Creating a Bond: Building a Strong Relationship with Your Dog
A bond between a dog and their owner is something special, but that doesn’t come from nothing. It’s built on a foundation of trust and affection, which takes a lot of time and effort to develop. Human-dog emotional bonds aren’t so different from human-human emotional bonds - they both need nurturing.
So, how can you work on your relationship with your dog? How can you tell what your dog is thinking? And, most importantly, how can you show your dog how much you care?
Let’s get into it.
Making the most of your time together
There’s no doubt a passive effect of togetherness that grows over time as you share space with one another. Simply being around your dog will encourage them to view you as a member of the family, and someone to look to for affection. But there is a huge difference in quantity and quality that you might be missing!
To cement a strong bond with your pet, it’s important to set aside time for interacting with them exclusively. One-on-one affection, games, and cuddling are much more meaningful than just existing in the same space. It’s important to incorporate your dog into your schedule in the same way you would for any human family member or close friend.
A dog may not be quite as good as humans at expressing when they feel left out, so it’s critical to pay special attention to their role in your day-to-day activities.
Great activities for quality bonding time
Finding ways to create new and exciting opportunities for bonding with your dog shouldn’t sound too daunting - most dogs are really easy to please and will likely be excited to have your undivided attention. Here are some ways to keep your dog engaged:
- Take them on long walks, just one-on-one and let them linger and explore. Better yet - explore with them, and be excited to see new things.
- Spend time training together, and focus on attention activities. Use tasty treats to keep their focus, but also emphasise physical and emotional joy to encourage them.
- Set up a dog date with a friend and their pet. Interacting with others is great for their social skills, and being able to rely on you for comfort is great for your connection.
- Put your phone away when you’re spending dedicated time together. Your dog probably won’t mind if you get a call, but they will appreciate your undivided attention.
Realistically, any activity where you’re focused on them and expressing yourself is going to be much more effective than any passive co-habitation, so even snuggling on the couch to watch TV together, (so long as they get treats and pats), is going to be a great time.
Understanding body language
An important part of building up a bond of trust and affection with your pet is understanding what they’re saying through body language and behaviour. Every dog will be different, and as you grow closer to your furry friend, you’ll quickly pick up on their quirks.
Here are a few general tips:
- Tail wagging - as most know - is a major expressive indicator. High and quick usually signifies excitement and slow and swishing contentedness. But be aware that excitement could also be nervousness.
- Relaxed, loose muscles are a sure sign of a dog at ease, while raised hackles and stiff posture indicate high tension or anxiety.
- Dogs often show a lot of emotion through their face too - eye contact will often be a way of expressing affection, which is great. But it can also be a challenge, so keep the context of their body language in mind before you approach any strange dogs. Relaxed tongue lolling or licking is another way to tell that your dog is quite content.
Watch your tone
Dogs are reactive to the tone and underlying emotions in our voices, and they react positively to consistency. While training, calling for their attention, or even just communicating your affection, consistent, familiar tones and relaxed voices are what they’ll react best to.
Not all dogs will find it easy to trust you and form a strong bond, sometimes it takes a little patience, but always remain consistent. Keep your body language positive, your tone regular, and your routine in check, and you’ll find a way to your dog's heart.
Cherish the special moments
When we think of our loved ones, our minds very often drift toward select memories. It’s often a combination of especially profound, special times, and small, simple things that other people wouldn’t even remember. That’s what makes a bond so powerful. Our final advice is to treat your time with your pets in the same way. Cherish the special little times and celebrate the great events. And don’t forget the treats!