I’m always speaking to my dogs. Am I batty? Probably yes! But, it’s a habit that’s ingrained in me…and it’s something I enjoy. Whether I’m home listening to music or bustling around doing chores, whether they are with me in the car or we’re waiting at the vet’s, or whether I’m walking them on the road…I talk. And they listen! Oh yes, they do. The cock their heads to one side in the most adorable manner and listen as their Mama babbles on! And, it’s a treat to watch their expressions and microexpressions – a tilt of the head, the ears going back, the tail thumping the floor, an uncertain wag, a full-bodied smile (yes, they do smile!), an anxious look…depending on what I’m saying, their expressions and their body language tell me what they are feeling.
Bonding with your dog is very important. Dogs are social creatures and they are extremely intelligent too. The more you speak with them, spend time with them and engage with them, the stronger, more meaningful and richer is your relationship with your furry pal. Dogs also like to be challenged. Teaching them new things, talking to them, walking them, playing with them, rewarding them…all these add up to make your dog more responsive to you and also more agile – both physically and mentally.
Steve Duno, pet behaviourist and author of ‘Last Dog on the Hill’, says, “The human/canine bond is an ancient, mutually beneficial rapport formed between us, one based upon millennia of domestication and partnership. For over 20,000 years, we have bred dogs not only for hunting, herding, protection, and companionship, but also for loyalty, devotion, tameness, and emotional support. This resulted in a fellowship not seen between any two other species.”
When you have a strong emotional bond with your dog, it makes the experience of owning a dog so much more rewarding. Dogs are so sensitive to the moods of their human companions. When Hotdog was younger and more agile, if I was sick and lying in bed, he would come and periodically check on me and finally, jump onto the bed and cuddle up with me. If I cry, he first fixes me with a stare, cocking his head to one side, and then he starts whining or whimpering. In his younger days, he would get up and come to me and place his head in my lap, and even kiss me, as if to offer me comfort.
Today, many of us leave our dogs at home and go to work. It is our household help, the driver or someone we’ve hired to take care of the dog who feeds him, walks him and, in many cases, even takes him to the vet. While we cannot stop working, what we can do is ensure that we spend enough time with our four-legged friends. And communicate with them constantly.
Here’s what you can do:
Take your pooch for a walk: Even if you are working, you can take him out for an early morning or late evening walk. This is a time to bond with him. Talk to him, pet him, praise him. The love he showers on you in return is well worth the effort.
Feed your dog: Most dogs have two meals a day. You could tailor your dog’s meal schedule to suit your timings.
Train your mutt: Obedience training is a great way to strengthen the bond. It could be simple commands like ‘come here’, sit’, ‘stay’, etc. Not only does it enhance communication between you and your pooch, but it also makes him feel like a part of the pack or family.
Play with your dog: You could play fetch, run around with him or even indulge in a game of hiding and seek. Dogs love it when you play with them. It also helps to make them more obedient as well as more loyal.
Groom him regularly: Take the time to brush him, clean his ears, give him a bath. Don’t ask someone else to do it for you. Animal behaviourist, Karen B London says, “There is strong evidence that physical contact such as grooming and petting lowers stress in shelter dogs, which is measured by reductions in both heart rate and the stress hormone cortisol as well as by an increase in the anti-stress hormone oxytocin. This has led researchers to believe that physical contact plays a role in enhancing the bond between people and dogs.”
Spend quality time: Some absent-minded stroking while you are watching TV or chatting with family or friends is not the answer. Call him to you and cuddle him, stroke him, give him a rub behind his ears. Don’t let anything distract you while you are doing this. Focus your attention on him.
Communicate with your pet: As I mentioned earlier, I talk to my pets all the time, and people who visit me are amazed at how much my dogs understand what I’m saying. They do so because I constantly speak to them. And that’s why our bond is so strong.
Socialise them: Take your dog out once in a way – to the beach, to a pet-friendly restaurant, to a park or even on holiday. Most dogs love outings. And this also helps in socializing them with other people and other dogs.
In conclusion, I quote Duno again: “The human/canine bond is a deeply rooted understanding, measured in emotion, dependability, and mutual support. It is a need to belong and to feel wanted, useful, and safe.”