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K9 Corner, Feb. 28: Bonding with your dog

By HELEN PALMER

Contributing writer

A reader asked for more specifics in bonding with your dog.  (Bonding was mentioned in a previous column.)

There are many actions that cause the dog to bond, trust, and respect you. Treating the dog fairly and training him so he will know what you mean and what you expect him to do, are two important ways to bond.

Training should be undertaken only when you have time and patience to show, show and show again what you mean when you say a command. It has been estimated that the average canine takes three weeks to learn a command and be able to perform it without reminders. I have heard many a dog owner say, “I spent a whole day teaching my dog to come and he still won’t do it.” Children spend 12 years in school and in the first few grades the teachers allot blocks of class time for practice. Dogs need the practice time too.

Other ways to create bonding are greeting, praising, playtime, grooming and massaging. Let’s take them one at a time. Do you greet your dog each morning? Say hello and give him a pat as you start the day? Know your dog’s individual rhythms? Does he like only his ears scratched in the morning? Or does he want lots of love?

Praising. Dogs like to hear their names and to receive praise. Practice saying, “Good [dog’s name]” as the dog lies quietly on the floor. Practice calling the dog to the house to tell him “QUIET dogs are GOOD dogs and GOOD dogs get treats.” “[Dog’s name] is a good dog.” Then give a treat.

Eventually the dog will realize that it gets treats when it is not barking and has to come inside when it is being noisy.  Sometimes I reach down and give my dog a pat as I pass by, saying, “You’re a GOOD girl.” Tone of voice is especially important. Praise should sound happy and soothing.

Playtime is as important as exercise to a healthy dog. A good rainy day game is a variation of the shell game in which you place your dog on a down, put a doggy treat under a small plastic tub and rotate the tub with two similar tubs. Then ask the dog to “Find the Treat.” The dog always wins and gives you an opportunity to praise him. Jumping and retrieving games can be used out of doors and combines the needed exercise with play.       

Grooming was covered a few weeks ago, but massaging is a little heard of activity for dog owners. Dogs are sensitive creatures and some object to being touched in certain spots. Start your massaging session with the head. Talk soothingly as you gently rub the head. If the dog objects to any particular contact do not repeat it. This is supposed to be fun. A dog may sit or lie down during a massage. He may also want to play. Let him. Combine the massage and playtime for a fun session that’s all part of bonding.