Pet behavior experts say there are ways to tell if you are truly bonded with your dog. Mutual respect -- the foundation of any great friendship -- is often a key factor in evaluating the bond between a dog and her person.
Dogs who are closely bonded with their owners tend to keep them in sight. A well-trained dog who adores you might slip out the front door, but will probably poke her head back in to see if you're coming along on the adventure, according to Victoria Schade, author of the book, "Bonding With Your Dog: A Trainer’s Secrets for Building a Better Relationship." Still, there are exceptions. Your dog's level of training and her age can also influence how well she listens and remains aware of your presence. "When a dog is in adolescence or younger, it is prone to be a little more on the exploratory side,” says Victoria Wells, ASPCA senior manager of behavior and training. It doesn't necessarily mean your dog is not strongly bonded with you if she tries to go her own way, Wells says. For example, dogs in full pursuit of a squirrel or other prey might be oblivious to their owners pleas or shouts to return, Wells says. For your dog's safety, however, it's important to train her to return when you call, regardless of whatever else is happening.
Your dog's greeting is another sure sign that she loves you, according to Wells. When you come home from work, she probably wags her tail and does a happy dance by marching in place or circling all around you. Your dog might even get so excited that she leaps into the air or jumps up on you. All of this says "woo hoo!" in dog language. A dog's enthusiasm is endearing, except when she crosses the boundaries of good behavior. Sometimes we unwittingly reinforce our dog's craziness because it looks so cute or funny. Even so, if Skippy cannot control herself, it's time to rein her in. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends ignoring your dog if she jumps on you. In turn, also try praising and petting her when she keeps her paws to herself.
Taking a Walk
Taking your dog out for a stroll should be fun, not a game of tug-of-war. Dogs who share a close bond with their owners tend to "check in" when they're out for a walk, according to Schade. When your dog looks up at you during the walk, she is confirming that you're an important part of it, says Schade. For high-energy dogs, it's sometimes difficult to walk politely on a leash. But the energy and obedience factor is sometimes secondary, Schade says. This is all about your dog acknowledging your presence.
Increasing the Bond
Knowing what interests or motivates your dog is a good way to increase your bond, says Wells. Some examples are playing catch, engaging in a game of chase or occasionally giving your dog a special treat for good behavior. "Things that involve food are very reinforcing for a dog and bring human and dog closer together," Wells says. Keeping a routine is also important and can be very calming for your dog. This includes a fairly set schedule for feeding and playtime, Wells says. Ultimately, you are the best judge of whether you and your dog share a truly close bond. If she doesn't always listen, it might simply mean a little more training is in order. When in doubt, seek out a reputable dog trainer for advice.
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