A strong bond between you and your dog is the foundation of a happy, healthy, and fulfilling relationship. It starts from the moment you meet your pup, and grows over the course of your life together. Building your bond enhances your friendship, improve your dog's behavior, establishes trust, and promotes well-being. Lay the foundation for your relationship over your dog's lifetime by focusing on your bond early.
How to Set a Strong Foundation for Your Bond
Yes, bonding is a natural process when you spend time with your dog. But that doesn't mean you can't improve on it with a little TLC. Take the time to focus on these aspects of your relationship to help establish the lasting connection you are looking for:
- Sharing Affection: This step is foundational. Often, the first thing we do when we meet our new pup is show them some love. Dogs love human touch; it's how they bond with you when they're puppies. Don't skimp on the love, and make petting and cuddle sessions a regular part of your day with your dog.
- Playing Together: Don't forget about playtime together! Choose an activity your dog enjoys to use as a bonding experience. This is all about fun, and you don't have to worry too much about keeping it formal. Any game is a good game to your dog, but over time, they'll probably develop favorites.
- Training Time: In addition to recreation, dedicate your time to working together. This can still be fun! But dogs who go through goal-directed training bond even more strongly with their owners. They learn to pay attention to you and what you want, and they respond to the rewards they receive. It's just on a deeper level than playing together.
- Working Out: Fun is fun, and learning obedience and commands are great too, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house and work up a sweat - and a good pant - together. Walk your dog, go for a run together, get their heart rate up, and your bond will only grow stronger.
- Providing Socialization: Proper socialization is crucial for your dog's overall well-being and helps build trust between you and your canine companion. Expose your dog to a variety of people, pets, sounds, environments, and experiences to help them become well-adjusted and confident. They learn to feel safe with you when all of their social interactions are positive and supportive.
- Learning Body Language: In order to learn how to communicate with your dog effectively, you must learn to understand their body language. Your dog is constantly trying to give you signals, and they notice when you respond.
- Building Trust: Trust can be more difficult to gain from some dogs than others, but it's something that must be worked on over time.
- Spending Time Grooming: An act as simple as brushing through your dog's fur not only keeps your dog fur healthy, but allows you to spend quality time together, thereby increasing trust.
- Talking to Them: Dogs learn to recognize you just by your voice, and the way you talk to them makes a big difference. Communicate with your dog and let them hear your praise and love.
Dedicate Time to the Process
Bonding with a dog isn't always as easy as it sounds. It takes time and effort for the two of you to come together. Some of the process occurs naturally - and this is great! - but you still need to set aside hours in your day for your pup. Ideally, you should spend at least two hours a day dedicated to your adult dog to ensure they're getting the social interaction they need.
When your dog is a puppy, they need more attention. This is prime bonding time. Especially when they are very young, plan to spend a big part of your day with them - the more, the better. If you have to be away from them for a large part of your day, it can help to leave something with your scent around, or even invest in a water fountain and video camera combo, so you can talk to them while they're home alone.
Puppies need a lot of attention, and they will easily spend four to eight hours a day by your side before they need any alone time. At minimum, give your puppy at least two hours (4 hours is much better) of time bonding each day.
Start Bonding When They're Young
The bonding period begins the moment you bring your puppy home. This is an important time to introduce your pup to their new environment, including the people and animals in your home, the house rules, and other routines. If you have children, it's also a good idea to show them how to interact properly with your puppy.
The most important thing to remember is that this is a two-way street. You need to be patient with your new puppy and let them get used to their new home and family. You also need to be patient with yourself. It's easy to become frustrated when your new puppy doesn't immediately learn all the things you want them to learn, but remember that puppies are still puppies, regardless of how old they are when they come home with you.
Puppies often take less time to build a bond with, but adult dogs can form incredibly strong bonds when adopted, too.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Bond?
The time it takes to build a bond with your dog can vary depending on several factors, including your dog's age, personality, and how much time you spend together. In some cases, a bond can form quickly, within a few weeks or even days, while in others, it may take several months or longer to establish a strong connection.
Puppies tend to bond more quickly, while rescued dogs or older dogs you take in may be more wary. If you're spending at least two to four hours a day with your puppy, expect to see your bond develop quickly, with your puppy showing strong trust in two weeks or less. A rescue dog is probably going to take more work - possibly as much as six months or more together - to form a strong bond.
Things That Impact Your Bond
Factors that can influence the bonding process include:
- Age: Younger dogs, such as puppies, are generally more adaptable and open to forming new relationships. Older dogs may take more time to adjust and bond, especially if they have had previous owners or negative experiences.
- Temperament: Dogs with outgoing, social temperaments may bond more quickly, while shy or fearful dogs might require more time, patience, and reassurance to build trust and a strong connection.
- Past experiences: Dogs that have been through trauma or have had negative experiences with humans might take longer to bond, as they may be hesitant to trust new people. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are essential in these cases.
- Individual personality: Just like people, each dog has their unique personality. Some dogs may be more naturally inclined to bond quickly, while others may be more independent and take longer to form a strong connection.
- Consistency and time: The amount of time and effort you invest in building a bond with your dog will have a significant impact on how quickly the connection forms. Spending quality time together, providing consistent training, and meeting your dog's physical and emotional needs will all contribute to the bonding process.
Ultimately, patience and understanding are key when building a bond with your dog. Focus on providing a loving, safe environment, and take the time to get to know your dog's unique personality and needs.
Tips to Strengthening Your Bond
Building a strong bond is great, but you still have to put in work to make sure your dog is still feeling the love.
- Include your dog on trips: Your day-to-day routine is essential to maintaining your bond, but if you can get your dog out on the open road, visiting new places, you'll see new connections forming.
- Remember your routine: Dogs thrive on consistency and predictability. Establish a regular schedule for feeding, walking, and playtime, as well as creating specialized routines, such as a bedtime routine or a daily walk to your favorite park.
- Mix it up sometimes: Dogs love routine, but they can benefit from new experiences, just like we can. Get them out of the house and visit a local dog-friendly store, go to the park, or hit the open trail.
- Do maintenance training, even if your dog has the basics down cold: Your dog is never "done" training. It's a lifelong process, and the more you do it, the deeper your bond will grow.
- Focus on enrichment: Ensure your dog receives adequate exercise and mental enrichment to keep them happy and engaged. Try some brain games, and do stuff you don't do every day.
- Give your dog space when needed: If your dog seems like they need space, give it to them. This can build your bond too! Spending too much time together isn't necessarily healthy, either, no matter how much your dog likes it.
- Hand-feeding your dog: This is a great trick for a difficult dog. Hand feeding your dog can improve your bond. Grab a handful of kibble and offer it to your dog. If they don't come to you right away, don't panic. It could take time. Try it each day.
How to Repair a Bond
Dogs are social animals and they need to form a strong bond with their owners to be happy and healthy. A dog who has been abused or neglected will be wary of people, but it is possible to repair that bond. Sadly, this is all too common for rescue dogs.
Make sure you provide your new dog a lot of time and attention if they've been abused or neglected in the past. Your dog needs to know that they can always depend on you for love and comfort.
Repairing a bond ultimately comes down to spending the time working on it. The more time your dog spends with you, with positive experiences, the more they will begin to trust you and open up.
If your dog has been severely abused in the past, don't be afraid to obtain help from a reputable canine behaviorist while you are repairing the bond.
Time and Dedication Are the Foundation
Spend the effort and energy, and you will form a strong, lasting bond with your canine companion. Remain patient and remember, each dog is different. While some dogs may take a few days to warm up, other dogs could take a few weeks to become comfortable getting closer. Ultimately, the goal is the same. Trust us, it's always worth it.