Some dogs just need a bit of eye contact and they'll give you their friendship forever. Others, especially new canine residents, need a reason to think of you as their best friend. That reason can be as small as a tiny treat or as big as a honking plush duck.
Feed your dog regularly. Food is the gateway to a dog's heart, and giving him his daily breakfast, lunch and dinner is one of the fastest ways to form a bond with your little guy. Because food is one of his vital resources, he'll see you as his caregiver, and he'll associate you with something positive.
Take your dog for daily walks. Food might be your pup's ultimate need, but a nice walk isn't far behind. Walks aren't good only for getting you and your dog's blood flowing, they also give your pup a chance to sniff, see and hear things he normally doesn't. And all of those strange sights, smells and sounds are interesting and exciting for him. Any time your little guy is having fun with you, he's forming a closer bond with you. Always remember to appear confident on your walks. Don't tighten up on the leash when you see a person or a dog; just be at ease. A little confidence goes a long way, not only in keeping your dog calm but also sending a message that you have everything under control and a little dog isn't cause for alarm.
Play games with your pup each day. A dog forms a bond with those who give him regular attention, and playing fetch or tug is the perfect way to give him that attention. If you don't have a lot of time on your hands, even a 10-minute play session is a lot better than nothing.
Train your pup regularly and practice positive reinforcement. Although training might elicit images of scolding your dog or making his life difficult and frustrating, training with positive reinforcement is the opposite. It will instill confidence in your pup, help him find a purpose, and create an extremely strong bond between you two. The idea is simple: Any time your dog responds positively to what you're trying to achieve -- be it counter-conditioning or telling him to sit -- you reward him with a treat and praise. This way he learns to associate his behavior with something positive and is far more likely to respond to your commands in the future.
Be consistent with everything. From feedings to training, consistency is the key to forming a bond with your pup. If you take your dog for a walk only once a month or play with him one day a week, he's not going to see you as that person who's giving him attention and positive rewards. In his mind, you're just someone who's around but doesn't really provide anything for him.
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- Always be aware of what your dog enjoys and doesn't enjoy. If he doesn't like his paws touched and you constantly touch them, he might be more wary of you than if you give him a nice ear-scratching that he loves.
- Always introduce new things by training your pup to accept and like them. Introducing a nail grinder, for example, is best done slowly, and by rewarding your guy for just smelling it and hearing it. Showing him that whatever it is you introduce to him will not hurt him will helps build trust.
- High-reward treats, such as cheese, work great with difficult commands or counter-conditioning.
- To avoid potentially dangerous situations, always keep your dog on a short leash, 4 to 6 feet, when walking him in public areas.
- Never yell at or physically discipline your dog for anything. A sharp "Ah" when he's doing something he shouldn't will do just fine. Raising your voice or hitting him will make him scared of you.
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