We always joke that my husband is our dog’s favorite person. He just might be, and with good reason. My husband is the one who takes Hattie for a walk every day. They spend quality time together. On days when he cannot take her for a walk, she looks at him with sad eyes, hoping her dejected expression may convince him to take her, even for an abbreviated walk (they usually do several miles). Most of the time, it works.
Walking your dog is a great way to bond with him or her. But walking your dog isn’t the only way to bond with your pet. Below are five ideas on how to bond with your pet, and the science behind why these methods work.
- Spend time together. This is probably the easiest one, but it can be hard to remember to do it in the hustle of day-to-day life. My husband excels in this area, too. He’s quite the dog whisperer when he swoops our golden retriever up into his lap and holds her like a baby while petting her. She loves this cuddle time. And it is good for them both! Not only does petting an eager pup feel good (to you and your dog), it can also lower the stress hormone, cortisol. Physical contact such as petting has been shown to lower stress in shelter dogs, as measured by reductions in heart rate and cortisol. According to a University of Missouri–Columbia study, petting a dog for just 15 minutes can release serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin in humans – all feel-good hormones.
- Communicate clearly. Be consistent in your commands. Pets pay attention to visual cues more than vocal cues, so making sure your body language conveys your expectations is important. Dogs love to be spoken to with kindness and warmth and will want to continue behaviors for which you praise them. PetMD’s article, Training Tips to Strengthen Your Bond With Your Dog, recommends praising your dog throughout the day, for any correct behaviors they exhibit. Start by giving praise for going potty in the correct spot, waiting patiently while you fill his food bowl, and not barking at a neighbor. Once it becomes a habit to praise your dog for correct behaviors, it will become second nature, and you’re bound to see some positive changes in behavior. When you and your dog or cat are on the same page, there is a better understanding between you and you’ll feel a closer bond.
- Train your pet. Speaking of praise, training your pet is a great bonding experience and can help you and your pet to get to know each other better. By enrolling your puppy in obedience classes, he will have the opportunity to learn from others in a group setting. Have an older dog? Teach him some new tricks! Dogs thrive on mental stimulation, and continuing education can encourage your dog to keep learning new things. Giving a high five and rolling over are two fun tricks that your dog will enjoy showing off for company.
- Be playful. In her book, Play Together, Stay Together, Karen B. London, Ph.D. and certified professional dog trainer, points out that playing games and having fun can strengthen your bond with your pet. Just as parents who play with their children have a unique bond, so do pet parents and their four-legged kids. Playing with your dog or cat can help you learn his likes and dislikes and what scares and excites him. Learn cues that mean your dog or cat needs some downtime and cues that mean he is ready to play. By knowing your pet’s preferences, you can be sure to further strengthen your relationship with your pet, as your pet learns to trust you.
- Take care of their health. When your dog or cat is sick or injured, it is important to seek help quickly. Acknowledging the fact that your pet doesn’t feel good goes a long way in establishing a trusting relationship between the two of you. Enrolling in pet insurance can help owners put their pet’s healthcare needs first by shouldering some of the financial burden associated with caring for a pet. Wellness Plans can help with the cost of routine care for your pet, including vaccinations, routine testing, wellness prevention products (heartworm, flea, and tick), dental cleaning, spaying/neutering, and microchipping. In addition, PetPartners offers exam coverage for reimbursement for sick visit exam fees and office visit charges.
Try picking one of our suggestions to focus on this week! Bonding with your pet can be as easy as getting down on the floor with him while you’re watching tv or as challenging as choosing a new trick to teach your pet. Whatever you choose, know that just that extra bit of attention you give your pet can go a long way in boosting both of your moods!