The 5 Keys to Bond With Your Dog
As dog owners, there are very few things that have given us pure joy and happiness like our relationships with our pups.
(Don’t tell our partners that. Although even they might agree.)
Over years and years, we’ve spent so much time together almost every single day. In fact, when we’re apart for even a few days, it feels like something is missing.
We also see a lot of well-intentioned dog owners take some missteps when creating a bond with their pup.
So here are five keys to deepening your connection. From these ideas, you’ll see there are numerous ways to explore your relationship. After all, every dog and every owner is different, so take these tips and morph them to work best for you.
The bottom line for all of these is that you have to care. When we care for our pup, they will likely reciprocate that. But what does caring look like? It can show up in various ways.
Dedicate Time For Them
One of the most important elements to developing a strong bond with your dog is to make it a priority. Or at least, dedicate time to connect.
This can, and should, take various forms. Maybe you always go on walks together around certain times, which we also advise for helping dogs get more exercise.
Perhaps you have a play routine, where you join your pup outside for some fetch or other games, or inside to wrestle with the toys together.
There’s also a huge benefit to just laying with them. Studies show across so many mammals how eye contact strengthens emotional connection.
More specific to dogs, petting them raises both their and your levels of feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.
Setting aside this time makes sure you’re always connecting on many levels on a regular basis.
And this leads us into our next big point: presence.
Learn To Be Present With Them
When you’re with them, be with them. On an emotional level, your dog can sense whether you’re distracted and unfocused, or whether you’re really there with them.
We encourage these walks, or play times, or snuggle times to represent more than just checking a box. It’s a chance for deeper connection.
Often, at Pup Labs we talk about how our pups have been our greatest teachers. We bond with them, but we also learn skills we can take into all areas of our life. If you can’t be present with your pup, where else in your life are distracted?
This is a great opportunity to pause, reduce distraction, and learn how to be present. Hopefully, then, you’ll be able to take that into other areas of your life as well.
Train Your Dog
As much as we wish our dogs could talk to us and speak with us on equal footing, the truth is we’re not equals. We’re much more like a parent, in that we’re responsible for training them.
Whether it’s teaching tricks, practicing commands, or ingraining even simple potty training, displaying your assertiveness will show your dog that you’re trustworthy, and that they can rely on you.
This will continue to deepen your emotional relationship.
Even if they’re not puppies, continuing to teach them new tricks (yes, you can teach old dogs new tricks) or just simple commands, will create deep emotional associations in their brains.
They’re not just commands, they’re commands from you, the being they trust more than anyone else.
Often you’ll see dog owners make silly voices, or silly faces, or morph into the most playful, childish version of themselves in front of their dog. I, for one, tend to speak on behalf of my dog. And yes, that is what her voice sounds like, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
When you allow yourself to be silly and playful with them, it will rub off. Dogs are emotionally attentive. After all, think about how protective they can be with their barking when a stranger comes. When you’re playful, they’ll be playful too.
Perhaps as a part of some of the time you’ve set aside, you’ll hang with them in the play room. We talked about in this article the benefits of having a separate playroom to improve their sleeping habits, so when you enter that room, you can embody a playful spirit too.
You’ll have fun, I promise.
Practice Your Attentiveness
This is a cousin of the importance of presence, but it takes it to the next level. Start to notice the things your pup likes and dislikes, even on a subtle level. Where are their favorite places on their body to be pet? What are their favorite toys?
From this you can adjust your actions towards them to make them happier, and deepening their connection with you in the process.
How does your energy affect theirs? Become extra attuned to their emotions. This, in turn, will be received by them on an emotional level, and you’ll learn how to best satisfy their emotional needs.
As I said, what I love about these tips is that they transcend your relationship with your pup.
Really, these are tips to have great relationships (except the one about training).
Being present, playful, and attentive are hallmarks of any great relationship, and that includes the one with our four-legged best friend.
You’ll not only be a better dog parent, you’ll be a better person too.