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My parents have been patient with QT even when he makes mistakes. Through reward-based training, they are teaching him to trust them and to willingly do the things they ask him to do. Reward-based training has also given them a way to communicate with QT, which in turn reduces conflict and increases their bond with him.
They are also spending time doing the things QT likes to do. He enjoys being held and petted, and he looks forward to play time. Just like QT, every puppy has unique ways of bonding, from cuddling on the couch to exploring new sights and smells on a walk to learning a new trick or having playtime together. Doing the things your puppy likes to do helps him to associate you with those activities, which creates a positive feeling toward you. You might even say it can help him to fall in love with you!
While it makes sense to focus on activities your puppy likes when you’re trying to win his love, don’t limit yourself to doing only what he naturally enjoys. Making an effort to make activities the puppy may not initially like, such as being still for petting, more pleasant and less stressful can help him feel more comfortable, both with you and with the activity.
I worked with a Border Collie puppy who was constantly wired and energetic and who rarely settled down. He was especially sensitive to touch and disliked petting. His owner wanted to be able to pet the puppy without stressing him out; he also wanted to teach the dog to settle down when needed, rather than being in a constant state of arousal. I worked with the owner to provide the puppy with outlets for his energy and to reward calm behavior and petting with treats and extra play time. Eventually, the puppy learned to relax and began to happily anticipate being petted. These small behavior changes made a big — and very positive — difference in the puppy’s relationship with his person.
Building a positive relationship with your puppy can also help you remain close through transition periods in the puppy’s life, such as through his adolescence or the canine teen years. Common changes during adolescence include the puppy becoming more independent and more willing to test boundaries. A good relationship between puppy and person can help ease this otherwise-difficult phase. A relationship founded on reward-based training is particularly helpful in this part of a dog’s life, as it helps reduce conflict and promotes resolving problems in a kind and gentle manner.
Most of us love puppies, and I’ve found that puppies have just as much love to give us in return. With some dogs it’s just there, from that very first snuggle, while with others, it takes time and effort to build. But the investment is well worth the lifelong love and friendship you and your dog will find in each other.
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