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Bonding with Your Dog: 8 Ways to Improve Your Relationship

Does your dog have health issues? What they eat matters! Our options can help.
. 5 min read

While dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’ some dogs and their owners seem to have more special bonds than others. You may be wondering why this is and how to better bond with your dog.

Why do dogs bond with their owners?

According to Modern Dog Magazine, “The human/canine bond is an ancient, mutually beneficial rapport formed between us, one based upon millennia of domestication and partnership. For over 20,000 years, we have bred dogs not only for hunting, herding, protection, and companionship, but also for loyalty, devotion, tameness, and emotional support.”

Some people would argue that dogs who are rescued have intense bonds with those who have rescued them The Dodo, a popular animal website tells many of these special stories. Including Pudge the Pit, who took over a year to warm up to his new family and Bronson, who loves to copy everything his owner does. Or, look at the story Inside Edition filmed of Russ, a pit bull who couldn’t stop hugging the woman who rescued him. While not every rescue dog forms such an intense bond with their owner, many dogs do thrive after leaving behind the stressful crowded shelter.

Eight ways to bond with your dog

Food and treats

Most dogs are food motivated and love delicious treats. Like us, dogs can be very specific in their likes and dislikes. Some dogs love peanut butter while others go crazy for string cheese. You can mix in some healthier treats like fresh fruit or vegetables too. Whatever your dog likes, he will be your best friend if you share his favorite snack.

Snuggles and pets

Some dog owners say they bond best with their pets while snuggling on the couch watching tv reading a book, or studying. Even though you might not be directly engaging with your dog, they appreciate your company and being able to be close to you. For others, bonding comes in the form of offering lots of pets. Some dogs enjoy ear scratches while others might prefer a good belly rub.

Grooming or a bath

This way of bonding is not for everyone, as some dogs don’t enjoy baths. If you have a dog that loves them, a spa afternoon might be the perfect way to bond. Start with a bath and hand towel your pup dry. You can also brush your dog’s hair out if they enjoy being brushed. While grooming is very important if your dog doesn’t enjoy it, try not to use it as bonding time!

Playing with toys or puzzles

This bonding method might work best with puppies or younger dogs. That isn’t to say that your senior dog might not enjoy some playtime. From the classics like fetch or tug to interactive puzzles there is something for everyone. You can even play training games with your dog to give them physical and mental exercise.

Training

Taking training classes or doing training exercises with your dog is a great way to strengthen your bond. Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement and fear-free methods. Training requires you to communicate with your dog and you both to work as a team. Learning together can be fun and rewarding for both of you. While basic obedience training is important to keep your dog safe, there is so much more you can do together. Once your dog has learned the basics you can teach them all kinds of fun things. There are tons of fun tricks your dog can learn- from shaking hands or high fives to “drawing a picture” or rolling out the red carpet for visitors. If you and your dog love learning tricks there are even titles you can earn together. For obedience lovers, you and your dog could even try competing in a sport called Rally.

Traveling with your dog

For dogs who can fly with you or don’t mind some time in a car or RV, travel might be a great way to bond. From new smells and foods to beaches or hiking dog-friendly travel can be a great way to bond with your adventurous pup. Before you try this tip, make sure you know any rules about traveling with your pet including having your pet appropriately vaccinated. Do your research before you head out to make sure you know where all the dog-friendly spots are. You should also have a plan for any emergencies including the contact information for a local vet. Remember to always keep your dog’s ID tags on them and have your dog microchipped in case they get separated from you.

Exercising with your dog

For really athletic dogs exercising with you can be a great way to bond. Some dogs love to run or hike while others might just prefer a long walk. For some breeds, swimming is a favorite activity. Before engaging in vigorous exercise with your pet make sure they have a clean bill of health and are cleared for activity. You also want to be aware of the weather conditions as running on pavement that is too hot or too cold can cause issues including burns on your pet’s paws in the case of extreme heat. You can look for dog-friendly hiking routes in your area - some might even have creeks or ponds where you can both enjoy some time in the water. Before diving in make sure the water is safe for swimming.

Sporting lessons or competition

Agility is a dog sport that requires the dog and handler to complete a course of obstacles including jumps, tunnels, weave poles, the table, the dog walk, the teeter and the A-frame. Teams compete to be the fastest and most accurate on the course. Faults are added for knocking down jumps, going off course, or the dog not making contact with their feet in certain parts of some of the obstacles. The sport requires that the dog and handler work together. The handler has to give the dog good direction and make sure they know where they are going. The dog has to listen carefully and trust the handler to guide the dog through the course. It’s fast-paced, exciting and so much fun to learn together. If that isn’t your speed, try Flyball. In this sport, the dog and handler race over a series of jumps to release a tennis ball from a flyball box. Then, it’s a race to the finish line. While slightly less complicated than agility, it still requires skill, communication and of course training. After a good practice session, you and your dog will probably head off together for a well-earned nap!

How do you know what bonding method works best?

When bonding with your pet, you may try several of these methods. Creating a bond won’t be a linear process. Dogs have their moods and preferences. Some days your dog may love training with you and other days they might not be in the mood to work. Respect what your dog is telling you about his preferences and give breaks or change activities when you need to. Knowing that they have a choice will help them want to choose to be with you!

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.