Bonding With Your Dog
By Cara Lederman
Studies have shown that dogs become severely depressed in shelters after just a few weeks of being there—and some dogs are there for much longer. Luckily, most adopted dogs will happily adjust quickly to their new family and home. However, there are some dogs who need a little extra help to feel comfortable and bond with the other animals and humans in their new household.
Establish Your Status as Leader
To start, help your dog understand you are the leader. Dogs who know who their leader is don’t have to take the leadership role themselves, making them feel more confident and relaxed. Leadership exercises include eating before you feed your dog, walking through doorways first and not allowing your dog on the couch or your bed.
Enroll in a Fun Class
Many people will enroll in a group basic obedience class with their newly adopted dogs. While this benefits most, sometimes it isn’t enough for dogs who haven’t bonded with their handlers yet. If you have a dog like this, consider enrolling in a trick class. Trick classes are generally lighter, more positive than obedience classes and a lot of fun for the dogs and handlers.
Agility is another type of class to consider. Agility classes really help shy or fearful dogs gain confidence and bond with their handlers. There are many other fun adventures or game-style classes for dogs that are worth looking into, such as nose work, Flyball, disc and dock-diving.
While basic obedience is important for every dog to know, it may be helpful to start with something that’s just for fun first. Then, enroll in a group class for obedience or consult with a dog trainer in a private lesson.
Clear communication is essential, especially when working with a shy dog. For example, many people tell their dogs, “off,” when the dog is on the couch, but fail to tell her what they want her to do instead. This creates a confused and insecure dog who won’t rely on her owner’s direction.
It’s important to consult with a professional dog trainer to make sure your technique is correct. Only use positive techniques when working to bond with a dog. Reward your dog when she does something good by petting her with long and slow strokes and give her a great food treat or chew toy. You can also consider learning about pet massage for your dog.
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Exercise with Your Dog
Lastly, exercising your dog on a daily basis greatly helps her bond with you. You can go for a walk or hike, or play fetch in your backyard. Always have a positive attitude and give your dog clear and loving guidance. If, after a few weeks of practicing these techniques and you’re still not seeing the results you want, don’t hesitate to contact a local dog trainer for more tips on bonding with your newly adopted dog.
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