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Ways to bond with your dog, its importance and some games to enhance your relationship
How to make the most out of playtime!
Bonding with my dog? Now is that really necessary? Isn't it a waste of time since animals cannot talk?
Contrary to what some might consider an unnecessary task, relationships with our pets are as important as those with our family members and friends. If our pets are to become welcome, integral parts of our lives, we need to form meaningful relationships with them.
So how do we connect with our dogs, why do we have to and what are some of the things we can do with them?
Why must I bond with my dog?
Connecting with our dogs can seem like a chore after a dreary work day. So how would I try to convince dog owners that creating a nurturing bond with their dogs is important?
With a little commonsensical reasoning.
Bonding builds trust
Just as it does with any relationship, trust between an owner and a dog is something that needs to be nurtured. For a dog to become a functional member of the household, spending time connecting with our dogs is necessary for confidence and assurance to develop mutually.
A good case in point is my West Highland White Terrier, young Cloudy. Basically a very outgoing little dog who loves other dogs and children, I observed that she has many insecurities and some difficulty trusting me (you can guess that this will be when it comes to baths, brushing of teeth and going to the vet). I began a search for activities to get her to trust me and to help us bond.
Connecting with your pet is part of being a responsible dog owner.
I liken this to having children. Parents see bonding with their children as part of their role and responsibility.
When we bring a pet home, many would agree that it is irresponsible to leave it aside in a corner and ignore it. In the way we do with children, we should also find ways to build ties with our pets.There are many ways to do this, which I will go into later.
Bonding with your dog teaches him to relate to his environment and those around him. It all starts with him getting to know his owner. His first understandings of the world he is in revolve mainly around his owner. When he learns to relate positively to his owner, his understanidng of the world around him is also positive.
You will find that a dog who relates well to you will better do so with other people, animals and the environment around him. At Nex, a dog run in the North part of Singapore which I had visited recently, I noticed that the dogs who got along well with other dogs were the ones who showed a certain spark between themselves and their owners and were truly happy.
It makes them a more included member of the family.
Bonding with your dog makes him a more included, functional and therefore important part of the family. Your dog is essentially your fur kid and making time for him will show him that he is an essential family member.
Some dogs feel like such important family members that they feel compelled to tell their owners when something is wrong, running to them whenever they notice one of the children crying or when someone has had a fall.
Things to consider when bonding with our dogs
Bonding with our dogs requires a good balance of love and discipline, and it certainly does not mean allowing our dogs to run roughshod over us. So how would we go about maintaining the balance?
Establish yourself as his pack leader.
You may have heard this before and it will seem trite, but is certainly true. Establish yourself as the dog’s pack leader, someone whom he can and must look to for guidance. Do not allow the dog to be the dominant party in play or in simple matters like going for a walk. By this I mean not to allow him to dominate you in games or tug ferociously at the leash to lead you during walks.
Do things together with your dog.
These can range from the simple things like a daily walk and a simple game of fetch to obedience training and agility classes. It includes a fun day at the beach! Make it a point to include the dog in family activities.
Think about what the dog wants.
This may sound a little profound, but what it really means is not to ignore him when he tries to get your attention by doing silly things like chewing your slippers. He may also try to bring them to you. Destructive behavior on the part of the dog is his way of saying that something is missing and he needs it!
This is when bonding with your dog can help it to redirect its energies to more purposeful pursuits. My dog Cloudy used to be destructive and simply loved the taste of my slippers. I began bringing her for longer daily walks while taking photos for articles. I also bring her to agility parks and playgrounds, and it has helped her to settle down.
All she wanted was to spend a little time with me. Bringing her to these places and doing these activities has helped her to settle down tremendously.
Be calm, consistent and fair with your dog.
It is normal to be irritated with some annoying canine behaviors like barking or jumping on ourselves and others. But how we react to these annoyances can strengthen or break the bond we have with our dogs.
Some people react to a dog’s barking by shouting at them or giving them a huge whack. This will not really eliminate the behavior and causes fear in the dog that will diminish his trust in his owner.
When correcting a dog, do not scold him for jumping on the sofa on one day and forgetting about it the next. The unpredictability lessens his trust in you as a leader.
Be fair. For example, do not punish him for not performing a command that he does not understand, because it turns him off performing it, and you.
Win your dog’s trust.
Show your dog that you are always looking out for his best interests. Getting a dog to love you is very different from getting him to trust you. Dogs love us all, but for them to understand that we mean the best for them can be quite a task. Cloudy, for example,is a sweet, loving dog by all accounts, but it took her a lot of time to trust me enough to allow me to brush her teeth or give her a bath willingly.
And all that trust that has been built would be ruined by any inconsistency or unfairness on my part.
Do not ignore your dog when he reacts to what he perceives to be a threat. Whether it is real or not, it gives him discomfort and must be addressed. Step in and assure him of the fact that it is not, and take necessary action when it is. This increases his trust and allows him to bond with you.
Note that this is not the same as mollycoddling your dog and doing practically everything for him, which would indeed spoil him. It is stepping in and giving assurance when it is necessary.
Bonding games you can play with your dog
These are some of the simple and fun things that you and your dog can do together.
Hide and seek
This is a fun game kids and dogs can play together. Get a child to hide a toy, first showing the dog who has it. Get the child to go away, and let the dog go about searching for him for the treat. It is a fun activity for the dog and the family.
Find the treat
As i write this article, I am playing this game with Cloudy and taking a photo of it as well. Show the dog a treat and hide it under a cushion with instructions to “seek”. He will have fun sniffing around for the treat and gulping it down when it is found.
This is a fun and relatively simple bonding activity you can play with your dog. Give him something to hold, and get him to drop it in exchange for a treat.
Throwing something and getting your dog to bring it back to you is a simple way of bonding with your dog.
Throw the toy as far as you can and get your dog to pounce on it. Run away from him and encourage him to chase you, If he gives the toy to you, give him a treat. Do this until he understands that his job is to release the toy to you.
The dog will take time to understand that he has to push things along with his nose. When he picks it up, get more people to join in the game! It does not matter who wins, just connect with the dog!
Fun places to bring your dog to
Here are some fun places to bring your dog to if you are thinking of spending a family day, dogs included.
Dog runs give dogs the chance to socialize with other people and dogs. An apt way for dog and owner to spend time together.
Dogs are natural swimmers and love water play. Let him shake it out at the beach!
Doggie style cafes
Some cafes are styled in such a way that dogs are allowed as part of the clientele. Have a meal there with your dog!
These are great places to bring your dog and a fun way to spend time with your family. Play soccer with him or a game of fetch while having a picnic.
There are many ways to bond with your dog and include them in family activities. Enjoy these fun suggestions!
Copyright Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin All RIghts Reserved
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