10 Tips for Improving the Bond with Your Dog

06/20/2016

Be your dog’s caregiver.

Dogs bond quickly to the person who provides them with their essential needs: food, shelter, affection. In a family setting, allow everyone in the house to be a provider, including children.  Your dog will come to understand that your entire family is their safety net.

Get moving.

While different dogs require different levels of exercise, a well-exercised dog is often a well-behaved dog.  Daily exercise is a must for ALL dogs and walking has been shown to strengthen the human-animal bond. When thinking about adding a dog to your family, keep the exercise needs of each breed in mind and consider whether you are up to the physical commitment.

Mental exercise matters, too.

Like people, dogs get bored. A bored dog will look for things to do and it may be something you don’t want them to do. Use creative toys and establish games like hide and seek with treats to keep your dog mentally and emotionally challenged.  Simple games such as hiding a toy under one of three boxes and asking your dog to “Find it!” can make a great difference in keeping your dog mentally stimulated.

Bath time.

While most dogs don’t love to be bathed, a clean, well groomed dog is better company in the home. Over time, dogs come to enjoy the physical contact of being groomed, such as being rubbed down with a towel or being brushed on a regular basis.  It also gives you the opportunity to check your dog over for odd odors, parasites, lumps and bumps, and injuries.  Start a regular teeth-brushing routine early so brushing is fun and the dog welcomes your care.  Your dog will be easier to handle and any change will indicate a behavioral or physical reason to visit your veterinarian.

Sit.  Stay.  Good dog!

Learning companion animal manners with a certified professional dog trainer is the most effective way to teach a dog limits, boundaries, and acceptable behavior. It also helps timid or shy dogs gain confidence. Consider working towards a Canine Good Citizen certification; this series of evaluations covers the basic commands and canine manners that will enable both you and your dogs the confidence to interact well in all situations.

Get social.

Dogs must learn to be comfortable with new people and other dogs. The best way to accomplish this is socialize often and expose your dog to lots of different environments.  Seek out well-managed, safe dog parks or organize walks with friends and their dogs.  Early socialization is critical for success and veterinary behaviorists strongly recommend starting socialization prior to 14 weeks. This must be balanced with infectious disease concerns as puppies are most vulnerable during the 6-8 week period after birth. Therefore, prior to 14-20 weeks dogs should be socialized with other dogs known to be disease free.

Your veterinarian is your friend.

Wellness visits are essential for dogs to remain healthy, happy, and emotionally engaged companions. Subtle differences in behavior could be a sign of pain or physical or behavioral illness. Adult dogs should visit the veterinarian for an annual wellness visit. As your dog gets older, semi-annual visits are recommended. Long-term veterinary records can be very important should your dog ever need to be referred to a veterinary specialist.

Establish a routine.

Like people, dogs are creatures of habit. Establish a routine for meal time, exercise, play, bathroom breaks, and rest. Once your dog knows what to expect they will easily transition between activities and understand your expectations based on what you are doing.  Routines are especially important to maintain during holidays and travel to avoid stress to your dog.

Go on adventures.

New scenery and locations are mentally stimulating and can help dogs learn to be comfortable in new situations. Go for a hike, shop in dog-friendly stores, or meet other dog lovers for a play date. You will be surprised to see how a mental challenge can be just as tiring as an extra-long walk for your dog.

Have a sense of humor.

Life with a dog is never dull! Despite your best efforts they will surprise you with their shenanigans. Over time you will learn their tricks and triggers that cause them to be mischievous, and there will be times that they don’t follow the rules.  Enjoy every day and always turn to laughter before anger or frustration - our time with our beloved dogs is all too short!

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