One of the questions we get asked a lot is, how do I build a better bond with my dog? Our answer, of course, is training! You’d be amazed at how quickly you can bond with your dog through training. It’s primal, it’s instinctual, and in a dog’s world, it just makes sense!
Here are 5 small ways to build a better bond with your dog:
Hand feed all meals.
Instead of feeding your dog from a bowl, feed your dog by hand. Find a quiet place to give your dog his food, one handful at a time, if you only have a minute to do it. Or, even better, use your dog’s food as a training reward. Instead of giving your dog his food for free in a bowl, then using treats for training, use kibble as the reward.
We have a number of basic exercises, like Name Game (click for video) and Luring (click for video), that you can do quickly and easily to reward your dog and get some training in. Food is a primary, instinctual motivator. By using food to reward your dog, you’re teaching him to look to you for food. It shows your dog that he can trust you to provide him with what he needs.
Tether your dog to you.
Instead of leaving your dog loose in the house, put a leash on him and keep him with you. It may be tedious at first, but after a day or two of practice it’ll become natural for him to move with you wherever you go.
I strongly recommend watching our Art of Doing Nothing how-to video on YouTube. This exercise is a default behavior that teaches dogs to relax next to you, thus eliminating pacing or circling around you and getting tangled up in the leash.
By tethering your dog to you, you’re teaching your dog to pay attention to you. Think of it as quality time together that is simple and effective. We recommend using a slip lead for tethering, especially if you’re going to do the Art of Doing Nothing. It makes life easier!
Separate your dogs.
If you have more than one dog, they need to spend some time apart- and spend that time with you instead! If your dogs have 24/7 access to each other, chances are they’re highly bonded to each other and don’t pay much attention to you (unless they want something of course, like food or to go outside).
You may have gotten a second dog to keep your first dog company, and that’s exactly what you ended up with, but now you’re the awkward third wheel in their relationship. It’s time to change things up a bit. Separate them, and work on numbers 1 and 2 above during your 1-1 time together.
Use play to connect.
Instead of giving your dog access to unlimited toys, put up the toys and restrict access to them. Use your dog’s favorite toy to play with him for short sessions once or twice a day.
If your dog likes a variety of toys, I recommend getting a ball on a string (like this Leerburg ball) or a tug toy that has handles on both ends (like this one). This allows play to be back-and-forth, give-and-take instead of keep away. You don’t want to be chasing your dog around the yard trying to get the toy from him. You want a toy that allows you to play with your dog.
Playing tug is a great way to bond with your dog. Be sure to watch my 3 Rules of Play video. When you play together, make sure your dog is following the rules!
Limit your dog’s access to you.
It may seem counterintuitive to limit your dog’s access to you when you’re trying to build a bond with him. But trust me- absence does in fact make the heart grow fonder! During the times when you’re not spending quality time with your dog (training, tethering and playing together), put your dog in a crate. This crate time will allow him to decompress and look forward to your next session together.
Too much time together is not a good thing. We have a crate training video if your dog needs to work on his crate drills (entering, waiting and exiting on command). Your dog will view the crate as a safe place to decompress only if he is relaxed about the crate itself.
Implement these 5 small concepts, and you’ll see big changes in no time! They’re a great starting point for building a strong and unbreakable bond with your dog.
How many of these are you doing with your dog? Are you going to try these at home? If you have any questions, please drop them in the comment box below. I’m happy to answer them!