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Are you looking for ways to increase the bond you have with your dog? Good news! Bonding with your dog doesn’t have to involve any grand gesture. As you’ve likely heard before, the little things often mean the most.
There are many small ways you can bond with your dog every single day. These include:
- Eye contact
- Simple touches
- Focused attention
- Clear communication
- Training sessions
- Teaching a new trick
- Staying calm
- Giving special treats
Read on for more detail about each of these ideas. Here’s to a the dog-human bond!
1. Make Eye Contact
Making eye contact… really? You might not think that something so simple could enhance the bond you have with your dog.
It does matter, however, and it impacts your dog significantly. What’s more, eye contact with your dog also helps you!
When you and your dog ‘lock eyes,’ both of you experience an increase in oxytocin. Oxytocin is also known as ‘the bonding hormone,’ as it’s released when a mother dog looks at her puppy.
2. Touch Your Dog
Just as eye contact increases your bond, so touch works wonders for both you and your dog. Research shows that when you pet your dog, serotonin is released, which results in reduced stress and anxiety. Touch enhances the physical and mental health in dogs and humans.
Simple petting, even for a moment, speaks volumes.
3. Cuddle Your Dog
Cuddling your dog is similar to touch, of course. Rather than just a quick pet and “I love you,” however, cuddling means settling in for a while.
Extended snuggling with your dog allows hormones to be released for a longer period of time. Have you ever been stressed, cuddled your dog on the couch, and then felt much calmer afterwards? Yep, me too.
Not only does this increase the bond you have with your dog, but it improves your mental health. Win-win.
4. Focused Attention
Quality time can be simple; your dog just wants your attention. Spending time together improves your bond, no matter what.
Going to the grocery store, taking a quick ride, walking to the woods, having fun at the park: essentially any co-activity is greatly appreciated by your dog. Not only does your dog enjoy spending time with you, but more time together helps them trust you.
5. Communicate Clearly
As a Canine Behaviorist, this is a topic I regularly speak about in seminars and classes. Your dog can talk to you. Of course he cannot talk to you in human words, but he talks to you in his own way via body language.
Learning your dog’s body language can allow you to understand how he is feeling the majority of the time.
For example, I have clients who approach me on a regular basis who say ‘I just can’t read him, I am not sure what he wants or what he is thinking.’ Through your dog’s body language, you can tell if he is excited, content, frustrated, happy or otherwise. You can learn more about body language here.
6. Train Your Dog
Even if your dog is already trained, reinforcing the training enhances the bond you share with your dog.
Practicing ‘sit’ or ‘stay,’ even if he knows how, will reinforce these commands. He enjoys having a ‘job’ or purpose and will feel accomplished and loved when he’s rewarded for his behavior.
7. Teach A New Trick
This leads us to…trick training! If your dog is already obedience trained, why not teach her a new trick? Teaching her a new party skill is an excellent way spend time together and have fun.
Take a look at the list below for trick ideas:
- Roll over
- Bark on command
- Play dead
8. Praise Your Dog
You want your dog to feel accomplished. Dogs need to feel they have a purpose, and if you don’t give them one, they may invent one (such as barking at the crows in the backyard. Intruder alert!)
Their purpose could be as simple as pleasing you. If your dog is pleasing you, he feels like he’s been productive. Give him plenty of treats and praise to reward good behavior, and they’ll feel close to you.
9. Stay Calm
Dogs can sense your mood. A calm pet parent often means a calm dog.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or mad, your dog can sense it. If that’s the case, cuddling your dog and taking some deep breaths can work wonders.
Your dog will help you through! This also contributes to his sense of purpose.
10. Add “Yummies” To Food
Treats are wonderful, but you want to watch weight gain. One easy way to show love with food? Add some tasty, healthy toppers or mix-ins to your dog’s daily meals.
These additions might include pieces or spoonfuls of:
- Boiled eggs
- Natural cheese
- Plain, cooked pumpkin
- Natural, unsweetened peanut butter
- Plain yogurt
- Freeze-dried chicken, beef, or other meats
Small Acts Mean the Most
As you can see, even the smallest act can become a bonding experience for you and your dog.
Your dog doesn’t ask for material goods; she simply cares about you. The smallest acts of kindness fill the largest space in your dog’s heart.
When it comes down to it, what she cares about most is your time. She loves you, and you are what matters the most.
Written by Amber Drake for Rover.