There isn’t a relationship around that can survive without trust. My relationship with my dog Peyton is deep enough that he will trust me most of the time, but there are still those moments when he looks at me and runs the other way. Often time when pets don’t obey they put themselves in harm’s way by running in the street or chewing something hazardous. Building bonds with your pet is an important part of being a good pet parent.
Peyton and I have been working with a trainer to help us form a deeper bond based on trust. She explained that there are some other things I need to do beyond the daily walks to earn that trust. For example, taking him with me on errands or playing fetch, which will help him feel connected to me and special. I’ve been working hard to take the extra time to be with Peyton and one of our new favorite things to do are puppy massages!
I love massages and I know that they release hormones that help humans heal and relax. So I decided to give Peyton a massage and he loves it just as much as I do! He took a deep sigh and relaxed, feeling safe and trusting me to care for him while he took a nap.
Another way to help your pet feel special is to make their food more enjoyable. I know that Peyton loves to eat and he loves it when I put little treats in with his feedings. I spoke with our vet to see which treats would be safe and healthy and, now I take an extra minute to add some meat, egg, or broth to his kibble!
Our pets learn by playing, just like children, so I’ve started playing games with Peyton to engage both his brain and his body. We started agility classes, have upgraded the ball to a Frisbee, and I play hide and seek games with his treats. We found some other games for dogs that we are going to try soon. I also found these fun games for cats, because they need just as much playtime as dogs.
Consistency is very important for animals, so reinforcing all of these activities is key to really building your bond. I want Peyton to know that he can always expect his walks and his dinner at the same time. Our trainer’s approach to behavior and attention seeking is that: dogs seek attention and if they don’t get enough good attention, they will seek bad attention. So you want to set up your pet to seek good attention and want him to try hard for the praise.
It turns out that my efforts to bond with my pet are rewarded with a lot of benefits. Studies now show that beyond the obvious cure for loneliness, having the companionship of a pet has proven medically beneficial. For elderly owners that own pets, there are fewer doctor visits and less depression. People that are chronically ill find that caring for pets is a motivator to continue to be engaged in life. In fact, people that have heart attacks are more likely to survive that important first year if they have a pet. Finally, pets help smooth the effects of the life related setbacks that happen to everyone. But all of this is depending on you and your pet having a strong bond.
Peyton already sits at my feet while I work, and climbs on my lap when it’s available. With a bit more focus from me, Peyton and I will have an even tighter bond. I look forward to him listening to me all the time and our long, healthy life together!
Updated from original blog post on 12/4/14.