How to build a meaningful relationship with your dog
5 min read
Spend quality time together
Do you spend most of your quality time with your dog on the sofa? While it might feel like quality time because of all the cuddles you’re getting, bonding with your dog comes from enrichment and activities together. Dogs love exploring and going on adventures, so getting out for long walks with your four-legged friend is an excellent way to bond and build a stronger emotional connection, while also building trust.
Play games together
Playing games doesn’t just have to mean throwing a ball for them to fetch in a field, which isn’t that much fun for owners. Dogs love variety, and games. Some great ways of playing together in a meaningful way are:
Hide and seek
This game can involve people or food, and if you’ve got some tasty treats to reward them with then this will make it even more fun for your dog. It’s also a great way to practice your command words, such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, or ‘wait’, and rewarding them helps with positive reinforcement for their behaviour.
Tug of war
This is physically tiring and mentally stimulating for dogs and doesn’t cause aggression like you might think it does. As it involves both humans and dogs, it can be really beneficial in strengthening your bond, while also redirecting any destructive behaviour.
Sniffing for treats
This is such a simple yet brilliant game for dogs - and of course, they LOVE it. Dogs’ noses are extremely sensitive and an incredible tool, so getting them to use it in games is like bringing out their superpower. It also releases plenty of happy hormones.
Create a home agility course
Yes, there are agility training centres you can take your dog to, but it’s also easy to create your own course at home. You can use household items such as brooms, cardboard boxes, and laundry baskets for them to navigate through. This game is great for obedience and concentration and gives you a chance to build a stronger connection.
Learn to understand your dog
Understanding your canine companion’s behaviours and ways of communicating is crucial for a strong bond as they rely on you so much to support them through life and in certain situations. Noticing what makes them anxious or nervous, and resolving the issue, will make your dog feel closer to you.
Remain calm and patient
Dogs don’t tend to respond well to humans raising their voice, and find this stressful. Instead, they respond best to calm communication, which helps them to feel safe. We all lose our temper from time to time, but try not to aim it at your dog where possible. Focus on positive body language and tone to help them feel understood and safe.
Learn your dog’s likes and dislikes
Getting to know what makes your faithful friend happy, and unhappy, is crucial to a strong relationship. Knowing their favourite foods, walks, treats, and tickle spots (belly rubs for the win!) will make you top dog in their eyes. Equally, keep an eye out for what they don’t like (although sometimes washing muddy paws can’t be avoided…).
Cuddles, cuddles, and more cuddles
We all know hugs are important for connection, and the same goes for your dog. Not only is it relaxing for us, but it helps to reduce stress in dogs and can release oxytocin, the love hormone. Having said this, not all dogs like cuddles so you do need to be mindful of this. Even dogs who love cuddles might have moments when they’d rather not, so look out for any signs that they might not want to be touched. Allowing them to come to you is always a good way to know if they want to snuggle into you and share the love.
For lots more information and tips from Forthglade on how to create a meaningful relationship with your dog, read more here >.