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Which dog owner doesn’t want that: A four-legged friend who obeys well, is always happy, and faithfully accompanies him through life – a really good buddy. It always seems so easy in film and television, the dog anticipates every wish of its master or mistress and is always there when it is needed. Unfortunately, some dog owners quickly realize in real life that it’s not always that easy – because a close and trusting bond between dog and human takes time to grow. This article provides tips on how to develop such a close bond with your dog.

Relationship or attachment – isn’t that the same thing?

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While the term “relationship” only describes the relationship in which humans and dogs stand to each other – such as “can opener to food processor”, “leash holder to collar wearer” or “command giver to command executor” – the term “bond” is defined as close , intense and above all emotional bond that develops between individuals.

Since both humans and dogs are social beings, attachment research ascribes an innate need for emotional attachments to other social beings to both of them. Over the millennia, the very similar social structure of humans and dogs has meant that we understand each other so well and that dogs recognize humans as “pack partners” just as much as other four-legged friends. Some researchers even claim that humans have become the most important social partner for most dogs.

How do I recognize a good bond with my dog?

If your dog trusts you and follows you wherever possible, it will bond with you and feel safe and secure in your presence.

When can I bond with the dog?

Puppies are born “squatters” and are absolutely helpless in the first few weeks of life. They cannot survive without their mother, a wet nurse, or someone who regularly feeds cares for, and warms them. The development of a close bond with the mother dog begins immediately after birth. In the course of the first few weeks of life, further bonds are formed, for example with siblings, with the breeder and his family or with the keepers in the animal shelter who look after the puppies.

Between the fourth and eighth week of life, one speaks of the imprinting phase, in which a puppy gets to know its immediate environment and should already learn that there are many other creatures and things in the world besides the siblings, the mother and the whelping box. A good “nursery” with varied encounters and many different activities is an important prerequisite for small dogs to develop healthily and confidently.

From the ninth to the fourteenth week of life, the dog then goes through the so-called socialization phase, and during this time it is particularly important to give it numerous different impressions and experiences. If the little dog finds a new home in this phase, it is particularly easy to form a good and close bond with its new people. In order to find his way in the new home and with his new caregivers, the little one now needs a lot of patient encouragement, love, and sensitive treatment in order to quickly gain trust and to feel safe.

But even an older dog, for example from an animal shelter, can become attached to a new person or a new family – such dogs are often particularly affectionate once they have gained trust.

How long does it take for a dog to build trust?

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This can vary greatly from person to person and also depends on what your dog has experienced so far – a four-legged friend, for example, whose trust in a person has already been disappointed, will certainly need longer to bond again than a happy puppy who has been with you you move in

Tips for building a close bond with your dog

The most important prerequisite for building a bond with a dog is trust! In the first few hours and days in the new home, the dog has to learn that it can always rely on its two-legged friend. It is therefore particularly important to spend a lot of time with him and to show him patiently and love how his daily routine will be from now on and which rules will apply.

Dogs usually bond most closely with the person who spends most of their time with and cares for them. In the first few days, the dog’s contact should therefore be limited to its new family – friends and acquaintances can also get to know the new addition later. Intensive occupation with the four-legged friend, stroking and cuddling, playing together, and above all a lot of talking should be on the schedule in these first days.

A puppy will initially need 24-hour care and should not be left completely alone at night. And even an older dog must have particularly close contact with its new people in the first few days and weeks. Handing out food is a good way to deepen bonding and build trust. If there is a garden, long walks are not necessary at first. It is enough if the dog can explore and get to know its new surroundings. A regular daily routine helps to give the four-legged friend security – regular feeding and resting times are quickly remembered.

Once the dog has settled in, going for walks and activities in changing surroundings promotes bonding. But also the training of exercises for dog training or general care measures such as brushing and currying are beneficial in order to be able to build and deepen the bond with the dog. If the dog becomes insecure or even anxious in a new environment or an unfamiliar situation, it helps him the most if his human reacts calmly and confidently and shows him that he has nothing to fear.

Dog sports practiced together, such as agility or dog dancing, also have a particularly positive effect on bonding – of course always adapted to the physical capabilities of the four-legged friend. Having fun should be more important for both team members than the dogged fight for success or trophies.

How can I strengthen the bond with my dog?

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Activities that promote bonding include a lot of physical contact such as petting and cuddling, joint activities such as hiking, playing, or dog sports, but also hand-feeding, talking to the dog in a friendly manner, and positive reinforcement of behaviors that you find good. Scolding and punishments, on the other hand, destroy trust and damage the bond.

The typical mistakes in bonding

A widespread misconception is that dog bonds particularly closely to its owner if the owner allows it everything and doesn’t set any limits. The exact opposite is the case because dogs need clear rules (especially in training) to have security. Undecided back and forth, where things are allowed one day and forbidden the next, also unsettles the four-legged friend very much – and this shows in their behavior. Such a “ruleless” dog soon either develops into a nervous, anxious bundle of nerves or will eventually try to take control of the action itself and assume the position of pack leader.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog – the fur nose can’t know at first what her new human expects from her. Scolding or even punishing unwanted behavior is useless, on the contrary, it only destroys the thin bond of trust that is just about to form. In order to be able to bond with the dog, it is much more effective to always positively encourage your four-legged friend when he is doing something right. For example, if he nibbles the carpet, offer him a dog toy with a clear request to play with and give him plenty of praise if he continues to chew on it. If you cannot supervise the dog for a short time, you should limit its radius of action so that it cannot do anything undesirable. A puppy playpen or closed room doors, for example, do a good job here.

It is very important for humans to know how their four-legged friends can communicate, i.e. to speak and understand their “language”, in order to be able to deal with dogs properly and promote bonding. Otherwise, misunderstandings will quickly arise, and valuable trust and security will be lost as a result. On the other hand, a person who can confidently, consistently, and above all lovingly explain to their four-legged friend what they are allowed to do and what they should not do is a pack leader who does not need to be questioned.

Why doesn’t my dog ​​trust me?

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Do you set clear rules and boundaries for your four-legged friend, and are you confident and consistent in your behavior towards him? Only then will the dog feel safe with you and can trust you to make the right decisions for both of you.

This is what characterizes a good bond between human and dog

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A dog that trusts its humans and has built up a close emotional bond with them is usually strongly oriented towards what the two-legged friend is doing at the moment. If possible, he stays close to his people and shows no desire to explore the world on his own, but only together. In unfamiliar or tricky situations, he seeks protection and support from his people and does not panic or throw himself into danger.

He happily carries out well-rehearsed commands because he has learned that his master or mistress is then satisfied with him. Often the communication even works without many words, because the dog simply knows what is expected of him. He knows the body language, facial expressions, and gestures of his human and knows how to correctly interpret the nuances in his voice.

If clear rules determine the daily routine, the dog also knows when it is time, for example, to stay alone for a while until his beloved two-legged friend reliably comes back to him. So he will lie relaxed in his place and wait and does not have to bark in panic for hours or trash the apartment because he feels safe and secure.