The bond I share with my dogs is truly special, and it wasn’t built by accident. Spending time together is the first step in strengthening the relationship between you and your dog, but how you spend that time is important, too.
And there are plenty of enjoyable ways to build those bonds, from long walks to obedience classes to agility training and more. Because some of these activities can require challenging physical activity, check with your veterinarian to make sure there’s nothing preventing your dog from participating. Here are six fun ways to bond with your dog.
Obedience class isn't just a way to teach your dog to behave the way you want him to — it also teaches you how to best communicate with your dog. Puppy kindergarten, where your pup learns essential skills like sit, stay and come, is a great place to start, and he can typically begin as early as 10 weeks of age (following his first set of vaccinations and the OK from your veterinarian). And once you and your dog have mastered the basics, you can explore more advanced options and maybe even work toward taking a Canine Good Citizen test.
So, you and your dog have completed a basic obedience class and mastered more advanced commands. What's next? Try trick training! All you need to start is a clicker and some treats. Set aside time to teach your dog clever tricks like jumping through a hoop, shaking hands or twirling on his back legs. There are many resources for trick training, including books and classes, as well as a number of videos right here on Vetstreet.
It won't surprise you to hear that hiking can be great exercise for both you and your dog, but think about the mental workout your pet gets out in nature. Each breath brings with it a plethora of delightful new scents, and there's just so much to explore! Plus, hiking (or going for a nice, long walk anywhere, really) gives you and your dog an opportunity to communicate with one another in a pleasant environment, which is a great way to show one another some love.
If you're interested in stretching yourself as a trainer and have a four-legged athlete with energy to spare, there are a number of dog sports you and your pup might enjoy doing together. Agility has gained considerable popularity in recent years, so it's likely you can find a class in your area. In canine agility, your dog is guided through a course made up of numerous obstacles like tunnels, teeter-totters and weave poles by his handler — that would be you! It can be done just for fun, or, if you prefer, you can enter competitions.
Flyball is a team relay race that includes jumping hurdles and fetching a ball. A team is made up of at least four dogs (and five people); teams compete against one another on a 51-foot course with four jumps. A spring-loaded box at the end of each course ejects a ball when the dog steps on it. The dog catches the ball and hops back over the hurdles to the start. It's fun and fast-paced, and cheering your dog on to victory is a tremendous way to bond.
If your dog has never met a scent he wasn't interested in, nose work could be the perfect fit for him — and you. This game requires dogs to find a certain odor (like clove or birch) and alert his handler by giving an indication (such as sitting or looking at the person). The game has loads of flexibility, because it can be played indoors and outdoors, rain or shine, and on any type of surface. And, just like agility, you and your dog can compete in nose work or do it just for fun.