There is much more to keeping dogs happy than simply providing them with food at regular intervals, and while the way to the dog’s heart is through their stomach, feeding is not enough to form a positive bond with your dog!
Bonding is an ongoing process that should be continually reinforced, and precisely how long it takes for a dog to bond with their owners and handlers will vary from case to case. Puppies usually bond with their new family almost immediately, and adult dogs that have always been well cared for and kindly treated usually find it simple to form new bonds with new people as well.
But how can you be sure that your dog has bonded with you, and are there any particular indicators to look for? Read on to learn about the signs that your dog has bonded with you.
Well-balanced, happy dogs will almost always display good manners both to their family and handlers, and to other people. This cannot be achieved without a good bond between dog and owner, which helps the dog to find balance and security in their world. If your dog is well behaved, not pushy, open in demeanour and generally a pleasure to be around, these indications of security in the dog also indicate strong positive bonds with their family.
A dog that has bonded with you will be responsive when you speak to them and call them, and will follow your commands reliably. This is because they recognise your role as their carer and provider, and this symbiotic relationship relies upon trust and understanding both ways. If your dog will go the extra mile for you, take your reassurance to try things outside of their comfort zone, and generally follows your commands happily and willingly, the chances are that you have a healthy relationship and a good bond.
The body language of the dog is very telling, and can indicate things such as your dog’s mood, happiness, and feelings towards you. Your dog’s body language in your presence should be open, calm, friendly and comfortable, and even shy dogs or those that are often nervous in certain situations should generally be relaxed under normal conditions when around their owners and families.
A bond of any sort is founded on the basis of mutual respect, and part of this respect involves your dog knowing their place, and respecting you as the alpha of their pack. If your dog views you as the alpha, this indicates that they have confidence in you, trust you, and are comfortable with the status quo; all things that are only possible when you have a bond. Battles for dominance, or your dog feeling that they are number one in the pack are the types of behaviour in the dog that indicate that trust and a firm bond may not yet be established, as the basis of any bond is formed of trust, routine and a proper understanding of their role in the family.
If something out of the ordinary happens, or your dog is scared, or a new person speaks to your dog or tries to give them a command, does your dog automatically look to you for direction or reassurance? If so, this is your dog’s way of telling you that they trust you to do what is right for them, and that they will follow your lead.
Confidence in their owner and the bond that comes with this means that your dog will be generally happier in their life as a whole, and will be less prone to fear, stress and nerves, as they know that they have a special person looking out for them and with their best interests at heart. Your dog looking to you for direction or seeking reassurance if they are worried or unsettled all indicate that to your dog, you are number one, and that they trust you and have bonded with you.
Finally, obviously one of the clearest indications of a strong bond between dog and owner comes in the form of physical affection! When you speak kindly to your dog or even look at them, their tails will probably wag, and if you pet them or take time to play with them, they will probably be incredibly happy that they are receiving attention from you, their favourite person in the world!
Your dog might also actively approach you when they want a hug or to show you that they love you, or sometimes, to offer you their favourite toy, which is one of the strongest indications of a bond and one of the highest honours that your dog can bestow upon you! Trusting you with their resources in this way, seeking your out for a hug and demonstrating physical affection are all clear signs that your dog has a good bond with you.