There’s a reason our canine companions are called “man’s best friends”. The relationship between people and their pups started thousands of years ago. Loyal protectors, helpful assistants, and loveable mates, when it comes to dogs and their humans, the bonds are strong. Puppies can be socialized and learn to love their owners from a young age. Older dogs may require a little more time and patience. Regardless of age, your dog is here to stay. Here are some tips and tricks to break the ice.
Bonding with puppies seems easy. Most young dogs will accept the one who feeds them as their leader and companion. With older dogs, it depends on the temperament of the individual dog. Some dogs may bond to their new family once they make the meal-human connection. Others may have suffered trauma or been abandoned and might take a little longer. Allow anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months for the bond to be solidified. Personally, it took our rescue pup nearly six months before he finally felt like our house was his home!
The learning curve can be long. Puppies as well as older dogs may get the hang of something one day, only to seemingly forget it the next. New family, new setting, new rules – there’s a lot of newness for your brand new dog. Just as you need to get used to them, they too need to get used to you. Time is on your side. Eventually, you’ll learn to understand one another.
You may not be able to speak dog, but reading your dog’s body language is a good start. Posture, facial expression, tail wagging and ear position all provide tell-tale signs of what your dog wants to communicate to you. Tune in to what your dog is trying to tell you and before long, you’ll be speaking her language.
Training your dog to communicate will make life a lot easier. Gaining your dog’s respect, letting him know who the pack leader is in a kind and positive manner, and setting your dog up for success is the key to your healthy relationship with your pet. Basic commands, leash etiquette, even introducing your dog to other people, especially children, are all learned behaviours. It’s never too late for training. Training standards have changed over the years, so be sure to find an accredited, humane trainer if you seek professional training for your dog.
Whether walking around the neighbourhood, playing fetch in the park or hanging around the backyard, being outside provides all kinds of opportunities for you and your dog to get to know one another. Learning the lay of the land, getting used to other people and places, and just moving are ways to bond while getting exercise together.
The key to bonding with your dog is spending time together. Inside or out, the more time you spend in each other’s company, the better the chances for bonding and trust. Playing tug-of-war, cuddling on the couch, or running through snow, the more positive experiences your dog has with you, the stronger the bond will be. Having lots of treats on hand doesn’t hurt either. The way to a dog’s heart may be his stomach, but for the long haul, time and patience is the key to a trusting, bonded relationship.