Whether you just brought home a new puppy or you’re just looking to hang out with your dog of many years, pretty much every dog parent wants to bond with their dog. But sometimes it can be hard to come up with new ways to spend time together, especially if you’ve been with your dog for a while. Here are 19 ideas for ways to bond with your dog, from giving them bully sticks to taking them on trips:
When it comes to love languages, every dog absolutely loves physical touch. Petting your dog every day is very important for creating and maintaining a bond and reassuring them that you love them. Many dogs have their own personal quirks about how they like to be petted, so get to know what they like and dislike. For example, some dogs like very vigorous belly rubs, while others prefer a slow and gentle chin scratch. A dog’s preferences can also vary by mood, so one day they might want gentle pats and the next day they want a thorough scritchy-scratch.
Your relationship with your dog will be immeasurably improved if you can get them to master basic commands such as sit, lie down, stay, come, and down. You should start with these basic commands as soon as your dog comes to live with you, as young puppies are easier to train than adult dogs. A fast and eager response when you give a command is a sign of a strong bond, while a dog who constantly ignores you is probably not very bonded to you.
Once you have mastered the basics, you can move onto more complicated tricks that require more effort. This is a great way to engage very smart dogs who need a lot of challenges to stop them from becoming bored. If you’re getting tired of teaching commands, you can explore other kinds of tricks, such as setting up an at-home agility course or doing scavenger hunts with your dog. Continually training your dog will keep them mentally sharp and fend off boredom, which lessens destructive behaviors while strengthening your bond. Remember to continually refresh basic commands as well, just to keep them fresh in your dog’s mind.
Speaking of training, taking obedience or agility classes together is a phenomenal way to bond with your dog. Not only does it allow you to spend quality time together, it also mentally stimulates your dog and teaches them new skills. See if there are any local places that offer obedience or training classes that you can take with your dog. FYI: If your dog is still a puppy, you might need to wait a little bit until they are mature enough for obedience classes. Most dogs are ready around the five- to eight-month mark.
Toys are another excellent way to mentally stimulate your dog and spend quality time together. Choose a variety of toys so that you can rotate through them without your dog becoming bored. Make sure to select toys of the appropriate size: small toys for small dogs and large toys for large dogs. If your dog is more destructive and tends to rip up toys quickly, look for more durable designs that will hold up better to wear and tear. Replacing high quality toys frequently can get expensive fast.
If you have a high energy dog, then exercising with them is a great idea. As long as they are trained properly, dogs can accompany you on some select activities such as hiking and running. Not only will this burn off your dog’s excess energy and make them easier to manage at home, it will also allow you to fit your workout in while spending quality time with your dog. It’s a win-win-win situation for both of you!
Petting isn’t the only way to strengthen your bond through physical touch — grooming is another fantastic option. You might need to work up to it slowly because being brushed is not a natural activity for dogs and some of them may be kind of skittish at first. Take things slowly and get them used to being touched with the brush before you start raking it all over their coat. Once they get acclimated to it, they will look forward to their daily brushing (and you will appreciate the reduced shedding).
Whenever you flop on the couch to watch TV or read a book, invite your dog to join you for some quality cuddle time. Dogs are happy just to spend time doing nothing with you, so if you’re already going to be chilling on your couch, then your dog would absolutely love to join you for some low key bonding time. If you are worried about them destroying the furniture upholstery, put down an old blanket or sheet before they hop up to protect the fabric.
Changing your dog’s food too much can upset their stomachs, but feeding the same thing every day for months on end can make them become bored with their food. To add some variety, incorporate healthy additions into their kibble, such as some crunchy fresh vegetables or pureed pumpkin. These will make their food more flavorful and interesting without adding too many calories or upsetting their stomach. Just remember to always check each individual produce item before giving it to your dog, since some of them (such as grapes) are highly toxic.
Giving your dogs healthy treats is another great way to show how much you love them. However, you need to be careful with what types of treats you give them, as well as how many. It’s all too easy to overfeed treats to your dog, accidentally causing weight gain. Choose healthy, long-lasting treats such as antlers for dogs to make the most of their treats. If you’re not sure what treats your dog likes, consider getting a dog treat sample box so they try a lot at once without having to commit to a full-size package.
Dogs thrive on consistency, which is why it is important to create a daily and weekly routine for them. You should have a morning routine for when you all wake up, and an evening routine for when you go to bed. Try to do things at roughly the same time each day to help give your dog a sense of structure. Too many changes at once will make them anxious and out of sorts, so make a special point to stick to your routine when your dog is experiencing other changes, such as moving houses or getting a medical procedure done.
That being said, dogs need to be mentally stimulated in order to remain happy and bonded with their human. A bored dog is often a destructive dog, so make sure that you are keeping your dog mentally engaged in a variety of ways. This can mean teaching them a new command, giving them a puzzle toy, or playing a new game with them. Adding variety within the structure of the routine will give your dog the healthy balance they need to thrive.
Traveling is one of the best ways to bond with others, including dogs, so if your dog loves to leave the house, then take them exploring with you. This can be as simple as taking them to run an errand at a pet-friendly store or doing your weekend hike at a new dog park. If you want to get more involved, consider taking a day trip with just you and your dog to check out new places together.
Not every dog enjoys traveling, but if yours does, consider taking them with you on your trip rather than boarding them at a kennel or leaving them at home with a pet sitter. It’s easier to bring a dog on a road trip (make sure to kennel them to keep them safe in the car) but you can fly with your dog as well. Make sure that your lodging allows pets, as many hotels and rentals don’t allow dogs inside the rooms, or have special rooms dedicated to pet owners that have to be reserved in advance.
Dogs may not be able to talk, but they do communicate through body language. As you observe them over time, you will learn to distinguish your dog’s unique likes and dislikes and can use that knowledge to make adjustments accordingly. Not all dogs are created equal, so one of your dogs may love something that the other dog absolutely hates. Make a mental note of your dog’s preferences and cut back on things that they don’t like. You won’t be able to avoid everything (few dogs love baths, for instance!), but you can cut down on optional things that your dog just isn’t into.
On the topic of learning to read your dog’s body language, educating yourself about dogs’ behavior is one of the best things that you can do to enhance your bonding time. This is especially important if you are new to owning a dog or if it’s been a while since you have refreshed your knowledge. Take some of your free time to read up on the latest findings on dog behavior and how humans can learn about their dogs through it. You might be surprised at what fun facts you discover.
Many of the gestures that humans use to communicate affection to each other actually come across as dominant and aggressive behavior to dogs. For example, dogs often don’t like being patted on the head or being hugged because they cannot move away. This is why dogs place a paw on top of each other to assert dominance when playing. They also lick each other to show submission, so don’t demand kisses. Let your dog give them if they want to. Try not to lean over a dog either, which might intimidate them and make them withdraw.
It’s instinctual to punish dogs for bad behavior, but this can actually backfire if your dog learns to associate acting out with getting attention from you (even if that attention is negative, in the form of scolding or yelling at them). Instead, it’s better to ignore bad behavior as much as possible and reward good behavior with praise and treats. Most dogs want to please their humans, so they will focus on performing the good behavior that gets them attention, while cutting back on the bad behavior that gets ignored.
Spending a ton of time with your dog is a great way to bond, but you also want to make sure that you are giving your dog their space as well. Some dogs get cranky if they don’t get enough alone time, while others actually develop separation anxiety to the point where they don’t know how to be left on their own. Don’t be afraid to leave your dog to their own devices for a little while to help them recharge and learn how to be alone.
If you’re ready to bond with your dog even more, then consider getting them a dog treat subscription box from Best Bully Sticks. We offer monthly subscriptions to our most popular treats in three-month increments, so you can switch them up once a quarter if you wish. Both you and your dog will love never having to worry about keeping healthy treats on hand again. They’ll just show up to your door like clockwork!
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