Building a Bond with your Dog
When you’re working towards Agility with your canine partner, you need to form a bond with them. It can sound complicated, but honestly, there’s nothing easier in your agility training than bonding with your dog! it should happen naturally. Your dog wants to love you. You care about your dog. Now all you have to do is learn to communicate this affection and caring to your dog! He already communicates them to you, no matter how subtly. As the dominant partner, you have to be the one who dictates the expressions and the nature of the bond.
What are some ways you can deepen your bond with your dog? It’s easy!
- Tug Games: Tug games heighten your dogs’ pack drive, and since you’re his pack- his alpha, to boot! playing tug with you is a bonding and training experience that your dog will LOVE. If your dog does not initially enjoy tugging, make it the highest value thing you can. There are some great tug products available on the market, from crackly bottles in bags to stinky mesh tug bags. (sorry, I know they’re great for getting your dog to like tugging, but I just can’t imagine putting mushy gooey food in something and then REUSING IT.
- Feeding Time: When used properly, dinnertime is a very close experience. If your dog were a wolf, he would hunt in his pack, and eat after the higher ups had eaten. Here, they eat for ‘free’ as it were. Don’t let your dog have ‘free’ food! Require at the very least a sit for their bowl! I prefer a sit and wait, and some days they get released right away… sometimes they don’t!
- Massage: Dogs may seem not to enjoy getting massages, especially if they’re wriggly and want to play, but once your dog gets the hang of you rubbing his sides and legs and neck, he’ll be jelly. Massage shows dominance over your dog and cements your status in his mind.
- Watch Me/ Touch/ Target: Any time you command your dog to watch you, or touch/target, you’re building positive reinforcements for something your dog considers (usually) to be very easy. Yet, this is a very important exercise! it teaches your dog to focus on you instead of any distraction and that you, his leader, will reward that action.
There’s so much more you can do to bond with your dog… and a whole lifetime to do it in! Every interaction you have with your dog is bonding of one form or another. Make sure you make the most of it, because your dog sure does!
I had a cat who periodically grew eosonophile granulomas, requiring surgery. After I started regular massaging with her, and she never got another tumor. I regularly massage my 15 year old Keeshond — she doesn’t move when I do it, so I know she enjoys it. I have a 2-yr old Keeshond rescue who is VERY hyper, so I’ve started doing mandatory downs with massage. She was skeptical the first time, but she relaxes much more quickly now, and really seems to enjoy her “guiet time.” I know how good massage feels — and is — for me — why should it be any different for my dogs?
What is touch/target?
Those posts should help! 🙂 Let me know if you still have any questions!
My GSD loves his ears massaged, and sometimes it’s the outside of his face lightly massaging his gums through his lips.
Don’t really give my dog a massage, but try to run my hands all over him several times a week in addition to grooming/brushig. This gets the dog used to his ears and feet being handled. And gives you a chance to maybe catch something not quite right on his body/skin before it becomes a problem.
He does love tug, and he does have to sit for dinner.