By now, you’ve probably heard of the human-animal bond. We touched on it a bit, here-and-there, in previous posts. But, let’s really talk about what it is and how training deepens the bond with your puppy. HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute) has best described the human-animal bond as follows:
“The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.” Source
After studying the human-animal bond from a scientific standpoint as well as observations both from afar and close-up, I can firmly say that pets change people. However, I think that people change pets first. One could make the chicken or the egg argument. But, here’s why I think this. A relationship begins the first moment you meet your puppy. Just like a child, your puppy will come with some preconditioned, genetic actions. And, just like a child, much of what your puppy becomes will be learned. From you.
By being in a good headspace to welcome a new puppy into your family you help to start the human-animal bond out on the right foot. Or paw. Patience, understanding, and humor serve as the foundation for helping to build a solid human-animal bond with your puppy. This is great news because these are also the exact same ingredients needed for puppy training!
How Training Deepens the Bond With Your Puppy
When you undertake a solid puppy training program, the bond with your new fuzzy addition will deepen by keeping the 3-ingredient foundation in mind. As you continue training, helping your puppy to feel secure, loved, and supported, the human-animal bond that began on day one will continue to flourish and grow.
Here’s how it all works.
- Quality Time Together: Each action you take with a new puppy will teach him or her how to trust. By spending more quality time, interacting, connecting, and making each experience a fun learning adventure, your puppy learns to trust you. The more trusting your puppy is of you, the more time s/he’ll want to spend with you, and the deeper your bond will grow.
- Learned Patterns: As you continue to train your puppy, s/he learns your patterns. Even those you may not know you have! This is akin to the observations you’ll make about your puppy during training sessions. This translates into expectations. Your puppy will have them of you, and vice-a-versa, the more quality time you spend together. Consistency in responses will be key. The more patient, understanding, and joyful you are in your responses, even if your puppy has some challenges with certain cues, the more your bond will deepen.
- Positive Reinforcement: When your puppy doesn’t do well in a training session, how will you respond? It isn’t a matter of if, it truly is a matter of when. Just like us, sometimes dogs just have a ‘ruff’ day! Who you are in those moments will help deepen or fracture your bond with your puppy. Think of it this way, when you’ve had a bad day at work and your colleague tells you, “I told you if you only would have done it my way it wouldn’t have turned out this way.” How is that helpful? At that moment you need support, kindness and gentle help to get it right the next time. Same thing with your puppy. When given a choice, always be positive with your puppy. And, you always have a choice.
What’s the Underlying Theme?
There is an underlying theme in deepening the bond with your puppy. Trust. Trust is inherent in everything you do to deepen the bond with your puppy. You want your puppy to trust you. You need your puppy to trust you. In order to get your puppy to trust you, you must be trustworthy in your interactions with him/her. This is why I suggest that humans change puppy’s first - before they change us into people who sport ‘Dog Mom’ and ‘Dog Dad’ t-shirts and throw them birthday parties!
How the Human-Animal Bond Benefits Us
Beyond turning us into cooing, loving-name calling pet parents, dogs can change us in immeasurable ways. Recent scientific research shows that dogs can help us in the following ways:
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Preventing childhood allergies.
- Reducing stress levels.
- Decreasing anxiety and depression.
- Strengthening our immune system.
- Increasing social interactions.
I don’t know about you - but I say, “bring on all the goodness that comes from having a deep bond with my dog!”