As dog people we all know the sentiment that a dog is part of our family. They are not “just a dog” but a friend, a confidante, a playmate… So what is that makes a dog Man’s Best Friend? Why do they give us those adoring eyes? And how can we make this unexplainable bond even more special?
Well, the clue is in the question – Bonding. Our dog won’t just automatically like us and so, if you have a new pet or are looking to strengthen the special bond with an existing doggy pal, we have some tips for you:-
- Quality Time: I often tell my non-doggy friends that having a dog is a lot like having a child. In the same way that our sweet tiny humans look to us for direction, encouragement, and approval, so do our dogs. This means that spending quality time – really engaging – is extremely important. If you have a sofa-size pooch (and they’re allowed on the sofa), why not enjoy a quiet afternoon cuddle with a nice blanket? No TV, no phone, just you and your buddy. If you have a sofa-aversion, the floor is good, too! Or perhaps a little road trip? Taking your dog with you on trips and errands can be great for their socialisation and also helps you to bond by being in each other’s company.
Training is another great form of quality time. Mental stimulation is almost as tiring for your pooch (sometimes more so) than a romp around the field. Give them a challenge to aspire to on a regular basis, and reward them with your time and attention for good effort. We won’t all have the Bolt of the agility course, but even a clumsy pooch can enjoy a run around the course with their favourite two-legged friend!
Playing is a lot less formal than training, but still massively beneficial. Go find your dog’s favourite toy and invite a game, or why not try making a snuffle mat and encouraging your pooch to find their favourite treats after you’ve hidden them?
There are lots of great ways to spend that extra time with your dog.
- Respect: So, how do we respect our dog? Watch body cues to make sure that you are not invading their space or overstaying your welcome. If your dog doesn’t like a certain kind of fuss, don’t do it. If you know that a particular bed/corner/cage is their safe place, give them the time and space they need to retreat there.
- Trust: A big part of this is avoiding the temptation to “tease” them with a toy or treat. A little game is fine (playing is great, remember!) but remember to always follow through on your promises. Try to be positive when training so that each time the dog is called, they remember the positive outcome. This way, your pooch will never have to question your motives. Stay calm as often as possible so that they know you are a dependable personality that they can rely upon.
- Consistency: This is a big one in homes with multiple humans/dogs. Make sure that rules in your home are the same throughout. For example, don’t have Mum let the dog upstairs, and Dad insist on them being downstairs. This creates confusion and can displace trust that is already there. Have a plan for rules in the house and make sure that everyone sticks to them. We all like a framework so that we know what to aim for, and so does your dog! If he/she can clearly determine what will make you happy, it’s easier for them to do it.
These things can be difficult when you have multiple dogs in the household. Letting them all know that they are special can be particularly difficult if one or more of them have more overbearing personalities. Inject a little every day affection (talking to them as you walk through a room, a little scratch behind the ears while you’re doing something else). This type of easy-going behaviour is easily interpreted by your dog and will help them not to feel jealous of grand displays with each other. Ultimately, you will always need to be mindful of the dynamics of your pack as dogs come in as many different personalities as we do!
So this Valentine’s Day, why not set up a doggy date? Make some time for a special cuddle, learn a trick, or play a favourite game. Your furry pal will thank you for it and the effect will be twofold – there is scientific evidence to verify that interaction with our pets causes the release of oxytocin which can banish depressive feelings! Maybe there IS some truth to this “all you need is love” malarkey…
Feature Image by: santabanta.com
Other Images: Pinterest and Pinterest via Milo’s Kitchen (a United States dog treat company)
Information from: iheartdogs.com, bostonglobe.com, Psychology Today, and Pets4Homes.