How To Fall In Reciprocated Love With Your New Dog
By: Laura Nativo
Whether you've adopted a bright-eyed puppy or a soulful senior, your new dog is lucky to have found you. Cherish these early days, because the memories you create will be some of your most valued when you think back years from now. Trust is the foundation of every good relationship. The more time you invest in your dog, the deeper your love will grow.
Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind that will help build an unbreakable bond with your best friend.
1. What's in a name?
Everything; help your dog fall in love with their name. Put some delicious treats in a little container (like an empty Altoids tin!) so you have treats on you at all times. Every time you say your dog's name, reward them with a treat the moment they give you eye contact. Help your dog understand that when you say their name, they will be rewarded for paying attention. Focus is the foundation to training.
2. What inspires your dog?
Find out what your dog likes! Experiment with different toys—a tug, a ball, a frisbee, stuffed animals—what does your dog love to play with? Experiment with different treats… what motivates your dog the most to learn? Find games you both enjoy and commit to daily fun playing together.
3. Learn to read your dog.
While you're taking pics of your adorable new friend, perhaps shoot some slo-mo video of them. Watching your dog carefully will help you better understand signs of happiness, calming signals, and even fear or anxiety. The more you can interpret your dog's subtle communication, the better friends you will become.
4. Get fit together.
Dogs need daily physical exercise, especially younger dogs and active breed mixes. Start with a walk or a hike. When your dog has reliable leash skills, you can harness them up to join you rollerblading, skateboarding or riding your bike. If you're sick, or have a physical limitation—think outside the box! When I was recovering from shoulder surgery and couldn't do much exercise, I discovered that my dog loved bubbles, so chasing bubbles became a reward for obedience training and a way to get some exercise in. Ensure your dog has adequate options to exercise daily that are appropriate for their age, personality and any health conditions.
5. Relax together.
Help your dog learn to unwind. Cook a meal together. Watch a movie together. Take a nap together. Take a drive together. Always pay attention to your dog, and nonchalantly reward them for calm, quiet behavior. If your dog has trouble settling down, provide mental enrichment like a snuffle mat, interactive toy, or a safe bone to chew, always while supervised.
6. Play hide and seek.
Teaching your dog to come when called will be one of their most important life skills. Get started by calling your dog's name and running from one room to the next. Reward your dog with a treat every time. Help them realize that good things happen when they come to you. Everyone in the family can play this game together, by spreading out in different rooms and taking turns calling, and rewarding them each time.
7. Be nice even when you think they are naughty.
We can't expect a new dog to comprehend our household rules and boundaries, so be patient! If your dog makes what you consider a mistake, and you feel the need to yell "NO!" or worse… take yourself to the nearest bathroom, shut the door, look yourself in the eye… and feel free to scold yourself. But do not hit, yell, or attempt to dominate, alpha-roll or in any way hurt your dog. Ignore them, and keep a diary of the behavior challenges your dog needs help with. Consider this a reminder of your future dog training goals. The strongest bonds are based on trust and mutual respect… attempting to punish your dog will not only be ineffective, but it will damage the bond you're hoping to build.
8. Be respectful of your new dog's boundaries.
Just like with human relationships, the deepest love takes time to develop. If you saw a beautiful stranger walking down the street, you wouldn't run and put your arms around them. Your dog has a right to his or her own body, and every dog has a different level of spatial comfort with people and other animals. Allow your dog the space to offer affection before you smother them with love, no matter how adorable they are. Children especially need to learn how to safely interact with a dog. As we unfortunately see in the news all too often, unwanted hugs and kisses often don't end well.
Bonding begins the moment your eyes meet, and the first few days and weeks are the most important time to lay a solid and trusting foundation. Remember, every dog is an individual with unique likes, fears and confidence levels. Be patient, especially if he or she is not what you expected. If there's anything that concerns or confuses you about your new dog's behavior, contact a certified professional dog trainer to guide you.
About The Author | Laura Nativo
Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA is a certified professional dog trainer, and passionate advocate for the human-animal bond. Known as The Fairy Dogmother, you may have seen her on The Today Show, Inside Edition, Greatest American Dog, or as the resident pet lifestyle expert for Hallmark Channel's Home & Family. She is the proud dog mom to Preston Casanova, Penelope Supafly & Delilah Jane Sassafras, who are all canine actor, model and therapy dogs. Laura helps dogs and their people learn to better communicate, using modern, rewards-based, scientifically-backed and fun training methods.
Feb 7, 2017