, measured in emotion, dependability, and mutual support. It is a need to belong and to feel wanted, useful and safe. Vary these parameters, though, and you will affect the bond. Fail to give your dog affection, routine, dependability, training and boundaries, and you will weaken that unspoken connection.”
So what can you do to build, strengthen and maintain the bond with your dog?
Spend a few minutes each day practicing basic obedience cues with your dog. This provides you with a way to communicate with your dog and gives you way to help your dog focus on you in distracting situations. Training is incredibly easy to work into your normal routine. Before your dog gets something he wants (meals, treats, toys affection, games, access to potty areas, car rides or walks), ask him to do some sort of obedience cue such as sit, down, come or shake first. Be a benevolent leader (you are in charge of all the resources) and your dog will feel confident and secure knowing you are taking care of him.
Take the time to play with your dog. Pick an activity that the two of you can have fun doing together such as retrieving or swimming. Agility, dock diving and rally obedience are great sports to do with your dog as they require you to work together as a team.
Daily walks are also key in establishing a bond with your dog. Walks not only provide exercise, they allow you and your dog to experience the wonders of the world together.
Work on the recall (come) cue daily. Make this fun by turning it into a game of chase. Call your dog to come, then turn and run in the other direction. When your dog catches up to you, be ecstatic in your verbal praise. Keep it interesting by occasionally rewarding your dog with a tasty treat.
In the same vein as the recall, play ‘hide-and-seek’ with your dog. This is a great game you can play indoors with your dog during inclement weather. When your dog finds you, again praise ecstatically and reward with petting, a massage, tossing a favorite toy or an occasional tasty treat.
Speaking of massages, don’t overlook the importance grooming plays in building a bond with your dog. Most dogs enjoy touch and massages as much as humans do.
Teach your dog to check-in with you. There are several fun games you can play with your puppy – and adult dog – to encourage your dog to pay attention. Go to YouTube and key in “building attention kikopup”. There are several excellent videos that demonstrate attention building exercises to play with your dog.
When training your dog, remember to set your dog up for success by being fair, consistent and clear. Be generous with your praise. Your approval not only reinforces your dog’s behavior, but builds your dog’s confidence as well. Always end your training sessions on a positive note.
Bonding is key to successfully training your dog. When a dog is secure in his relationship with you, he will respond more favorably to obedience training.