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If you've ever had a strong bond with a dog, you know how much love and trust our canine pals are capable of. But what happens if you have trouble getting along with your new dog or you join a new household where the dog is unwilling to trust you? While there may not be a one-size-fits-all way to learn how to bond with a dog, there are some effective methods for helping a new pet become your new best friend.
Starting Off on the Right Paw
Most puppies don't have much life experience to make them wary of humans, so they tend to bond with their new pet parent within a few days or weeks. If you just brought a puppy home, expect them to be shy for a few days while adjusting to their new surroundings. They may be drawn to one person in particular as they start to explore, or may become fast friends with everyone in the house.
If your puppy struggles to bond with people in general, give them space and time and lots of positive reinforcement. That positive reinforcement can come in the way of reassuring words in a soft voice, small treats or an outstretched hand. If you and your pup get off on the wrong foot — hides, shakes or won't listen when you call — consider private obedience training to help give your puppy the confidence for a long-lasting friendship.
Bonding With an Older Dog
Bringing home an older dog or joining a household that already has a dog presents its own set of challenges. An adult dog is likely to have had many positive and negative life experiences to draw from. Their routine has also recently been disrupted by an adoption or change in the family. For older adopted dogs, certain movements or actions could trigger memories of a traumatic past experience. Dogs who aren't accepting you into their happy home with open paws, on the other hand, may be feeling the need to protect their original pet parent.
Patience and positive reinforcement can go a long way in creating a strong dog bond. Rover suggests offering your future fur friend their favourite activities, like a game of fetch or a long hike through the woods. Physical contact like grooming and scratching behind the ears makes for a good bonding activity if the dog is comfortable with it.
It is also important to accept that some dogs will bond more with a particular human than others. It's okay for your connection with a dog to be a little different than your house mate's or partner's, even if you think you fill the food bowl and throw a tennis ball in exactly the same way. In some cases, it may take months or years to create a strong dog bond. Be careful not to let your frustration show since getting impatient with or spooking a dog will only slow the bonding process. Watch for the small signs that the dog is warming up to you and slowly build on those moments.
ASPCA describes aggression as a series of behaviours, not a single incident or sign. It can be motivated by anything from feeling territorial and overprotective to being in pain from an ailment like arthritis or Lyme disease. An aggressive dog might growl, bark, snap or stand rigidly with feet apart.
If hostile behaviour is disrupting your ability to bond with your dog, you should seek a veterinarian's opinion. Your vet can determine if the aggression is triggered by a particular health issue causing your pet to feel scared. If your dog is healthy and responding aggressively because of a change or bad experience, obedience training by a well-qualified trainer is another option.
How to Bond With a Dog Who Is Standoffish or Timid
Sometimes a dog might simply mistrust you and avoid contact. If your new or new-to-you dog is standoffish, try giving them plenty of space. Play with them and spend time together in short bursts and let them be alone the rest of the time. You should also pay attention to whether your dog is bonding with other people or other pets in your home. Sometimes animals create strong bonds with each other before they befriend the humans in their life.
A timid dog will need quieter and softer movements and potentially more time to build a bond. The Nest suggests letting a shy pup come to you by sitting quietly in the same room to let them get used to your presence. Keeping noise from the TV or radio at a minimum may also help them stay calm. Pet play groups are one option that help some timid dogs become more sociable with other pets and people. Start out with a group that is small and made up of dogs who are similar in size.
Fostering a Lasting Friendship
Whether it takes days, months or years to form a bond with a dog, once it is formed, it is a friendship you will want to foster. Continue to spend one-on-one time with your dog and give positive reinforcement. Find opportunities to have fun adventures that will build long-lasting memories and strengthen your bond over time. Your four-legged friend may have had a traumatic past or struggled to adapt to an expanded family, but once that bond is there you can treasure every moment you have together!
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.