You love your furry family member, and you refuse to settle for anything less than a fabulous friendship. So what do you do when you just can’t seem to create the ideal relationship you always envisioned? Consider these steps to getting closer to your dog.
Set Boundaries and Provide Leadership
According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, an animal behaviorist and Professor Emeritus at Tufts University School for Veterinary Medicine, leadership plays an important role in the human-dog bond. Obedience is a good indicator of a strong bond, and dog parents often feel slighted when their pups don’t listen. It’s your responsibility to provide clear leadership and a strong routine that discourages disobedience.
Establishing clear leadership doesn’t mean forcing your dog into submission. If your goal is to improve your relationship, use leadership as a way of showing love. Contrary to some false assumptions, dogs “don’t care about being at the top of the hierarchy,” Dodman says. Instead, they want to “clearly know” where they fit in. If you show your pup that you’re the top dog, they’ll feel more secure, and that will improve your relationship.
However, as Dodman notes, “It’s important to provide clear leadership in a non-confrontational way.” You’re not going to strengthen your bond by making your dog afraid of you. Instead, you want to set boundaries and enforce them in an emotionally neutral way. That may require some patience on your part at first. Simple acts like requiring your dog to sit before receiving meals sets a clear hierarchical structure. If your dog doesn’t want to listen, don’t yell or lose your patience. Wait until they sit, and then praise him or her exuberantly while handing over their food. Loving rewards for good behavior make your dog even happier to be in your company.
Treat-based positive reward training is a challenge for dogs who aren’t food motivated, but sometimes the quality of the reward is the issue. All-natural and fresh dog food options from Freshpet can be a very effective motivator, especially if your pup has previously only eaten a bland diet. Being high in protein with fresh fruits and veggies, Freshpet might be just the thing for your pup. When it comes to food, understanding dogs isn’t hard. If they like it, they want more of it. Once you show your dog that good behavior is rewarded with something delicious and praise, your relationship will improve.
Spend Quality Time Together
Spending quality time with your dog is an important step in improving your bond. As with your human friends and family, sharing fun experiences with your dog enhances your relationship. The idea that your presence is enough to make your dog happy is a common misconception, but just as some people aren’t happy without a lot of interaction, some dogs need you to put more work into making life together interesting.
There are many ways to treat your dog as an active companion in your life. Take him on hiking and camping adventures or simply have fun by playing fetch, tug of war or hide-and-seek every day. Sharing hobbies is also a good idea. Activities that enhance agility and herding skills are increasingly popular ways to reinforce leadership and strengthen bonds through teamwork. These types of activities are equally fun for you and can also make communicating with your dog easier.
Invest in Cutting-Edge Training
Modern dog parenting that forges strong bonds is all about treating dogs like individuals with hearts and souls. A strong bond leads to a dog that listens and obeys, keeps an eye on family members and wants to be part of the pack. If your pup seems indifferent, the latest dog training approaches could help turn your relationship around. Check with local vets and pet stores to find the best training sources in your area.
Every dog is different, and it may take some trial and error to find the best ways to really create the ideal leadership bond with your pup. The process of discovery will help you get to know your dog better and understand her unique likes and dislikes. Strong relationships are always a two-way street, and when you put in the effort, you can expect to be rewarded with an outpouring of canine love in return.