Getting started

As you begin to build a relationship with your dog, there are a few things that will help you create a close, trusting bond:

  • Knowledge of how dogs communicate
  • Understanding the needs of your furry friend
  • Being self-confident and predictable towards your dog

Good human friendships are often characterised by a shared sense of familiarity. Whatever happens, close friends know each other’s likes and dislikes and can tell when things aren’t right. The same goes for your dog, except of course your dog can’t tell you how they’re feeling in our language. They show it in their own way. And that is exactly what you need to learn as a dog owner: learning how to understand and communicate with your dog.

Dog communicating with human.

All you need to know about doggy language

It’s important to appreciate that dogs often interpret physical language and signals differently to humans. For instance, among humans a friendly face-to-face greeting is a warm, positive way to say hello, whereas dogs are likely to experience this type of greeting as unfriendly and hostile - they prefer to say hello by sniffing from behind.

Cuddling, petting and kissing are potentially similar. From a human point of view, you will undoubtedly experience this sort of interaction as a friendly, loving gesture, but does your dog experience such gestures in the same way?

There will certainly be times when they will feel the same sense of affection and enjoy it, but in some situations, they may not. The good news is, your dog will make it obvious to you when they don’t appreciate a show of affection, allowing you to adjust your actions accordingly. As your bond begins to grow, you will be able to understand each other more intuitively and interpret each other’s actions and signals more accurately.

Dog getting a massage.

Understand each other and understand each other's needs

Knowing what your dog needs at any moment and ensuring as much as possible that these needs are filled will strengthen the bond between you. For instance, when you’re out and about together, are you sensitive to the amount of freedom your dog feels comfortable with? Are you able to grant them enough free movement that they can, as far as possible, determine the pace and possibly even decide where you are going together?

Safety is a particularly important need that is often overlooked. Feeling safe is something subjective, of course. Some people don't like spiders, others don't feel safe when they’re high up. Safety is linked to perception - how you experience a situation as an individual. This is also the case with your dog. Try to develop a better understanding of how your dog experiences certain situations and actions. Building an appreciation of the way your dog reacts to things they encounter will help you to ensure they always feel safe.

Dogs love to explore the world!

Dog exploring the park.

Dogs love to sniff around! To some extent, they do this to relax but sniffing is also their way of exploring the world around them and checking that everything is safe. So give your dog plenty of opportunity to sniff when you’re out and about together. They’re certain to appreciate it and it should be great for your bond.

Be predictable

Dogs benefit from a reassuring sense of predictability, so it’s important that you, as the leader, are as predictable as possible. While we all have emotional ups and downs, it’s important to realise that your furry friend won’t understand that you’re in a bad mood because you’ve had a tough day at work, so try not to be grumpy with them. If you want to be left alone, make an effort to show this without anger or irritation.

Your dog will appreciate predictability in most situations. If you react to the same situation in a certain way one day and another way the next, your dog may feel confused and uncomfortable, which can in turn lead to undesirable behaviour. Keep in mind that your reactions and behaviour are of great importance to your dog.

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Your dog is a social animal

Dogs are group animals and love to spend time together, even when there isn’t any direct interaction. Consequently, it’s good to spend a lot of time together without really interacting. Just staying quietly in each other's vicinity is great for dogs. Adult and older dogs will very often adapt quickly and take a quiet nap if there’s not much to do. As long as they can be near you, they usually feel content and happy.

The more time you and your dog can spend together the more relaxed they’re likely to be. Overexcited behaviour like jumping up, barking and being wild is often the result of sporadic social contact leading to peaks of excitement in those moments when you do spend time together. Try not to be too angry with such behaviour – it’s important to understand that it’s not easy for a dog to be separated from their social group.

Girl giving dog kuddles.

Stick together!

Most dogs delight in going everywhere with their owner. All the time you spend together will help to cement your bond. Just try to keep in mind all the points raised in this article: communicate clearly and always consider the needs of your dog, especially their need to feel safe.