Buying a puppy is an exciting time but can be nerve-wracking as well.
How quickly will they take to toilet training? Are they healthy? Will they bond with you?
I’ve been through the pre-puppy jitters and you can’t control absolutely everything but you can put things in place to give yourself the best chance to build a strong bond with them. One of the most important things for you and your new puppy is making sure you build a trusting and loving relationship.
When your dog trusts you it makes everything a lot easier. They’re more likely to try harder when you train them because they want to please you and they’re more likely to accept vet handling with strangers if they trust you’ll never let anything bad happen to them. Trust is such an important aspect of dog ownership and is the foundation for raising a happy and confident dog.
Table of Contents
1. Spend quality time with them
You might live in the same house as your dog but have you ever thought about how much one-on-one time you have with them? Quality time doesn’t just mean being around them, it means interacting with them and giving them your full and undivided attention. Puppies are new and novel, the first few days are often spent with more attention than they know what to do with.
They’re adorable little bundles of fluff so of course, they get extra attention.
It’s important to be consistent with the time they get so they don’t get lots of attention at first and then when it drops off as they get older they’re more likely to act out. Once you develop a bond through cuddles and stroking them, you should maintain this kind of contact to make sure it remains strong.
2. Bonding through training
Training is important for any puppy when it comes to developing into a well-rounded adult. From toilet training to appropriate play, where to sleep, and how to play without using their teeth, puppies have a lot to learn when it comes to growing up. Skills like walking on lead don’t come naturally to them.
First, a puppy has to get used to wearing a collar or harness which is already a big ask for them. Then, when we attach a lead for the first time we tend to follow them around with it to make sure they have a good, positive experience. Often we end up teaching our puppies undesired behaviors like pulling on the leash.
They learn that if they want to walk in a direction, they just need to pull and we follow.
Not only is training important to help your puppy understand what is expected of them and what is the appropriate way to behave but training is also a great way to build your relationship with your dog. Every up-to-date and scientifically accurate piece of research shows that using positive reinforcement to train your dog is the fastest and best way to teach them something new. Using positive methods also helps build solid foundations of trust between you and your new puppy.
3. Using play to help your relationship
Puppies are grown dogs who often love to play. When preparing for your puppy, almost every guide stresses the importance of buying them lots of toys to play with. Puppies explore new things with their mouths so it makes sense to give them lots of things they can put in their mouths, especially when it comes to their teething age.
Litters of puppies learn and develop their social and motor skills through play, when you take your puppy home it’s important that this continues. Play doesn’t just mean buying them lots of toys and leaving them around the house for your dog to play with at will. You may notice that these toys don’t get much use and become boring quite quickly.
Not all dogs enjoy playing on their own and so this is where you come in. You have the power to make their toys much more exciting. When my dog was a puppy, I also kept a few special toys out of the way that only came out when I was playing with him.
Playing with your puppy is a great tool when it comes to bonding. It’s a super rewarding experience for them that makes you more exciting and valuable to them.
4. Introduce them to new places
Part of raising a puppy is getting them used to new places and experiences which needs them to first be relatively comfortable with you but helps to solidify their bond with you. The world can be quite a big and scary space for small puppies so it’s important to always give them support if they get worried. If they want to tuck themselves behind your leg to take in their surroundings then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
An old school of thought was that you shouldn’t comfort worried dogs. It was thought that you would be feeding into and rewarding the behavior but newer, more up-to-date studies have found that you can’t reinforce anxiety.
Letting your dog know that it’s okay to take their time to come around to new environments and that you’re always there to support and protect them will only strengthen your bond with them. It’s okay for a dog to be worried about new situations as long as you continue to expose them to them so they can grow in confidence.
5. Share your bedroom
Another area where the school of thought has more recently been updated is where your puppy sleeps. You may want your dog to eventually sleep in a different room to you or even on a different floor. No matter where you eventually want your dog to sleep, the fastest and easiest way to get them settled is to start with them next to your bed. It may sound counterintuitive but the logic behind it makes sense.
You may have been told to put your puppy where you want it to sleep and let it cry it out because it will eventually get used to its sleeping location. In reality, it’s preferable to avoid this period of stress. Not only does avoiding the stressful situation build confidence in your pup but having them close and being able to comfort them is much more beneficial.
As they get older you can slowly start to move their bed towards where you eventually want it so they gradually gain the confidence and independence to sleep elsewhere.
6. Practice handling
You might have a puppy that is confident with you but when raising a dog, you need to consider things that may be expected of them throughout their life. Consider trips to the vet. If you’re ever had a dog that becomes anxious in these situations you know how hard it is to watch your quivering pet while getting an exam.
It’s a tough situation for them to be in, strange things are happening with a total stranger to them.
If you practice from a young age teaching them that looking at their gums or manipulating their legs is a totally normal thing, when it comes to seeing the vet it won’t be so scary and they’ll grow a stronger bond with you.
7. Effective communication
Dogs don’t communicate like us, they can’t tell us how they’re feeling and a lot of their methods of communication are based on body language. If you take it upon yourself to learn dog body language, you can communicate with your puppy a lot easier. I’m not suggesting you play bow at your pup every time you want to start a play session, it’s more to do with understanding when they’re stressed or worried.
Your puppy may perform appeasements when it gets worried. Dogs do things like yawn, shake off or turn their head away from things that make them uncomfortable. If you research appeasements and get to know the ones your puppy tends to use you can learn when a cuddle might be too tight or something was a little bit scary for them so you become their best friend and biggest advocate.
8. Consistency is key
The last method of bonding with your puppy is by far the easiest, you don’t have to do anything. The best way to earn your puppy’s trust and to keep it is going to be through remaining consistent. If you make house rules one day and teach your puppy what you expect from them and then change it up the next, they’re going to lose confidence in you.
If you remain consistent with them and never pull the rug from under their feet, they’re going to see you as something they can rely on. Dogs love clarity, they enjoy understanding exactly what we want from them and when they know this, they will bond with you all the more for it.
Bonding with your puppy should be a natural process that is enjoyable to build up and maintain. After all, you got a dog for a reason and this is all part of the joy of raising and shaping a little puppy’s brain. It’s important to remember that you are your dog’s carer but also, if you want a good bond with them then you should also be their best friend.
Bonding with your puppy is all about creating good memories and giving them the confidence in you that you’ll never put them in a bad situation if you can avoid it. With these eight steps, you can be your puppy’s best pal and strongest advocate.