a woman with a dog enjoying the sunset

15 Incredible Ways to Bond with Your Dog for Life

Bonding with your dog isn’t necessarily automatic. In fact, it often takes work. By learning your dog’s “love language,” finding ways to spend time with them doing things you both enjoy, and doing your best to keep them healthy and happy, you’ll forge an unbreakable bond with your dog. Here are 15 different tips and ideas on how to build a bond with your dog for life. 8 minute read.

We’ve all heard the saying that “dogs are man’s best friend,” so we might assume that we’ll immediately and automatically bond with our dogs. However, that’s not always true. It takes time to cultivate any relationship, even one with a dog.

There isn’t just one magic way to do it, though. There are many different things you can do to build a loving and lifelong bond with your dog. Here are 15 tips and ideas on how to bond with your dog.

15 Ways to Build a Bond with Your Dog

In human relationships, psychologists have identified fivelove languages.” These are the ways we show and receive affection and love, and these ways are different than the ways dogs show love. In fact, animals have “love languages” too. You might think all dogs have the same love language, but that's not true. That’s why we’ve provided 15 different ideas for how to bond with your dog - so you can try them out and see what works best for you and your dog.

bond with your dog for life pin

1. Play Together

“Playing together” may seem like an obvious choice for human-pup bonding, but there’s actually more to it than that. Not every dog likes playing the same way, so learning your dog's playing style is important for bonding. Some dogs love a good game of never-ending fetch, while others like playing tag, and still others like playing in the water.

On the other hand, trying to force your pup to play a game they clearly don’t enjoy will make your dog frustrated and do nothing for your bond with them.

play tug of war with your dog

2. Pet Your Dog

It’s no secret that dogs like to be petted and that humans like to pet them. But did you know that there’s a scientific reason behind our love of petting our furry friends?

Petting your dog increases oxytocin, often called “the feel-good hormone.” It’s the same hormone that gives you a “runner’s high” after a strong workout or lifts your spirits when you give someone a hug.

Petting your dog also lowers your blood pressure! So while petting may seem very one-way, when you’re petting your dog, you're actually becoming in sync with your pup and bringing a little sunshine into both your lives.

pet your dog

3. Teach Your Dog Simple Tricks

Teaching your dog tricks takes time, but that’s actually the point! Spending time together doing shared activities is one of the best ways to bond with your pup.

Not only are you spending time with your dog, but your dog will be looking at you for commands and signals while you’re teaching them. That eye contact and connection strengthen your bonds of trust.

Training your dog to do tricks doesn’t have to be difficult. Our post on puppy training has a section on “Basic Commands to Teach Your Dog” that will walk you through “sit,” “come,” and “stay.” Besides helping you bond with your dog, these commands are useful and can even save your dog’s life in a disaster or emergency situation!

teach your dog to give a paw

4. Take Walks with Your Dog

The simple act of walking together creates an element of trust between you and your dog. Spending time together in shared activities is the number one way to bond with your dog, and taking a walk is a great way to do that.

Besides, dog walking benefits both pups and their pup parents. Dogs that go for regular walks are happier, less destructive, and less likely to become obese. The pet parents taking those dogs on walks can see benefits like better heart health, lower blood pressure and stress, and stronger muscles and bones. If your dog is still a puppy and new to the world of walks, our post on puppy training has a section on “Leash Training a Puppy” that will have your pup walking like a pro.

a dog on a walk

5. Take Your Dog to Agility Training

Agility training is a great way to bond with and have fun with your dog. Not only are you spending time with your pup, but they are learning how to follow your commands and stay completely focused on your cues in a distracting and fast-paced environment.

It’s important to know that, due to the speed and effort required, agility training carries a risk of injury if not done with care and caution. You can minimize or mitigate injuries or their long-term effects by making sure your dog has the proper nutritional support for healthy joints and bones.

a dog running agility

6. Feed Your Dog Nutritious Food

We all want to feed our dogs nutritious food that supports their health, but taking your pup’s taste and presentation preferences into consideration can actually help strengthen your bond.

For example, one pet parent shared a story about her dog, Zuzu. When Zuzu was a puppy, they fed her kibble. Even though they tried various kinds, she was never super excited about any of them.

But then they switched to freeze-dried food and everything changed. Zuzu started getting so excited about meal times! Now, after she eats, she comes and finds her mom and puts her nose on her leg to thank her. We also heard a story from a pet parent whose dog wouldn't eat his food until his person "prepared" it on the stove by dumping it into a pot and pretending to stir it as it "cooked,” the same as their human’s food was prepared.Food equals love to most dogs.

a dog eating from a bowl

7. Snuggle Together

Snuggling on the couch with your dog on a cold winter’s night isn’t just cozy and comforting, it also can be a great way to bond with your pup.

To be clear, snuggling isn’t for every dog. While some dogs love getting hugs from their humans, others may run for the hills. If your dog resists snuggling, you shouldn't force them - it's not their love language!

snuggle with a dog

8. Let Your Dog Nibble on You

Have you ever been sitting on the couch watching TV and had your dog start nibbling on you? As strange as it may sound, this is a bonding opportunity!

This behavior is called “cobbing” because your dog is nibbling gently on you like an ear of corn on the cob. If your dog does that, congratulations! They're showing you affection by grooming you.

9. Groom Your Dog

This doesn’t mean bringing your dog to a professional groomer (though your dog may need that as well, depending on their breed or coat). No, this is about spending time brushing your dog yourself. Not only does regular brushing and grooming keep your dog’s coat shiny and mat-free, but it can be a valuable bonding experience.

Of course, if your dog revolts at the mere touch of a brush, it may be a good idea to leave it to the professionals. But for dogs that enjoy that regular brush down, it’s a pup-healthy habit that will draw you and your dog closer together.

grooming a Geraman Shepherd puppy

10. Give Them Their Space

Have you ever needed some time alone? During that time, would you have appreciated it if someone forced their way into your space and made you interact with them?

Dogs aren’t people, of course, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need alone time too. Especially if your pup suffers from anxiety, your pup may need a space or corner to call their own where they can feel safe and have some time alone if they want it.

By respecting your pup’s “personal space” and not forcing them to be with you if they clearly want some time apart, you’ll help them feel safe and secure and more bonded to you in the long run.

a puppy sleeping

11. Don\'t Encourage Anxious Behavior

Has your dog ever gotten upset when you’ve had to leave the house? While it might feel good to be so badly missed, encouraging this kind of behavior actually tears at your bond.

That’s because encouragement will actually increase the anxious behavior as time goes on and can cause serious mental health problems for your dog. A recent survey of 1000 pet parents focused on how common dog anxiety is and how it affects families.1 They found that nearly 60% of families with dogs suffering from separation anxiety had had to cancel travel plans because of their pup’s anxiety.

In short, it’s better for both you and your pup to treat anxious behavior instead of encouraging it.

a dog looking out of the window

12. Establish a Routine

Dogs thrive on routine. While not everyone has a set schedule, the more consistent you are with your dog’s schedule, the better.

This means doing your best to keep consistent meal times, bedtimes, and even potty breaks for your pup when possible. Consistency in their schedule helps pups feel secure and increases their trust in you.

13. Sleep Together

A recent survey showed that 43% of pet parents let their canine companions sleep in their bed with them. Sleeping with your pup is not only a nice way to keep warm on a cold winter night but also increases your connection to your pup.
a dog on a bed

14. Guard Each Other When You Poop

Believe it or not, this is the ultimate sign of trust!Has your dog ever followed you into the bathroom - or scratched at the door begging to come in - while you handled your business? If so, they’re actually trying to help you. That is, they want to guard you while you’re vulnerable.

Your dog expects you to do the same. When you take your pup outside to relieve themselves, stand behind them so they know you've got their back while they're compromised.

15. Take Care of Their Health

Last but certainly not least, we can bond with our dogs and show our love by taking care of their health. We only have our dogs with us for a decade or so, longer if we\'re lucky. So we need to make sure every year counts.
a dog in the grass
This includes:
  • Taking them for regular vet checkups and vaccinations.
  • Watching their weight.
  • Giving them regular exercise.
  • Feeding them healthy, nutritious food.
  • Giving them appropriate supplements for their age and circumstances.

While most people know about vet visits and healthy food, not everyone realizes their dog may need additional nutritional support. Every dog is different, so it’s important to know what vitamin and mineral supplements will work best for your pup to help them live their best lives. 

The Final Woof

Our dogs may love us at first sight, but true bonding takes time and effort. Just like with human relationships, the time we put into our canine relationships can reap wonderful rewards. By following the tips on learning your dog’s “love language,” taking opportunities to regularly spend time with them, and doing your best to give them the health and nutritional support they need to stay happy and healthy, you’ll know how to build a bond with your dog to last a lifetime.
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