Building a meaningful bond with your dog

guest blog by Caroline Wilkinson

As more of us are at home with our dogs these days, we’ve asked Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson to give some tips and tricks on creating a meaningful relationship with your dog at home.

 

 

Some of you might agree that dogs are the greatest love of our lives. Their love is definitely unique - being both unconditional and lacking in any form of judgement.

Last year, the team here at Forthglade reached out to find out how lockdown was impacting your life with your dogs. What we loved finding out was that 61% of you felt that you had developed a happier and deeper connection with your dogs.

With reduced exercise time, the focus falls on indoor activities to keep our dogs entertained (or as I like to call it, enterTRAINed). A huge benefit of connecting with our dogs in an indoor environment is that you can really focus on each other, without the distraction of the outside world.

But while this past year has gifted many of us with extra time with our dogs - the silver lining to a difficult time - have you been making the most of it? If you’re feeling like you need a little inspiration when it comes to having more fun with your dogs and creating an even deeper connection, take a look at these five indoor activities to enjoy with them.

 

 

Trick Training

Training isn’t all about learning complex behaviours - it also allows our dogs the opportunity to develop social skills which can improve their relationships with the humans they live with as well as those outside of their family. Teaching our dogs new cued behaviours can help them to learn and grow various skill sets from basic focus, to impulse control, to physical strengthening exercises. Plus, a dog that has had a period of mental stimulation in their day - alongside some physical workout - will more likely be calm and relaxed than a dog that has only had physical activity. It’s a great opportunity to have some fun and boost your bond!

 

Power of Touch

Stroking your dog can increase the stress-reducing and bonding ‘love hormone’ Oxytocin, for both human and dog. The feeling of warmth and fur can lower our own heart rate and blood pressure. While we don’t want to force physical touch onto a dog that doesn’t enjoy it, you can use the 3-second rule to see if your dog is happy to cuddle up - stroke your dog on their chest or side (avoiding the head) for 3 seconds and then stop. If your dog moves away from you, or shakes, then don’t continue at this time. If they nuzzle in for more, then continue enjoying some cuddle time.

 

 

Hide and Seek

We often think about hiding food or toys for our dogs to seek out. But have you ever thought about hiding yourself? Start off easy, by hiding half your body behind an open door or curtain and calling your dog to you. When they come and find you give them some tasty treats or a fun game of tug. Once they get the idea, you can hide in more difficult places for them to find you. Not only does this give everyone a bit of a workout - it also is a sneaky way of working on your dog’s recall skills and their desire to seek you out.

 

Take a Nap Together

Many psychologists are discussing the impact of the past year on our sleep - in fact there’s even a new term for sleep troubles, “coronasomnia”. Our dogs too have been missing out on all important rest. With more of us at home, they’re getting less quiet time - especially if you have a busy household with homeschooling.

If you’re finding it difficult to get your 8 hours overnight, then taking a short power nap during the day can be beneficial. Why not take another opportunity to snuggle up with your dog and allow them to also grab some quality rest. You may well find they settle more easily with you sleeping nearby.

 

Enjoy a Garden Picnic

Did you know that some dogs actually prefer to eat in a social setting - with you near them? The process of consuming food boosts that bonding hormone, oxytocin, we mentioned earlier. Create a picnic where you can enjoy some of the same starter! Cut up some dog-safe fruits or veggies for both of you to enjoy to start with. Then you could fill up a food toy with some of their favourite Forthglade food, while you get to eat a sandwich or cake without them wanting to share. Too wet to be in your garden? Have an indoor picnic on your living room floor instead!