The bond between dogs and people is ancient. A new study in the Journal Science argues that the domestication of dogs happened between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago in Europe.
Today, the dog human relationship goes much deeper than relying on dogs for herding, hunting, and protecting. Our dogs are our companions, friends, and confidants. We rely on their unconditional love and loyalty for emotional support, joy, and when we’re stressed, they sooth our souls. We sleep better at night knowing they are there, forever watchful and alert. The bond we share is unique and there is nothing that can replicate it.
Usually our relationship with our dogs forms so naturally that it is easy to forget that it takes work to develop it. Even the best of dog and owner relationships can benefit from doing the things that help strengthen, grow, or simply nurture the relationship. When bringing a new dog into the family, sometimes bonding takes more time and effort.
Signs that the new relationship with a dog needs work includes: Emotional indifference, refusal to play or interact, distrust, no desire to be touched, lack of eye contact, fear, isolation, attempting to run away or escape, lethargy, aggression or even depression. The reasons a newly adopted dog may exhibit these behaviors is numerous, however, the good news is that most dogs desire and need human love and companionship so that with time and nurturing, a bond will deepen and flourish.
No matter where you are at in your relationship with your dog, there are things you can do to strengthen and maintain an already deep bond or help perpetuate and build a new relationship with a new dog.
Bond building activities for dogs
- Enhance communication between you and your dog by taking some obedience or other classes that stimulate your dog and foster a strong dog / owner relationship.
- Make the most of playtimes by fully engaging in fun play with your dog. Pick an activity your dog loves (fetching, hiking, swimming, Frisbee, etc.) and enjoy with gusto.
- Spend time training your dog, reinforcing recall, and other basic commands with and without distractions. Make sure these bonding times are fun and enjoyable for both you and your dog while slowing increasing challenges.
- Occasionally hand feed your dog at designated mealtimes to prevent any guarding issues.
- Teach a new behavior or trick every month and keep reinforcing what your dog has already learned. Praise often to help build confidence and ensure your dog knows you’re proud about a well-done job.
- Brush and groom regularly, including paws.
- Spend quality one on one time handling, petting and massaging your dog without distractions.
- Be consistent with rules, boundaries, training signals, commands, and physical signals to improve communication with your dog and avoid the mixed signals that cause confusion.
- Take your dog on outings, for car rides, and other outings to share experiences.
- Remain calm when you correct and train as this reinforces calm behavior in your dog.
- Spend some time learning canine body language to better understand how your dog is feeling and reacting in different situations.
- Challenge your dog mentally and physically, providing plenty of exercise, introducing new toys and interactive games, give your dog opportunities to make you proud!