Pet owners often forget to maintain or look after the bonds they have established with their much-loved dogs. After all, it’s easy to assume that no matter the length of time you spend in the office or the amount of days you leave them at a friend’s house while you’re on vacation, they’ll always greet you as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as ever.
Two professional dog behaviorists aren’t quite convinced. Nicole Ellis, certified dog trainer at Rover and Lorna Winter, director of the U.K Dog Behavior Training Charter, told Newsweek that dog owners should be nurturing the relationships they have with their fur babies in the same way they would their human relationships.
Both behaviorists argue that this is because there are key ways in which dog owners can strengthen the bonds they have built with their dogs, and that not doing so would be a shame.
“Humans and dogs have very similar emotions when it comes to bonding and relationship strengthening,” Winter told Newsweek.
“In deepening the bond you have with your dog, the five love languages that humans feel also resonate strongly with our four-legged friends,” she added.
Apply the 5 Love Languages
The pet standards director went on to share that each of the five love languages: acts of service; receiving gifts; quality time; physical touch; and words of affirmation, can be acted upon to deepen the connection owners share with their dogs.
This is because, according to the director, the real goal behind building a strong bond with a pet dog is to create a relationship based upon trust, consistency and positive interactions.
“To appeal to a dog that’s more inclined towards acts of service, give your dog a little pampering session. Grooming your dog, even if they have short hair, is a soothing and bonding experience. If your dog enjoys it, it’s a clear sign that they trust you. Alternatively, to appeal to a dog who loves receiving gifts or being treated, utilize food rewards and reward-based behavior to bond with your dog,” Winter explained.
“Offer treats and rewards for good behavior, and use positive reinforcement to build trust and a strong connection. Your dog will then associate you with more positive experiences.”
“For canine lovers of physical touch, make sure to cuddle and snuggle your dog to release happy chemicals for you both and further strengthen your bond,” she added.
Winter went on to say that owners should also be spending “quality time” with their dogs, which can occur in the form of helping them learn new tricks and skills, or by exercising. Not only does this stimulate the pups’ minds, but it also strengthens the connection they share with their owners.
“Dogs love learning and aim to impress their teachers. It’s not just for puppies; you can teach an old dog new tricks too. Simultaneously, exercise is crucial for both you and your dog. Whether you’re going for walks or playing fetch together, these activities promote bonding and help your dog recognize how enjoyable your companionship is,” Winter said.
For the fifth love language, words of affirmation, Winter advises dog owners keen to become closer to their dogs to speak comforting and reassuring words to them, especially in their time of need.
“Dogs, especially puppies, need comfort and reassurance. Don’t ignore their needs or leave them to cry it out. Provide love, comfort and attention when your dog seeks it, which will help them trust you and feel secure in your presence,” Winter told Newsweek.
While Ellis did not mention the five love languages or how they could be employed to soften a dog to Newsweek, the Rover trainer did agree that bonding with dogs can happen in a variety of ways.
“Bonding with your dogs can look different for each owner and dog, from cuddling on the couch to joining on adventures together,” Ellis told Newsweek.
The trainer shared that all of the dogs’ feelings and senses could be reached in the owners’ mission to deepen their bond with them. Much like Winter, Ellis says that quality time, for instance, could be had so that bonding occurs in “quiet moments” too, while the owner and dog could also explore and learn together during new walking routes or hikes that mentally stimulate both the human and canine.
Focus on Training
Despite their similar outlooks, Ellis does offer a few different suggestions to Winter when it comes to bonding with a pet dog. Notably, the behaviorist argues that training and the establishment of a stable routine for the dog can really help deepen the connection an owner shares with them. The former, because it can provide dogs with mental enrichment and the latter, because it can provide dogs with a sense of comfort and predictability within the enclaves of their daily lives.
“Training does the obvious of helping us achieve a more well-behaved dog, but it also provides mental enrichment, helps you set a routine together and drastically helps grow your bond. Consider getting into dog sports and you’ll be amazed how much you’ll learn about your dog’s body language and communication style, which will also help grow your bond too,” Ellis said.
Establish a Stable Routine
“Dogs also do really well with routine and knowing expectations. Having a consistent routine will allow your dog to feel comfortable and feel at home,” she added.
It’s important to note that there’s no set timeline for how long it takes to bond with a puppy or dog, especially when the dog is a little more anxious than average and needs more time to open up to new routines and activities.
The time it takes for the bond an owner and dog share to strengthen can vary widely depending on the dog’s personality and past experiences. Both experts say that it’s important to remain patient and allow the dog to bond with their owner at their own, comfortable, pace.