The deep bond that grows between humans and canines has earned dogs the label “man’s best friend.” This bond is a byproduct of sharing a home, offering care and affection, establishing the chain of command, playful interaction, and love. It isn’t automatic, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted; a loyal, loving relationship doesn’t just benefit from these things, it requires them.
As with human relationships, your bond with your puppy has to be fostered. Here are some tips for ensuring you and your furry new companion become best buds:
1. Meet your puppy’s basic needs. Bonding starts with trust, and your puppy quickly figures out you’re the provider. She has to know she can count on you for healthy dog food, fresh water, bathroom access, toys, fresh air, exercise, and everything else she needs.
2. Socialize your puppy. She has to be handled and shown affection and she has to interact with as many people and other dogs as possible. This is sometimes easy, but it can also be difficult, depending on your puppy’s breed and personality. A canine behaviorist can help, as can enrolling your pet in a puppy daycare or similar program. If your puppy isn’t properly socialized, it can stunt emotional development and interfere with her ability to bond.
3. Stimulate your puppy. Boredom also stunts emotional development and quickly turns into misbehavior that stresses your relationship. All dogs require plenty of physical and mental stimulation from exercise, play, a rotating collection of toys, and attentive company.
4. Play with your puppy. Get down to her level on the floor from time to time. Run with her, roll with her, and play fetch and other games together. Spend time every day petting her, talking to her, and interacting with her in fun and loving ways. Brush or comb her coat, too, as grooming is an important bonding activity.
5. Train your puppy to follow commands like sit, stay, come, down, and speak. Dogs need a hierarchy, and establishing yourself as boss sets the foundation for a healthy relationship. The training process itself—assuming it’s done appropriately—also builds your bond. Use positive reinforcement, offering praise, physical affection, and treats to reward good behaviors. If your puppy does something wrong, gently correct her and reward her for doing the right thing; never yell at, hurt, or punish your puppy. She doesn’t learn that way and it interferes with bonding.
6. Spend time one-on-one with your puppy. Family activities are fun, as is heading out with all your dogs, but the deepest bonding occurs during individual interactions. Arrange occasions when your puppy won’t have to divide her attention between multiple people. Also, if you have other pets, make sure you and your puppy spend time together and play without them around sometimes.