Published: May 13th, 2016 | Jeremy Feldman

What a Dog Needs in a Friendship.

Dogs make great companions, but not all dog owners are as connected to their dogs as they’d like to think. Rather than bonding with their pets, they simply co-exist, which can make the relationship unfulfilling at best. The good news is, building a meaningful friendship with a dog is easy to do. Like human friendship, though, it won’t happen overnight. Three key components need to be present for the relationship to thrive, and they take time and patience. Work on these, and get your dog to become the best friend he was meant to be.

Interaction

Regular interaction is essential for any friendship, especially one with your dog. But if you think watching TV while Rover snoozes at your feet is interacting, think again. Interaction doesn’t just require your undivided attention; it involves spending time actively engaged in a task or venture. Great ways to interact with your dog include playing a game of fetch or hide-and-seek, participating in a dog sport or skills class, teaching your dog tricks, and taking a swim or hike together. Of course, good old-fashioned conversation with your canine companion is another effective way to interact with him.

Trust

Good friendships are based on trust, and that’s no different for canine friendship. You and your dog may like each other, but if you can’t rely on each other, there won’t be trust. Your dog needs to know what to expect from you and that he can depend on you. In turn, he will give you a trustworthy pet. The best way to instill trust in your dog is to practice consistency and let him know he matters. You can do that by treating him with kindness and empathy and by giving him daily structure, jobs to do, and lots of praise. Trust does more than help grow a bond with a dog; it gives him a better sense of security and confidence.

Closeness

Most dogs like close contact with humans. If you’re hanging out in a big room with your dog, likely he won’t slip away to some quiet corner to be alone. Instead, he’ll probably find a spot near your chair–or on it, with you. Encourage and support the proximity. Closeness helps nurture any friendship and can be very calming and gratifying for both you and your dog. Bear in mind that closeness doesn’t have to be constant. Just like you, dogs need their space. But allowing closeness with your canine companion whenever possible will only make the bond between the two of you stronger.

A friendship between a dog and his master doesn’t just happen. Like any relationship, canine companionship takes time to flourish. Once you have the above components in place, though, you and your dog can enjoy a bond that’s meaningful and lasting.

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