How To Improve The Bond With Your Dog | Dogalize
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 affect the bond. Fail to give your dog affection, routine, dependability, training and boundaries, and you will weaken that unspoken connection. Abuse or ignore her, or fail to see to her basic needs and you could sabotage the intimate link that time has so artfully established. Anything that makes your dog feel unwanted, neglected, or afraid will lower the strength of the human/canine bond.
Signs that Your Bond is Weak
Even though you may be a caring, considerate person, your dog might still not feel a close bond with you. Signs of a weak bond include:
- Emotional indifference to you or others in the family A failure to respond to commands, especially the recall command
- A lack of desire to play
- A distaste for being handled
- Regular attempts to run off
- Poor focus and eye contact
- Belligerence or even outright aggression toward you
- Depression or lethargic behaviour
Note that a recently rescued dog could show some or all of these symptoms as she might still be grieving for her past owner or may simply be depressed over the unpredictability of her life to date. Give her time.
How to Strengthen the Bond
If you suspect the bond with your dog is not as strong as it could be, there are steps you can take to remedy this. First, if you have recently adopted the dog from a shelter, understand that it takes at least a few months for a rescue to adjust to her new home and to get over the grief of losing touch with her former family. During this time, be sure not to let her off-leash outside, as she might take off to find her old group. Make sure your fencing is up to the task as well.
Next, you can:
- Start obedience training (come, sit, stay, down…) if you haven't already and keep it up. This will create good communication between you, help your dog focus, and foster a sense of teamwork and belonging.
- Ramp up activities with her. Playing, retrieving, agility, swimming—whatever the two of you can have fun doing together. Like kids at the schoolyard, fun interaction builds friendship and loyalty. Dogs are like toddlers, they like to be engaged and played with.
- Work the recall command or “Come” often. Do so first on a leash or long lead and only graduate to off-leash when your dog comes back to you every time on the lead, even with distractions. Succeeding at this will be proof of her focus and loyalty and of her desire to do what you ask instead of what she wants. When working off-leash recalls, don’t stay in one spot; instead, run away from her to make the exercise into a game and boost her desire to be with you.
- Play “hide-and-seek” with her often, in or out of the home. This fun game is a great way to make you into a “reward” for her. Over the months, it will slowly increase her desire to be with you and to pay attention.
- Feed her at specific times during the day, instead of free-feeding (leaving food down all day). This will make her food drive more focused and predictable and will link it to you. You become more important when the food comes from you instead of the bowl.
- Teach her a trick every month. This fun activity will make her smarter and become another bonding tool in your repertoire.
- Create in her a sense of purpose. Dogs want to work, so make your walks, play times, and training sessions all seem as if they are focused, fun, and important.
- Socialize her with people and dogs, but always look out for her wellbeing. By being a caring, vigilant mentor, you’ll build her trust and confidence and raise her opinion of you.
- Groom and pet her regularly to desensitize her to touch and to build up her desire for physical affection.