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Learn to Bond With Your Dog Early On

By Lisa Marino

If you’ve just brought home your new puppy (or rescued an adult dog), the early days in your home are important for developing a strong bond. Spending time with your pup will help form a relationship of trust. Once you’ve formed this connection with your dog, he or she will listen to you much more closely when you’re trying to train. Here are some great ways to bond with your new dog:

  • Create a sanctuary for your puppy. Dogs are den dwellers and feel most comfortable in a space such as a crate. Give your dog this safe place. Put the crate in a quiet spot and make sure it’s puppy proof if you have a younger dog who likes to chew. If you have children, it is equally important that the dog’s crate or bed is child free. The dog needs a place to feel safe from “intruders,” and be allowed to go there whenever he or she wants to get away from too much activity. A cornered dog can become defensive when feeling threatened, even if the children are well meaning and wanting to show affection.
  • Be gentle and use positive rewards. Puppies are intimidated very easily, so use gentle treatment when you begin to train your dog. Reward positive behaviors like eliminating outdoors, not jumping up on people and any other behavior you want your dog to repeat. Give healthy dog treats for rewards, and use a gentle, upbeat voice to reinforce good behaviors. Don’t let your dog get away with behaviors as a puppy that you wouldn’t want later, such as chewing shoes.
  • Be consistent. Let your dog come to you. Puppies are fairly easy to socialize because they’re generally very trusting of new people, but if you’ve rescued an older dog, it may take him or her a while to become acquainted with everyone in your family and get really comfortable. If you’ve got a more skittish dog, allow him or her time to check you out and try to keep things quiet and calm around the dog (especially if you have young kids).
  • Give your dog physical attention. Patting, stroking and grooming your dog all make him or her feel safe and develop a bond with you. Many dogs enjoy petting, but long soothing strokes on the sides and chest rubs are better than the short quick pats on the head, which most dogs find kind of irritating. Test it out by petting 3 times, and stopping and removing attention. If the dog comes back, he or she is enjoying it and wants more. If your dog moves away, he or she is done for now, so leave your dog be. Overall, watch your dog’s body language to see the response to petting – loose wiggly and leaning into you, which is good, or turning the head and looking away, yawning, licking the lips, flattening the ears, all of which are signs of stress.
  • Play with your pup. Keep a few toys around to make sure your dog is entertained. Play fetch, go for a walk or toss around a squeaky toy. Especially with puppies, you want to make sure your dog doesn’t get bored because boredom can lead to random chewing and other negative behaviors.
  • Let your dog explore his or her new environment with you. Follow your pup around as he or she sniffs around the house. Stay close by to make sure your dog doesn’t have an accident indoors or chew anything that’s not a toy. Don’t let your dog wander around freely in the early days in your home so that you can ensure his or her safety and avoid accidents inside. Don’t assume just because your dog was potty trained in the previous house that the behavior transfers to your house. He or she needs a refresher course.
  • Keep your dog’s belly full. Feed your dog the recommended amount of food twice daily and let him or her eat without a lot of disturbances. If you have an older dog who is hesitant to eat at first, give him or her a quiet place to eat alone.
  • Once your dog has a clean medical record, take some classes. Puppy training, dog training, phys ed and other classes not only encourage bonding, they help you understand your dog better. 

At Head of the Class Dog Training, we know that bringing a new, furry pal home can be a life changing experience for you, your family and your dog. Let us help you make it the best experience ever! Contact us today to find out more.

Lisa Marino has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children  and does school presentations on various dog related topics.


Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA