Boy holding a soccer ball and kneeling next to a large white dog in a grass field.

How Shared Activities Help You Bond with Your Dog

We often think of things we need to do for our dog like taking her for a walk each day. From one perspective this can feel like a chore or obligation. But in another light, taking our dog for a walk or run is really a way of sharing life together. Shared activities like this can actually help us bond with our dog.

Just as in any other relationship, doing things together builds a stronger bond. Sharing activities with our dogs helps to build a sense of trust, comfort, relaxation, and well-being, and it is fun! Not only are you providing for her care, but you are also establishing a lifelong friendship by doing interesting things together.

Your dog will begin to associate you as more than a primary resource for her basic needs. She will think of you as the one who adds enrichment, excitement, and even a sense of purpose to her life.

Dogs Need More than Food, Water, and Potty Breaks

“For dogs, humans seem to represent a social partner that, in addition to providing information pertinent to food acquisition, can be a source of emotional fulfilment and attachment.”

NIH, National Archives of Medicine, Current perspectives on attachment and bonding in the dog–human dyad, 2015, Elyssa Payne,1 Pauleen C Bennett,2 and Paul D McGreevy1

Like humans, dogs need interesting things to do each day to pass the time. I would venture to say they even need to do something that gives them a sense of purpose. This could include doing things to please us, as well as activities to protect their territory from critters or other threats.

We know that working and herding dogs need a job to do to keep them happy. A Cattle Dog loves nothing more than to work hard managing herds. But he does not do it alone. He works alongside his beloved owner who lets him know what needs to be done for the day. Cattle Dogs are some of the most loyal dogs in the world and this is often due to their connection with their primary human handler. A herding dog derives no greater sense of satisfaction than a job well done, a hearty dinner, and a good night’s sleep!

But what makes this meaningful for a working dog is his relationship with his owner. The shared experiences and direction offer a sense of purpose and fulfillment, which is how the sense of being bonded is derived. A scientific study was done and published in the NIH, National Library of Medicine in 2015, Current perspectives on attachment and bonding in the dog–human dyad, that explored the bonding experience of canines and humans. Here is an excerpt from the introduction, “For dogs, humans seem to represent a social partner that, in addition to providing information pertinent to food acquisition, can be a source of emotional fulfilment and attachment.”

What Are Dog’s Favorite Activities?

Not all dogs are working dogs who have specific jobs to do. The typical family dog is usually expected to just hang out and obey some of the basic house rules. But there are many shared activities that you can do with your dog to help instill a strong bond with you and a sense of fulfillment. Here is a list of typical things that dogs love and that you can do with them:

  • Fetch
  • Tug of war
  • Keep away
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Nose work
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Going to the beach
  • Exploring new places
  • Visiting friends
  • Play dates
  • Going to the dog park

All of these activities are fun for your dog and provide great exercise. Your pooch will also feel more mentally stimulated and energized which will lift her spirits and lead to greater contentment. Additionally, your dog will associate you with activities that are fun and exciting and she will love hanging out with you even more.

Everyday Activities with Your Pooch Can Be Very Enjoyable for both of You

Shared activity as dog goes running with his female owner
A large dog is happily going on a run with his owner.

An easy way to get some good exercise together is to go for a walk or run each day. When I had a Golden Retriever, I used to get up at 6AM each morning to take him on a run before breakfast. We ran about 2 miles each morning. That was enough to keep him content during the day and I felt exhilarated after a good run.

If the weather is bad and you cannot get out, there are a lot of other fun indoor activities like puzzle games or tug of war that you can do together. Be sure to see my post, How to Keep Your Dog Entertained and Prevent Boredom in the Winter for many more suggestions.

Special Outings with Your Dog are Particularly Bonding

If you can manage it, I think there is nothing better than taking your dog on special outings like hiking, playdates, or even to a friend’s house. Dogs love new places to explore and will enjoy being able to go out with you rather than being stuck at home. Even going to the pet store can be a lot of fun for your pup and for you. Pet stores provide a lot of interesting nose work and your dog may be a bit overwhelmed. I always chuckle that all of the most interesting chewy bones and toys seem to be placed in bins on the floor right at dog level! Just remember, if your pup eats it, you buy it!

My dogs absolutely love going to the beach. The first time I took them to our local beach I could tell that they had never been to the ocean before. Both dogs were unbelievably excited and tried to eat the surf as it rolled in. You can read more about this in my post, How Soon Can I Take My New Rescue Dog to the Beach? I really think these beach outings helped us bond much sooner because they quickly associated being with me as fun. I was not just a human who was always telling them how to behave, where to potty, and where to sleep.

Training and Obedience Classes Are Also Activities that Help Your Dog Bond with You

Daily Training at Home is Part of the Bonding Experience

Training is a great way to give a family dog a job and a sense of purpose. It is also a shared activity that will definitely help you bond with your dog. Your dog will want to please you since you are the giver of all good things in her world. Try to work a little bit with your dog each day to reinforce basic commands and rules as a refresher. You can also add in a new command or teach your dog some tricks to keep her interested and engaged.

Teaching Your Dog Tricks is Another Useful Activity to Do Together

Golden Retriever proud of his new trick -- shaking hands with his owner
Golden Retriever looks proud to learn a new trick–shaking hands.

Contrary to what some may think, teaching your dog tricks is much more than just entertaining your guests. Some tricks such as learning to crawl on their bellies or to roll over are actually good physical exercises to develop some different leg and core muscles.

Teaching your dog to shake your hand or to weave through your legs may have less purpose, but it still gives your dog a sense of accomplishment. And, most importantly, it is something you are doing together in which your pup gets a lot of praise and positive attention which helps elevate her mood. She will connect training with good things and positive time with you.

Obedience Classes Can Give Your Dog a Job That You Both Work at Together

Obedience classes take training to a higher level. Classes are a little more work and are done in conjunction with other dogs and owners. Your dog will need to work a little harder and stay focused. The environment of a class will probably feel much more exciting and stimulating and so her feelings of accomplishment may be elevated as well. Your dog will be standing close to you in a room filled with strangers and looking to you for directions. Again, she will be getting a lot of positive attention from you which will naturally promote a stronger bond.

Final Thoughts

Certainly, there are many aspects to developing a bond with your dog. Providing your new pooch with food, security, a warm place to sleep, and the comforts of home is the way to start. You can read about this in my post How to Bond with Your New Rescue Dog and learn more about welcoming a new dog into your home.

Once your new pup feels safe and secure, engaging in fun activities will deepen and solidify the bond between the two of you. The more you spend time together, the greater your connection will become.

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