Dogs offer unconditional love to just about everybody they meet. Whenever a familiar face walks through the front door, you can bet your life that Fido will go bounding over, preparing to smother this new arrival with licks and tail wags.
That’s great for the ego of the recipient. Unfortunately, that’s terrible for the ego of the owner, who is left wondering if their pet only loves them for their distribution of food and that anybody would do. Worrying about whether our dogs are truly bonded to us is something that many pooch parents inevitably experience from time to time.
There are many ways that you can tell when (not if – when!) you have successfully bonded with your dog. These vary from a dog wanting to sleep in your bed (that’s the ultimate display of trust from your dog, as while they’re dozing they’re at their most vulnerable) to showing reluctance to leave your side. This article will discuss the many ways that you’ll be able to know if your dog has bonded with you.
Table of Contents:
Are Dogs Capable of Bonding with People?
A strong bond between dog and owner is the key to a happy life for dog owners, but how do we go about achieving this? There is a lot more to forging a bond with your dog than ensuring that their basic needs, such as food and shelter, are being met.
The fact is, dogs are more than capable of bonding with their human companions. In fact, according to a study completed by Japanese University students and published in the medical journal Science, when dogs and their owners stare into each other’s eyes, they fall in love.
This may sound like bunkum, but it’s explainable away in plain English. The study checked the oxytocin levels of both canines and people that spent time with each other, and the results were raised a few eyebrows. It became clear that the dog/human pairings that exchanged looks for longer recorded higher and higher levels of the hormone, which is closely linked with love and bonding – it’s usually released during intercourse between partners, or while a mother cradles her child.
Interestingly, the experiment was repeated with tame wolves but found different results. The levels of oxytocin remained untouched in human and animal. This, seemingly, confirms what dog owners have long suspected. Bringing a furry family member into your home leads to an unmistakable bond, and your dog is more than capable of feeling love for you.
It’s up to you to respect the power and potency of this connection.
How to Tell if Your Dog Trusts You
Trust is the first, and arguably the most important, step to forging a bond with your dog. Your canine companion will be wholly dependent on you to feed them, ensure that their exercise needs are met, keep them warm, take care of them when they’re sick. Even the smartest dog can’t make its way through the harsh realities of 21st Century life without human help.
Thankfully, there are many ways of telling when you have gained your dog’s trust. These include:
- Your dog wants to sleep in your bed. Dogs are never more vulnerable than when they’re dozing. If a dog is prepared to sleep with you, it’s an indication that they trust you implicitly.
- Your dog asks for a belly rub. Much like sleeping, showing you their delicate, unprotected belly is a way of a dog showing that they trust you.
- Your dog lets you touch their paws. If you’re wondering how to cut dog nails that are too long, you’ll need to feel their paws. Most dogs loathe this, so if your pet lets you hold hands you have earned their trust.
- Your dog follows a strict routine. If you walk and feed your dog at the same time every day, expect them to approach you at this time. They are showing that they trust you to stick to their schedule, and are holding up their end of the bargain.
If your pet displays any of the behaviors above, congratulations. You have gained the trust of your dog, and you are set for a long and happy relationship!
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Bonded with You
They’ll display all the same behaviors as outlined above in our segment on trust, alongside:
- Your dog follows you everywhere. This isn’t just because dogs are social – they are also showing their love in wanting to be where you are, and doing what you do.
- Your dog steals your belongings. It can be scary not knowing what to do if your dog ate a sock, but Fido thieving your footwear is a compliment. They are trying to get your scent to feel close to you while you’re not around.
- Your dog wags its tail to the right. As confirmed by this study by scientists, dog tail-wagging can denote their emotions. If your dog looks at you and wags his or her tail to the right, it’s because they’re happy in your company.
Once you’ve managed to bond with your dog, you will be set for life. Provided that you don’t do anything to break their trust or lose their affection, your dog will do whatever it can to make you happy for the rest of its life.
Why Is It So Important to Bond With Your Dog?
We’d like you to imagine a scenario. It’s not a pleasant one, we should warn you, but it carries relevance.
Picture the scene. You are enjoying a day out with your dog, strolling through the forest or wherever it may be that you enjoy your human-canine constitutionals when something unfortunate befalls your pet. Maybe it’s an unexpected attack from another dog, or a different animal, that draws blood and leaves your dog leaving urgent medical attention. Perhaps they put their foot in something unpleasant, leading to a virus that has a significant impact on their paw and needs a great deal of treatment. Maybe they slip and fall, leading to a break in their limb.
Whatever happens, the recovery will not be quick and painless – and it will involve a great deal of TLC from you at home. If your dog trusts and adores you, they are considerably more likely to tolerate you changing dressings, administering medications and bathing them. If you’re just another figure in their lives, their fear and distrust will take over and significantly extend their period of ill health.
Can a Dog Bond With More Than One Person?
Of course – dogs, just like humans, are capable of expressing love and affection for more than one person at a time. However, also like humans, a dog is likely to have one human that they love more than any other.
This doesn’t mean that your dog will automatically become aggressive toward anybody else they come into contact with (though that can happen, especially in the case of over-bonding, which we will discuss later.)
Overall, however, many couples that co-parent a pooch will find that their dog seems to gravitate every so slightly more to one person than another. That’s perfectly normal, and nothing to enter family therapy over.
How to Tell if Your Dog Loves You the Most
If your dog lives with two human parents, watch out for these small signs that they may carry more affection for you than your partner:
- Your dog shows better recall with you.
- Your dog seems more excited to see you.
- Your dog always sleeps on your side of the bed.
- Your dog seems reluctant to eat if you do not feed them.
- Your dog wants to stay out and play longer with you but is keen to come home if out with your partner.
These behaviors don’t always mean that a pet loves one person more than the other. There could be other simple explanations, such as a particular voice timber penetrating their hearing better, or even the mood they happen to be in on any given day. Despite this, it may be worth your partner making a little more effort to bond with your dog in an attempt at evening up the affection.
Will Spaying and Neutering Affect How a Dog Bonds with a Human?
Many dog owners feel uneasy about the idea of spaying or neutering their pet, considering it to be cruel. Understandably, some also worry that their dog may never forgive them.
This is not something that you need concern yourself with, as the Canine Journal explains. Spaying or neutering your pet will not change the way they feel about you, and leave them silently seething and cursing your name.
Especially in the case of neutering males, it may even improve your relationship. A male dog that does not experience constant surges of testosterone is less likely to be bull-headed and distractible in the pursuit of a bitch in heat, leaving them free to focus all of their love and affection upon you!
Can a Dog Over-Bond with a Human?
They most certainly can, as Pet Helpful explains. This is known as velcro bonding, and it can be quite common among single people that adopt a puppy. It could also impact upon somebody that finds themselves housebound with their dog, as the inability to get out for regular walks and lack of other stimulation will leave the dog unable – or unwilling – to source entertainment from elsewhere.
If the individual is not careful, their dog will end up being so reliant and affectionate toward them that they will not allow anybody else to approach the human in question, acting aggressively as they feel the need to protect their owner.
Another problem that arises from velcro bonding is the fact that it will become challenging to break your dog’s separation anxiety – and believe us if a dog is velcro-bonded to their owner they will suffer hugely from this condition.
If you are worried that you may have over-bonded with your dog, try to make them a little less reliant on you. Ask somebody else to come to your home and feed him or her from time to time, and to take them on walks.
You should also attempt to avoid rewarding any behavior designed solely to attract your attention. Before long, your dog will come to realize that it’s not inappropriate to bond with other people and it will not impact upon your relationship.
I Can’t Bond With My Dog
Not with that attitude you can’t. Honestly, you are capable of bonding with any dog, but you’re going to have to put some work in. Having a dog that respects you and does exactly what you say, placing value in your role as their master, is very different to have a dog that loves you and sees you as an inter-species parent and pivotal member of their pack.
There’s no doubt that you will bond with some dogs more, or easier, than others. In this respect, canines are just the same as people – if everybody we met were our soul mate, there would be a lot of awkward Thanksgiving dinners in our future. However, that doesn’t mean that you and your dog can’t be happy sharing a home.
A big part of this will involve your approach to training. Put bluntly, training your dog and getting them to complete physical feats is not enough to develop a strong bond. If that were the case, gym teachers would be the most desirable potential partners in the world (a special note for any gym teachers reading this – we don’t doubt that you’re lovely.) You’ll need to balance the training and instruction during those pivotal early days with a great deal of love and affection.
The other important thing to remember is that every dog is unique, and it’s entirely unfair on a pooch to inflict your expectations upon him or her. Just because you met a dog that behaved in one way, you can’t then expect your dog to do the same, and to be disappointed if that’s the case. A canine will be able to pick up on any sensation of disappointment, disapproval or disrespect that you feel toward them and behave accordingly. Bonding is a two-way street, and you’re going to have to be patient and make at least half the running with your dog.
How to Bond With a Dog That Doesn’t Like You
There could be many reasons why a dog takes a dislike to a human. They could be frightened of you, they may just be feeling territorial, you could smell like a natural enemy or predator of the dog, or maybe they’re insecure about you. If you are meeting a new partner, for example, their dog may be used to having the person in question all to himself or herself and will not appreciate the presence of an infiltrator.
If you’re struggling to forge a connection, there are many dog bonding exercises that you can try – and they don’t all revolve around handing him or her treats until you successfully manage to wear them down. The first way of doing this is to gain the trust of your dog.
Cesar Millan has recommendations for this, which include:
- Always be calm. Showing anger or frustration helps nobody.
- Speak in a soft voice and tone. Deep, booming sounds intimidate and frighten dogs.
- Keep your distance, letting them approach you. No dog enjoys having their space invaded.
- Let them sniff you. That’s how a dog will judge whether to trust you; don’t walk away when they try,
- Get down on your hands and knees. A dog will be far less intimidated if you are interacting with them on their level.
- Be clean. If you live with a cat or another dog, wash away the evidence!
- Do something fun. Take the pooch for a walk, or toss a ball or Frisbee around with them.
- Be patient. It will take time to win over a dog, but it will be worth it in the end.
Naturally, trust and love are very different things – much like love and respect. You cannot force a dog to love you any more than you can force a human to fall in love, but we’ll be blunt – you have a much better chance of winning over a dog.
Provided you remain consistent, kind and patient, you will eventually be able to secure a dog’s trust. Trust is the first, pivotal step toward love and a permanent bond between human and animal.
Do Dogs Accept New Owners?
Most of the time, yes they do. However, it’s not a simple process and, as with all matters about gaining the love and trust of a dog, will take time and patience.
Dogs are capable of mourning and feeling depressed when they lose somebody close to them, including their owners. This is hardly surprising, as if a dog has lived with the same human for a decade they will have adopted a routine! This will make be particularly prevalent if your dog was velcro bonded to their previous owner, and professional help may be needed.
However, if a dog adopted from a shelter is emotionally well balanced other than the sadness inflicted by losing their beloved human, they will usually bond with a new owner within a month or two. It may not be quite the same, as all relationships are different, but a typical dog will bounce back and adapt to their new surroundings.
Can a Dog Be Best Friends With Another Dog?
Before we wrap up, we’d like to investigate one other question – can dogs bond with a fellow canine (or any domestic animal) to the point that they are considered best friends? According to PetMD – and anybody that has ever owned a dog – yes they can.
Social pets will often enjoy spending time with other animals, and it’s a common sight to watch a dog adopting the ‘play bow.’ This will be a suggestion that another canine engages in a game of chase, or tug or war. Some dogs bond with each other more than any other, however, and become true BFFs – much like humans.
You will know if this has happened because your dog will naturally look to spend more time with this particular dog than any other in the park. Also, an otherwise territorial dog may develop a new-found willingness to share some of their food, water, bed and treasured possessions with their friend – but don’t be surprised if sharing remains the final frontier that cannot be overcome by even the closest of canines.
Nat King Cole memorably claimed that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,” and that certainly applies to your relationship with your dog. Bonding with a canine is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and it’s a relationship unlike any other that you could ever experience.
It will become apparent to you when you have managed to forge a successful union between human and dog that is based around unconditional trust, companionship, and love – and it’s a bond that you’ll never forget. Enjoy your cherished time with your canine companion.