10 Fun and Effective Ways to Bond With Your New Puppy
How to Bond with Your New Puppy
Let’s start at the beginning of when and how you create a loving, lasting bond with this new member of the family. Whether you are bringing home a puppy or rescue dog, these ten tips will give you a pathway to a solid relationship based on trust and respect for each other. Each stepping stone is laid through positive interaction and training, right from the start!
1. Set The Stage!
Be prepared to welcome your new pup into your home. Get your supplies before you ever bring your new puppy home, and set up her crate and playpen to be welcoming and fun. Puppy proof the areas where your puppy will spend time so you aren’t having to take things away or chase after her while she plays. Have plenty of treats, toys, and a plan for ways to make your puppy’s first days in your home comfortable and fun.
2. Respect Your Puppy’s Fears!
Understand that your excitement about how this very first day together will go may not be realistic. Introduce your puppy gently to his “new world,” and go slowly. Don’t have people over to meet him until he is comfortable with you. Keep other pets away from him at first, and then make the introductions carefully and at a distance.
Your puppy may be timid, and pushing him too quickly will not help build a bond. Don’t get discouraged if all he wants to do for the first few days is sleep and cling to you – some puppies don’t even want to eat at first!
Be gentle, loving, supportive. Snuggle if puppy wants, but if he doesn’t, don’t take it personally. You are a stranger after all. Show your puppy patience and consistent calm, and he will settle in.
3. Control your Expectations!
Look at your mindset, and listen to the words you say and think. Keep them positive, fun, and stress-free.
So often we hear new puppy owners lament things like “My puppy hates me!” Puppies don’t hate, aren’t stubborn, don’t throw temper tantrums. Puppies can be fearful, shy, and unsure of what you are trying to communicate – so try to learn her language. Look at her face, tail, body posture.
Choose your tone of voice just as carefully when talking with your puppy! High-pitched voices can be over-stimulating to some new pups. And low menacing tones, even in play, can create a barrier to that bond you want to build.
It’s not the words so much, since pups don’t speak our language, but the way we convey them. Smile, laugh, show your puppy how much fun she brings you – she will want to do more of that!
When talking about your dog to others, choose your words carefully to keep your mindset positive and fun.
Move slowly around your puppy. Quick movements and loud noises confuse and even frighten pups, or could entice them into play. This is why we ask that children sit on a stool, up off the floor, in puppy’s presence – instead of running through the house screaming.
4. Be Fully Present!
Put down the phone, turn off the television, and focus on this new life in your home! Okay, yes, you need to take a few pictures, and a video for social media, but then put it away.
The first several weeks are crucial to creating a bond in which your puppy feels validated, safe, loved, and important.
If you're wondering “How can I bond with my puppy,” the first step is to create enough value in yourself that puppy will be thrilled to be around you! How?
Training is a wonderful tool for bonding – not long, grueling hours of intensive commands, but very short sessions of fun, learning the things we want our puppy to learn. Potty training is usually among the first things we work on.
- Make it fun!
- Be prepared beforehand.
- Follow a routine every single time so your puppy quickly learns what to expect and what you expect!
- Have a potty spot outside and go there with a happy “Let’s go potty!”
- Use a leash so you can keep him focused, safe, and help him learn to reach the spot that is designated for this job.
- When he succeeds, celebrate as you would a ‘birthday party” with a yummy reward and lots of happy praise!
- Then go back inside and spend a few minutes of playtime.
Puppies thrive on attention, so be sure your puppy has yours. Treats, walks, playing favorite games (once you determine what those are for him) encourage your dog to want to spend time with you, and begin to love and trust you.
Other ways to help you and your puppy bond are to learn your Common Language and get into a routine!.
5. Learn Puppy Language!
Your puppy is not going to come to you and say “I need to potty,” or “I need a nap.” Dogs have their own language, using their body and their behaviors to express themselves. And as your puppy’s human, you need to learn that language.
She is busy trying desperately to learn your language – be sure this interaction goes both ways.
Her bark is a common way of expressing, “I need something.” You will need to put on your Doggie Detective hat to figure out what she needs. Look at subtle cues.
For example, if she is walking in circles and sniffing the floor, that might mean she’s looking for a place to potty! Time to clip on the leash, tell her, “Good girl, Let’s go potty!” and head out the door with a treat in hand.
Be sure to give her enough time to do her business. But if she doesn’t go potty… then without any fuss just head back in the house and keep looking for what she needs. We never, ever correct or express dismay to our puppy for potty accidents or for not going! Remember, you’re building a bond, keeping it positive, making a relationship for a lifetime!
6. Set a Routine!
Puppies thrive on routine. They love knowing what to expect next, having a schedule they can trust and count on. But it also isn’t good to become a slave to that schedule.
It’s good to have a routine for eating, sleeping, and playing because that makes their potty habits also settle into a routine you can work around. But within that routine, you can also switch things up enough to keep them fun and interesting for you both.
Include time to just be a dog in your puppy’s routine. Dogs need to:
- Sniff – outside or with a snuffle mat
- Explore – even if it’s three minutes exploring a new room in your home, or out in the yard on a long leash
- Dig – perhaps a place in your yard to dig, or make up a “dig box” – a cardboard box with some old rags or dish towels and treats scattered in there for him to dig out.
Let your puppy fulfill his doggie instincts often enough to delight him, and you can still have a routine that will delight you!
7. Pay Attention to Her Needs!
Puppies need sleep – a lot of sleep – 18 to 20 hours per day is normal! Letting puppy skip naps when the kids are home or company is over sets her up for disaster, and can actually put a chink in that all-important trust you are building!
An over-tired pup is going to misbehave, perhaps get more bitey, have a potty accident, just not be able to respond appropriately to the situation.
On weekends, stick to that nap schedule, feed her on time, take the potty breaks often enough, because she thrives on that routine.
During the first few weeks or even months, your puppy may not sleep through the night, but don’t awaken her to go potty. Allow her to alert you when she needs a late-night potty trip. Then respond quickly and quietly, and return her to the crate to finish her night’s sleep.
This builds more communication between you two, based on her needs, rather than your alarm clock. And who knows, she may surprise you by sleeping longer than you expected!
Responding to your puppy’s need, whatever it might be, is a great way to build trust and respect, and your puppy bond will be stronger for it!
8. Use Training to Build that Bond!
Training is a big part of a young puppy’s life, and can also be fun for you both. But again, switch it up a bit to keep things fun and interesting.
Don’t set up rigid timeframes in which to focus on one behavior until puppy gets it right. You’ll both get frustrated, and neither of you will enjoy that much. Instead, incorporate training into the daily flow of things.
Take two minutes here to work on a crate training game. Or five minutes there to play “Bump It” with the leash and collar followed by a game of tug (remember, puppy does the tugging, you just hold on!) and lots of affection and fun.
Working on new behaviors in an atmosphere that is free of distractions using short sessions makes training feel like a game for your puppy and he will respond beautifully!
Go at his pace with each new skill, reward generously with both treats and praise, and always follow a short training session with a quiet game together, or perhaps a cool-down with a favorite chew or stuffed toy.
9. Bonding Should Be Sweet and Fun!
Once your pup is ready for snuggles and cuddles – what a wonderful bond you’ll create! But. And there is always a “But” isn’t there? After this brand new itty bitty puppy has been home for a few days or even weeks, you may find she squirms away when you initiate that wonderful snuggle, or gets bitey, or runs away from you. Don’t take it personally!
Touch and physical contact are intimate behaviors, and your puppy/dog has the right to say “not now, thanks” when she isn’t in the mood for that. As she gets more confident, she will begin to make choices on things, and your respect for those choices will go a long way towards strengthening that bond.
Once again, look at her body language, follow her cues, and when she is ready, she’ll be happy to snuggle again. But perhaps now she wants to play, or take a nap, or even go potty. Be respectful, have fun with her, and treat her kindly, and she will love you more for it!
10. Be a Buddy to Your Pup!
As humans, we often bond over shared experiences such as playing sports, hiking, swimming, going out together. Do the same with your puppy – make him your buddy while exercising his body and his mind.
Walks, particularly decompression walks, are a great way for you to get to know your puppy better, and for him to learn to both trust and have fun with you!
Is yoga your thing? Maybe doggie yoga, on a small scale, would be fun for you both.
If you love to spend time in the water, begin (very slowly and patiently) exposing your pup to the fun of swimming or boating in a safe way. Never push him past his threshold of comfort – there is always another day!
If you have an energetic puppy, a rousing game of fetch, “find it”, a gentle game of tug, chasing a flirt pole, or teaching him to figure out a puzzle toy will mean as much to your relationship as a cuddle on the couch.
Teaching your puppy to find “hidden” treats or toys will be both fun and expand his mental abilities.
Again, take a quick pic, then put the phone away and spend quality time with this little being. It’s a great way to build a bond that will grow and deepen and last a lifetime!
How Long Does It Take to Bond With Your Puppy?
This is a question many of my students ask. I like to turn it around and ask, “How long does it take to create a new friendship with another human?”
While it won’t be immediate, some bonds develop quicker than others. In addition to adjusting our expectations about our new puppy, we have to manage our own expectations of TIME!
And the steps provided here will definitely help you bond more quickly with your new puppy.
What’s the Best Way to Bond with My Puppy?
In many ways, building a bond with your puppy is similar to building a new friendship with another human.
1. Nurture your bond every day.
Make quality time with your puppy a priority and be respectful and trustworthy. This will create the safe space necessary for a relationship to blossom and grow. (PsychologyToday)
2. Practice being present.
Being in the same place at the same time is not the same as being present. Being truly present with your pup means that you take the time to get to know your pup, notice and compliment their accomplishments, and show genuine empathy when they are facing challenges. (PsychCentral)
3. Communicate effectively.
Dogs have the intelligence of a 2-year-old human child. Dogs can count and learn to understand up to 150 words according to psychologist and leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia. (American Psychological Association) Dogs also communicate with their body language, barks, and whimpers.
And similar to communication with other humans, good communication with your dog involves more than just talking. It also involves respecting one another’s feelings and “listening” to what the other is communicating. (PsychCentral)
“Listening” to what the other is communicating will take time as you and your puppy learn to understand a foreign language! Your puppy will be learning human language and you will be learning dog language.
4. Maintain reasonable expectations.
Unrealistic expectations set us up for disappointment and frustration which are reflected in our communication and hamper our efforts to develop strong, positive bonds with our new pup. Puppies are very sensitive to verbal and nonverbal communication. So it’s up to you to set reasonable expectations and keep communication positive.
5. Initiate physical touch.
“Sometimes a simple touch can create a substantial emotional association.” (Shirin Peykar, LMFT) So spend time each day petting, cuddling, or even grooming your pup to demonstrate your affection.
6. Give verbal praise.
Verbal praise does more than just reward your puppy for a job well-done. It reinforces positive behaviors, fosters learning, and increases puppy’s confidence. And, for you as the owner, verbal praise or appreciation counteracts disappointment and contempt which are two of the most destructive forces in a relationship. (Liz Colizza, MA, LPC)
7. Create rituals together.
Rituals give you and your puppy something to look forward to on a regular basis and ensure that you are constantly building your connection. Remember, even when you’re having a hectic day, your puppy has been waiting for that special time with you. So even if it’s just a few minutes of playtime together, after your workday and puppy has had a chance to potty, there’s something about the repetition of these simple acts that take your relationship to the next level.
Why Can’t I Bond with My Puppy?
So here you are with a puppy who is maybe three months old, and you just don’t feel that warm, fuzzy bond you anticipated. It does happen, and can lead to puppy blues if you don’t step back and figure it out! Here are a few things to consider:
- Behavior is information. Your puppy is trying to converse with you, and somehow you and she aren’t connecting. Look at her behavior, and see what it is she wants or needs from you!
- Avoid negativity or punishment. Are you using aversives or negative corrections? Is someone else in the environment? Puppies need consistent positive reinforcement to begin to feel safe and cared for. Set boundaries on everyone! Make your home a no punishing, no aversive tools zone.
- Be an inviter, not an invader! Invite puppy to spend time with you, but don’t force it. Respect his right to a private space of his own, and don’t allow other kids, pets, or people to invade that space.At the same time, gently show him your own boundaries. That builds respect between you!
- Set Puppy up to Succeed! Manage space to decrease potty accidents and chewing. This allows puppy to succeed.
- Learn to understand puppy’s pleas for help – like when puppy is destroying furniture or even hands with chewing and pottying everywhere. It’s hard to build a bond when your puppy feels you don’t understand him and you’re always stressed and angry but he doesn’t know why.
And finally, let’s say it again: put down that phone and other devices and re-read those ten tips above on how to build that bond! It’s never too late!
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.