Some dogs treat every person they meet like a long-lost friend. Others need a bit more convincing. If you have recently welcomed a new canine into your home, you may be wondering how to begin forging a lifetime bond like the ones you see in dog food commercials. The truth is, if you want your dog to like you, they must first learn to trust you. Once you prove you have your pup’s back, like, love, and forever friendship will follow close behind!
Whether you have purchased a pup, adopted a rescue dog, or taken in a stray pooch, there is always a bit of an adjustment period. The life your dog previously knew – for better or worse – has been turned upside down. They all deal with this stress differently. Some may cling to you instantly as a way to cope with their fears, while others make you prove yourself worthy of their trust.
You can do this by respecting their needs and following these tips:
Give Them Space
As much as you want to shower your dog with attention, some pups need time to get used to their new surroundings. Try creating a little canine clubhouse within your home, complete with all the doggy essentials. Set up a cozy bed, food and water bowls, and a few toys or chews. Kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms are great for this because they tend to have hard flooring for easy clean-up.
As tempting as it is, resist the urge to force them out of their comfort zone. If you want your new dog to like you, it is vital to allow them the time and space to come around to you on their own.
Depending on how nervous they are, some dogs may take days, weeks or even months to feel safe in a new home. They may come out, peak at you, and dart right back to their clubhouse. This is fine! Giving a nervous dog the choice to seek out attention or spend time alone shows them you respect their needs.
Be Their Protector
Is your new dog nervous around men, children, or other dogs? Taking charge when these encounters occur will show your pup you have their back. If you notice your pooch displaying signs of anxiety – head down, flat ears, tail between legs, hunched posture – step in.
You can do this by physically coming between your dog and the source of their stress, or you can speak up on their behalf. If a person is not polite enough to ask before petting a strange dog, say something. Many of us put our dogs through stressful encounters so as not to seem rude.
Your protection will do more than get your dog to like you, it will prove you understand what they need from you. This is an important step in earning any dog’s trust.
Feed Your Dog
I’m not talking about providing adequate nutrition. That’s a topic for another post. In this case, I mean new dog owners should literally hand-feed their pups. Many dog trainers, including those at the American Kennel Club (AKC), believe this simple process can build trust and strengthen the human-animal bond.
When puppies first arrive in the world, they immediately begin their search for food. Barring tragic circumstances, they find a reliable source of nourishment in their mother, the first creature they learn to love and trust.
Not only does food represent safety and comfort, hand feeding helps desensitize your pooch to your presence. Depending on how fearful/shy/anxious they are, you may or may not be able to convince them to take food directly from you.
Follow these steps, and soon your new pup will be “eating from your hand”:
- Allow your dog to eat in his or her “clubhouse” or “safe space” until they begin venturing out on their own and become acclimated to your home.
- Begin offering high-reward snacks such as bits of cooked chicken breast or high-quality soft-baked treats.
- Your dog may march right over and take it from your hand. If not, toss it as close as necessary for them to take it.
- Your dog will gradually edge closer and closer to you. Repeat the process daily until your pooch is confidently eating directly from your hand.
- Speak softly and verbally reward your pup for their bravery.
- As their trust increases, begin stroking your dog gently as he eats.
- Once you reach this point, maintain your bond by hand-feeding bits of kibble at meal times several times a week.
Learn What They Love
Some dogs are food-motivated, others are gaga for toys, and many simply love to be showered with attention. Get to know what drives your dog. For example, if he or she is at their happiest during your daily walk, use this time to bond. Stop on a park bench to sit and enjoy the scenery together. Offer some treats and stroke your dog’s ears.
If your pooch loves to play fetch, use the game as a reward for making progress with training and socialization. Doing more of what your dog loves will go a long way towards making your dog love you!
If you set aside one hour a day to train, walk, or play with your dog, make sure you are truly present during that time. Your dog can sense when your heart and mind are elsewhere, and they will resent you for it. Set aside your work troubles and relationship woes and throw yourself into doggy time 100%. You’ll score major points as you work on getting your dog to like you AND you may even have a little fun yourself!
Unless you own a farm, your career probably doesn’t include a canine assistant. However, several dog sports such as agility, nose work, and dock diving utilize your pup’s natural gifts to exercise their bodies and minds. You can choose to simply dabble in canine sports or turn it into a weekly competitive hobby.
These activities are fun and healthy for both you and your dog. Better yet, they are among the best methods of bonding with your pup.
Dogs love to go for walks. They enjoy the physical exercise and with noses 40 times more powerful than our own, exploring the outdoors also provides a smorgasbord of sensory stimulation. Keep this in mind when you walk together.
Allow your dog to lead the way from time to time, mix up your route, and take time to stop and smell the roses. Try thinking like a dog and focus on your own senses as you walk. We could all benefit from breathing in the fresh air and listening to the birds sing!
Wild dogs are pack animals who sleep close together in their dens. Domestic dogs retain the desire to sleep near their pack members, and may suffer anxiety if kept apart. Even if you have a strict “No Dogs on the Bed” policy, you can still follow this tip by placing a dog bed in your room. Just being near you and breathing in your scent will help comfort your pooch through the night.
Remember: as much as you want your dog to be happy and feel safe, never force them to leave their comfort zone until they are ready!
Above All Else, Have FUN!
Sometimes we get caught up in the stress that comes along with having a new dog and forget to enjoy the process. We focus on training and get frustrated when it doesn’t go as planned. If you find this happening to you, take a step back and think about what really matters.
Go for a hike, head to the beach, give your pooch a soothing bath, or cruise the Starbucks drive thru for a Puppuccino. In other words, choose activities that offer a break from the stress of training and allow you to make lasting memories.
Never forget the power of play. Grab a favorite Tug Toy and roughhouse for a bit. Choose a toy from BARK’s Destroyer’s Club line and let your pup go wild tearing out the stuffing and searching for hidden bonus toys inside. Play tag, hide & seek, or simply chase each other around the yard.
Playing together builds focus and enthusiasm, strengthens your relationship, and helps get your dog to like you and trust you. Best of all, it shows your dog you know how to have fun, and that you are someone they want to be with.
Got a dog that loves to play? Bribe them into loving you with a BarkBox! Each month, your dog will receive 2 original toys, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and one mouth-watering chew. Every box has a fun surprise theme that changes monthly and is delivered directly to your door so you and your pooch can open it together. Let the bonding begin!