As exciting as getting a new puppy can be, the process can be a bit overwhelming for your newest companion. No matter how nice your home is or how cool their collars look, dogs can get stressed out by a sudden change in their environment.
Creating and nurturing a strong bond with your puppy takes a lot of time and patience. But once you’ve gotten the hang of it, get ready—you’re in for one pawsome journey ahead!
Things to remember before and after you bring your puppy home
The process of cultivating your relationship with your dog actually begins before you bring them home! To make adjusting to their new home a lot easier and to make them feel comfortable earlier on, preparation is key.
Make sure your home is ready for them. This not only means buying their food, treats, crates, beds, and toys: it also means puppy-proofing the room they’ll stay in. Secure electrical cords, cover up outlets, and put away breakable items like ceramics. As this is for their safety, it’s an important step. If the puppy is a spontaneous rescue (you’re helping out a shelter or you simply found the puppies or they were dumped on your doorstep) and you’re not prepared, you can get the other things later, but puppy proofing should be a priority.
Create and enforce a routine. Dogs see routines as their security blankets. Knowing when things happen keeps them from getting stressed out and they also see it as getting to know you, learning what you do at certain times. They want to bond with you that way! Set a time for meals, for walks outside, and even for times to cuddle. Use these as training opportunities. Teach them proper behaviour, like learning to “wait” before eating or not to tug on their leash when out for a walk, using positive reinforcement.
Learn their body language. Sadly, speaking dog isn’t a course on Duolingo. Dogs best express themselves through nonverbal cues, such as their various tail wags and posture. Be familiar with these so you can know what your puppy needs.
Be patient! The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single paw—er, step. You can’t expect your puppy to immediately warm up to you overnight, or even after weeks. Just continue your routines, treat them well, and trust that it’ll happen eventually.
Signs you have a strong bond with your puppy
How will you know that you and your puppy have a bond like no other? Check out some of the signs.
They come when you call. It’s one of the earliest and most important milestones in your relationship with your dog. It shows that they know their name and recognize your voice!
The helicopter wag. Tail wagging can mean a lot of things. The helicopter wag is when your puppy’s tail is up in the air while they’re wagging it. When you approach them and they wag their tails like this, it’s a sure sign that your puppy is very happy to see you.
They obey commands, if they know any. This shows that your puppy understands your role as the one who gives the commands. Make sure to reward them with delicious treats so they keep up the good work!
They sleep close to you. A dog is at their most vulnerable when they’re asleep. Naturally, it speaks volumes when they decide to fall asleep in your presence. Bonus points if they deliberately cuddle up next to you.
They enjoy close contact. And they’ll seek out your touch, in particular. Puppies who don’t have a strong enough bond with their owners tend to shy away from petting or from cuddles. If they really go for it, though, you know you’re doing it right!
They’re brave, confident, and well-mannered, at one word from you. This means you’ve done your job of training and socialising them properly with things, experiences, people, and other animals, so they can live a happy life.
Ways to nurture a strong bond with your puppy
Now that you know the signs of a pup that has a strong relationship with their owner, it’s time to work on getting there and having fun while you’re at it.
Training. Instead of setting aside a period of time for training sessions, incorporate it in your daily routine.
- Call them by their name and reward with a treat or cuddles when they respond or come.
- Teach them to “sit” and/or to “wait” before they can eat.
- Help them love their crate with crate training games.
- Socialise them with everything and everyone to teach them manners and to be calm even with unpleasant things (like nail cutting).
Short bursts of training is more effective and will be less frustrating for both of you.
Explore the great outdoors with them once they’re big enough and protected. Protected means they’re fully vaccinated and armed with antiparasitics.
Once you’ve reached this stage, take your dog hiking or swimming. Take them to parks or dog-friendly beaches. In the same way humans grow closer to each other after sharing experiences, you and your dog can become the best of friends.
Play games. Puppies love playing. Some of the classic games you can play include playing fetch or tug-of-war. They’re also a great form of training or exercise. You can do it indoors or outdoors, and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg—you can just make do with what you have at home, like an old kitchen rag or an unused tennis ball.
Exercise. There’s nothing like good old-fashioned exercise to really build your relationship with your dog. Get your puppy used to taking walks inside and outside. Introduce a treadmill so they know how to use it. Try swimming if they like the water. Again, it’s all about creating experiences that you and your dog can bond over.
Grooming. Brushing, massaging, baths—everything from wipedowns to shower sprays and tub immersion. This, of course, includes the less exciting activities for your dog, like nail cutting, ear cleaning, and getting shaved in the pee pee area.
Puppies are open to new experiences and will be cool with everything if you are, and if you socialise them to these things. And when it’s you who introduces and stays with them during these new experiences, they trust you.
Give affection. Petting! Cuddles! Need we say more? Always take time out of your day to let your dog know just how much you love them.
Allow time apart. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that applies to dogs, too. You should give your puppy some time to rest and relax away from you. An important part of training is to teach them how to be alone and entertain themselves with their own toys. Don’t make a big deal of it. This curtails separation anxiety. Of course, you should get some much-needed R&R too, every once in a while.
There’s a reason why dogs are called humans’ best friends. Out of the entire animal kingdom, they’re among the ones who can understand human emotions the best, and can even adapt to them.
It’s in a dog’s nature to be loyal, so it’s only right and proper that we should make ourselves worthy of that trust. From their adorable puppy days all the way up to their equally adorable senior years, keeping that love alive is the key to making life worthwhile.