If you are reading this, there’s no doubt you love your dog. However, every being, from human to canine, can make mistakes. Perhaps you’ve made a mistake that caused your dog to mistrust you. Perhaps you simply haven’t had enough time to spend with them, or haven’t developed a strong bond.
Regardless of how you found yourself wanting to repair your relationship with your dog, the ways to fix it are the same. The good news is, like relationships between humans, you can repair your relationship with your dog with patience and love.
Signs Your Relationship Needs Repairing
Before we get into how to repair your relationship with your favorite canine, let’s take a moment to learn the signs of a strained relationship.
You’ll know if you need to work on your bond with your dog by the way they interact with you. One sign is emotional indifference. Are they pleased to see you, or do they ignore you or show no signs of excitement at your presence?
They may also avoid eye contact, and have no interest in following commands. They may also run or hide from you. They can also be aggressive towards you, or depressed or lethargic.
Ways to repair your relationship with your dog
Repairing your relationship with your dog takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it. Dogs have a strong associative memory. This means they will remember both positive and negative experiences, or how they felt at the time.
Over time, negative associations can be replaced by positive ones, and you can build a close bond with your pooch.
The first step is to remain calm. If you’ve yelled or became angry at your dog, this may be the reason why your relationship is strained. You can’t change the past, but you can change how you react in the future.
When interacting with your dog, stay calm. Do not raise your voice. If you can’t interact with them calmly, walk away until you can.
Next, you’ll need to provide structure. This means you have rules that you expect your dog to follow, as well as a schedule. Feed them and take them for walks and potty breaks at the same times each day.
This type of schedule will help your dog feel safe and secure, because they know what to expect.
It may seem counterintuitive to provide rules for your pooch when you are trying to repair your relationship. However, this actually lets them know you care. It also gives them expectations. They know what they want, and how to please you.
Avoid Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement puts a strain on your relationship with your pooch. During training, provide lots of positive reinforcement. Give them treats or praise for doing well. Patiently and calmly redirect when they do things they shouldn’t, but avoid punishing them.
Respect Their Boundaries
You want to give your dog lots of love and attention. However, you’ll need to respect their boundaries during this time. Think of it as you would a relationship with another human.
Would you hug a family member when they didn’t want one? The answer is likely no, because you recognize this would be crossing a boundary. This would negatively affect your relationship.
The same is true with your dog. Be open to providing them with love and affection, but do not try to force them. Allow them to come to you for attention.
It’s ok to call them. If they don’t come, let it go for now. If they don’t like being picked up or hug, don’t do these things. Don’t sit them in your lap. Instead, allow them to climb into your lap if they wish.
Creating positive associations is key. You can do this by making fun memories with your pooch. What are their favorite activities? Do these with them. Perhaps they love walks or play sessions.
Give them plenty of fun activities. Be aware of their boundaries, however, Do not force them to do “fun” things if they aren’t interested at the moment. Stop and try again later.
Give Them Some Wins
When training your pooch, start simple and easy. At first, reward them for small accomplishments. This is another way to create positive memories with them. It also increases their confidence.
When you are learning something difficult, you find it more enjoyable when you are successful. Do your best to set your dog up for success, and reward them often.
Learn Their Communication
Dogs don’t communicate through words, but they do communicate in other ways. In addition to communicating with their voice, by barking, whining, or even howling, they communicate through body language.
When your dog is relaxed, their tail should be in a neutral position. Their body will appear relaxed instead of tense. When they are excited, their tail will wag. They may bark or pant as well.
When they are scared, their tail will be down. They will avoid eye contact. They may bow down or cower. They may shake and whine as well.
When you notice your dog becoming uncomfortable or scared, step back. Did you inadvertently cause these feelings? Is it something in the environment, like loud noises or other animals?
The same applies when they are happy or excited. Note what you or your dog are doing that brought them happiness, so you can do these things more often.
Write it Down
You may find it helpful to keep a journal of your interactions with your dog. When you notice something has a positive or negative effect, write it down. You’ll soon have a clear idea of what to do, and what not to do.
Meet Their Needs
Be sure that you are meeting your dog’s needs. This requires a mix of common sense and monitoring their moods and body language. Some needs are easy to recognize.
You know your pooch needs to eat, needs potty breaks, and proper rest. Other needs may not be as obvious. Are they getting enough exercise? Are they bored?
Dogs who are bored are more likely to get into trouble. If they are having house accidents, being destructive, or are hyperactive, they may be bored. Dogs who are bored may also become lethargic or depressed. Excessive grooming can also be a sign of boredom
To be happy and healthy, dogs need a mix of both physical and mental activity.
Give Them Their Own Space
In addition to respecting your dog’s boundaries, it’s important to give them a space of their own. This should be a quiet or low traffic area where your dog can rest and relax.
You should avoid intruding into their area unless you need to clean or provide food or water. This is your dog’s safe place. Think of it as the canine version of the bedroom. Or, if you have kids, the bathroom. The one area of the home where you can at least hope for privacy.
Your dog needs this type of space just as you do.
Lastly, have patience. This is a process. How long it takes depends on your dog’s personality and how badly damaged the relationship was.
It’s also possible that you aren’t responsible for the issue. If your dog is adopted from a shelter or previous owner, they may have had a bad experience before coming to you.
In this case, you don’t really know what they’ve been through. You’ll need to have understanding and endurance when working through their issues.