Bonding with your rescue dog is a special time for both of you – make the most of it!
While it’s important to bond with your dog, no matter how he came into your care, bonding with a rescue dog is especially vital. Dogs who come from shelters often had a bad start to life, so they’re less trusting of new people and can sometimes be anxious or scared when they transition to a new home. That doesn’t mean that your rescue pooch can’t be as wonderful, happy and loving as any other dog, but it just means you might have to put in a little bit of extra time and effort to get there. Don’t worry, it’s nothing particularly taxing and if you didn’t want to spend time with your dog, you probably wouldn’t have brought him home.
It’s all about trying a few different approaches to get your pooch to relax, build trust, and eventually create a loving, unbreakable bond. The goal here is to show your rescue dog that you’re there to stay and that there’s nothing to be scared about by your side, and the bond will blossom from that feeling of safety.
Right below you’ll find some useful tips on how to bond with your rescue dog. Depending on their unique history and behavior, you might have to apply them all or just focus on a few.
Earn His Trust
In a lot of cases, rescue dogs have gone through some difficult things in the past. Just the fact that they were in a shelter or with a rescue in the first place is bad enough, let alone a history of abuse or neglect. Owing to this, some of them might be a bit timid or wary of new people and their intentions. Which is completely normal! While all the aspects of bonding with a rescue dog will help build that trust that’s essential for a loving bond, there are some specifics you can do to get your rescue dog to trust you.
First, avoid exposing them to any triggering situations- such as yelling and loud noises in general or being around people or pets that could make them anxious (for instance, owing to a bad experience, some dogs might be scared of men or large dogs.) Sometimes, knowing your dog’s history could also help with realizing what behaviors and situations to avoid in particular.
Second, don’t push your rescue dog into anything. You might want him to relax faster and be eager to cuddle and snuggle or go and be social in the doggie park, but if he’s not there yet, pressuring them will only make matters worse. Remember that, usually, it’s about taking the baby steps route and letting your new pet signal you when something is or isn’t OK. Which brings us to the next step of the process.
Pay Attention to His Body Language
Dogs can’t speak but they can communicate non-verbally. All the cues you’ll need to decipher your rescue dog’s behavior and needs are right there for you to see it, as long as you can spot what their body language is telling you. There are five groups of body language for canines: excited, fearful, aggressive, anxious, and relaxes. You might not know your pet as well to identify all of his quirks, but informing yourself about the basics of dog body language will go a long way to building a bond. Once you know how your pet feels, you’ll know how to approach them best.
If your rescue pooch is already somewhat relaxed around you, you can move forward and start working on turning that sense of safety into a dog-owner bond. It’s the little things that will make your rescue dog bond with you and become a happy member of your family for years to come.
Play With Him
It’s no secret that dogs love to play. If your dog thinks that you’re fun to be around, he’s more likely to feel a bond with you. Be sure to make time for some play with your dog each day. This can be with interactive toys – such as balls, Frisbees or tug toys – or you could invent some more imaginative games to play, for instance hiding treats and getting your dog to find them. Introducing small games into your day to day interactions with one another can go a long way to helping.
Spend Time With Him
You can’t really expect your dog to form a trusting bond with you if you don’t spend much time together. You don’t necessarily have to be doing anything during this time, if your dog loves your company, he’ll be happy to just hang out with you. Seek out your pooch, give him a fuss and talk with him. While you’re watching TV, invite him to sit next to you on the couch, or at your feet, if he’s not allowed on the furniture. You wouldn’t claim to be friends with someone if the two of you never hung out, so why should it be different with your dog?
You’ve probably noticed the waves of ecstasy that some dogs go into when you pet them – this is a key way to improve your bond. Make sure that you spend some time each day petting and fussing over your dog. You could even learn some doggy massage techniques if you want to step things up a notch. If your dog gets used to you touching him all over, this will also help if he injures himself and you need to inspect the area that he’s hurt.
All decent dog owners should praise their faithful hound when he does something good, but what you might want to work on is the quality of the praise. It’s all very well saying “good boy,” but if you want to build a strong bond, it can help to make a bigger fuss out of it. When your pooch does good, try saying something like “Good boy, Rover! What a good pup! That was really great!” It might seem trivial, but we all like to hear how great we are, right?
Doing some training with your dog can help him to trust you and strengthen the bond between you. This doesn’t mean that you have to train him to a professional level, just that you should teach him and regularly practice some basic commands. If you’re new to dog training, you might even find it helpful to take an introductory obedience class.
Lauren Corona is a freelance writer from merry old England. She specializes in writing about dogs and other critters. Lauren lives near Oxford, with her gorgeous Doberman, Nola. When she’s not tapping away at the keyboard, you’ll find her walking in the woods with Nola-dog, raising money for the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary, cooking vegan food, making zines and writing about herself in the third person.