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10 ways to build a bond with your puppy

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
10 ways to build a bond with your puppy

Establishing a healthy bond from the start will ensure a meaningful friendship that lasts a lifetime.

Forging a healthy bond with a new puppy is a fun and enriching journey. Here are are some simple ways to weave strong threads of friendship with your new friend.

1. Start slow

Start by giving the puppy the opportunity to come over and investigate you. Allow her to smell you and get comfortable with your presence; this helps her understand you are not a threat and are respectful of her space.

She’ll appreciate not being overwhelmed by hugs and cuddles, and having the chance to check you out before you touch her.

2. Interact gently

Once your new friend has sniffed you and exhibited signs of being relaxed around you, begin the interaction. Start by calling her to you in a calm, happy voice, and tell her what a good dog she is as soon as she shows interest in you.

When she comes to you, offer her a treat or pet her on the chest. Once you have met and become comfortable with each other, pull out a toy and engage her in some play. This will establish that you are a respectful friend she can trust and have fun with.

3. Bring her home!

Bringing your puppy home is when the fun really begins, since most of the bonding will occur once she is a member of your family.

The most important steps to building a strong connection will involve the seemingly small, insignificant things you do for your pup every single day. By feeding her, walking her, taking her outside to potty, training her and playing with her, you’ll teach her that you are the source of all the good things in her life.

4. Create a structured feeding time

When it’s feeding time, engage your puppy before she gets to eat. Have her sit and wait while you prepare her meal, then ask her to lie down and wait as you set the food in front of her. Give her a release command to signify she may eat, and do not bother her until she is finished.

This exercise teaches her to respect her role in the family while building trust during a structured routine. She also learns that you will not create stress or take her food once you’ve given it to her.

This level of trust is important when building a bond between yourself and your pup. If she believes she has to defend her food or eat it quickly before you take it away, you connection will be negatively impacted.

5. Train positively

Training is one of the best ways to establish a strong bond between you and your puppy – as long as it is built on a foundation of communication, trust and understanding. Working with your dog and teaching her various obedience commands helps you learn to communicate effectively with each other, and to trust one another.

Dogs want to make their owners happy, so by working together and communicating effectively, you fulfill this need-to-please desire. Always use gentle, positive, reward-based training.

6. Play

Play is another major factor in bond-building. Games like fetch, tug-of-war, chase and “find it” will strengthen your connection by making you the focus of your puppy’s happiness and excitement. Don’t be afraid to goof around and laugh; she’ll appreciate the positive energy coming from you!

7. Give her plenty of affection

Touch and one-on-one quiet time are among the most powerful bonding tools we can use, especially for pups that enjoy cuddling on the couch or lying by your side while being stroked.

Dogs communicate through touch just as they do with body language. Use petting, massages and ear scratches to share mutual affection with your furry friend. Watch for cues to ensure your puppy fully enjoys this sort of attention; stress can be counterproductive to bond-building.

8. Spend time together

The little things in life can strengthen the connection between you and your dog, so consider taking her with you to run errands, if weather permits. Dogs always benefit from extra time out of the house, with you. If you have some gardening or other outdoor work to do, give her something healthy to chew on so she can hang out with you while you work.

9.  Exercise

Once she reaches physical maturity at around two years of age, your puppy can make the perfect exercise partner, and doing these fun activities together will strengthen your friendship. Many dogs make excellent running or jogging partners (keep in mind that strenuous activities are not suitable for young puppies). This form of exercise is a great structured activity that relieves boredom, releases energy and gives your dog a job to do. When she’s old enough, consider a variety of activities such as hiking, cycling, walking, swimming, soccer and skijoring. Your dog will feel closer to you when she’s included in your exercise routines.

10. Appreciate her companionship

Last but not least, remember to take time every day to appreciate and love your pup for all the joy and love she adds to your life. Sharing mutual love and respect is the secret to a powerful connection that will last a lifetime!

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Caitlin "Angel" Leandres is a dog nutritionist, trainer and blogger at K9 Instinct from Ontario, Canada. She spends a lot of time hiking with her German Shepherd, Hunter, and also competes in various dog sports such as Schutzhund/IPO, PSA, competitive obedience and lure coursing. Angel and Hunter also volunteer their time as a Wildlife Control K9 team in Ontario.