How To Make a Dog Like You, Love You, Trust You, and Respect You
Whether you've just bought a puppy, rescued a new friend, or are meeting a dog for the first time, there are so many great tips to get a dog to feel at ease and learn to like you.
We have split up different ways for you to learn how to make a dog like, love, trust, and respect you into what we see as the four most important categories.
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Respect - Learn to respect your dog and learn what they like.
Care - Everything you need to know about making a dog love you, through caring for them.
Interact - This will include games, activities, and other things you and your dog can do together to bond.
Lead - Becoming your dog's leader, or closest human is a great way to build love and trust between you two.
Some dogs can be nervous of new people. Whether you're approaching an unknown dog or own a shy dog, we recommend the tips below.
Always Ask Permission
We all love dogs, and the temptation to reach out and pet all cute dogs is difficult to overcome. However, some dogs don't like strangers, whether this is because they're unsocialized, have a troubled past, or are timider. Imagine someone patting you on the head without asking! Make sure to always as permission from the owner. Check where they like stroking and where to avoid, many dogs don't like being touched on the head.
If you have a nervous dog, don't be afraid to say no if someone asks to stroke them. Don't be afraid to remove your dog from a situation you know it feels uncomfortable in (e.g., surrounded by loud toddlers, overwhelmed in the dog park). This will help your dog feel safe and be able to trust and depend on you for security.
Let Them Approach You
If you spend your whole time chasing or trapping them to make it spend time with you, it probably will begin to do the opposite. Allow the dog to come to you; let it learn that you are positive, safe, and not a threat. It may take time, especially with a rescue dog, but it will be worth it in the end. Reward the behavior with treats, praise, or play.
Give Them Time
Dogs need a chance to meet you, smell you, work out who you are. Before going straight in for a pet, allow them to sniff you. If they sniff you and walk away, leave them. Do not force them into situations they don't want to be in, and it will build hostility and could lead to aggression. Allow them to time to trust you; using treats can be high positive reinforcement.
3 Second Rule
The 3-second rule is a simple way to check if your dog is happy with how you are handling or playing with them.
Simply stroke the dog for 3 seconds, then back off for 3 seconds. If the dog leans in, paws, or asks for more, you can continue and know your dog is enjoying the attention. If you stop and the dog moves away, then they are telling you they are done.
Give them space. This will help you determine what your dog enjoys and what it doesn't. Listening to them will help build your bond and create trust between you.
Body Language/Observe The Dog
Dogs can tell us exactly how they're feeling through their body language. If a dog is looking relaxed, tongue out, tail wagging, you can tell they are feeling comfortable and happy in the situation.
However, if they are yawning, lip licking, or their tail is tucked under, it may be an indication that they are feeling tense, uncomfortable, or stressed. By understanding what our dogs are telling us through body language, it will help to build a stronger relationship and begin to gain a deeper understanding of each other.
Back Off Signals
Dogs show a whole variety of backoff signals, the worst and most extreme being a bite, hold, and shake. However, it usually takes a prolonged period of stress, with several indicators before the final snap happens.
Unfortunately, many people miss these signals and end up thinking they have an aggressive dog. Signals can include tense jaw, inability to focus, turning their head away from the situation, lips snarling, amoung others. If a dog is showing these kinds of signals, they perceive the situation or person as a threat. Make sure to read these signals and back off.
If your dog is conveying these types of behaviors in circumstances you would not usually consider threatening, then contact a trainer or vet for advice.
Create A Safe Safe
Allow your dog a space to retreat to, your dog needs to learn to like you, and be comfortable with you. When they are feeling threatened or scared, it is a good idea to create a 'den' like area for them to escape to.
This will allow them the peace they need whenever they aren't comfortable. Make sure everyone, including your children, respects this space, if your puppy or dog is in there, do not touch it, lure it out, pick it up, etc. Giving them this will help them gain your trust and begin to build a stronger bond.
Head Rest and Time Alone
Similar to the above, dogs need time to sleep undisturbed. Imagine if every time you fell asleep, someone would try and wake you by shaking a toy in your face or picking you up. Leave the dogs alone, and this will make sure they are fully rested and keep them in a more positive mood once they are awake.
Find Out What They Like
Whether it's chicken, a scratch behind the ear, or a fierce game of tug, speak to the owner, breeder, or shelter staff to find out what makes your pooch tick. By engaging in these activities, you will build a stronger, positive bond with your dog.
As well as making your pooch clean and presentable, grooming enhances a relationship between owner and dog. In the wild, pack animals groom each other as a sign of unity. It also builds trust, as your dog begins to trust you more, you will be able to touch your dog in more sensitive areas, e.g., their ears, teeth, and paws.
A routine is crucial for all dogs, especially those who are more insecure, keep meals at regular times. Don't allow your dog to free-feed if you're looking to bond. It will improve your relationship if your dog associates the food they are receiving as being given by you.
Reward your dog when they are doing the right thing. This is vital to reinforce good behavior. Your dog will begin to associate you and positive action, creating a harmonious relationship.
Dogs are social animals, and if left alone for too long, they can become anxious, bored, and destructive. Make time to interact with your dog, whether that's by petting them, playing games, teaching new tricks, or walking them. Any attention for your dog will help build a stronger relationship.
Sleep Near Them
Wild relatives of dogs sleep in packs, puppies that have just joined a new family would be used to sleeping with their littermates and mother, so, naturally, your dog won't want to sleep alone. It can also be scary for a new dog, in the new, unfamiliar surroundings to settle and sleep.
Your dog will feel a more significant sense of security being allowed to sleep near you. You will also provide the warmth their mother would have provided.
However, make sure to stay consistent, don't let your dog sleep with you for the first week, then banish them to the kitchen, this can confuse them and cause distress.
There is a common misconception that comforting a scared dog reinforces fear. However, in recent years this has proven incorrect. If your dog is scared of new people, places, or noises, comfort them, and make them feel safe and protected by you. However, be careful not to overreact or make them more fearful by showing fear yourself.
Playing games with your dog is a great way to build a fun bond with them. Find out what they like to play, what stimulates, or makes them most excitable. As well as being a great way to bond, it is also a perfect way to exhaust them physically.
Tug-Of-War - An old rope works perfectly for this; dogs love it. It engages their natural predatory instinct.
When engaging in tug with our dogs, we make sure they understand the 'out'/' drop' command. This means that at any point in the game, the dog will be able to drop the toy or release it to you. This will help keep the game safe, and if you feel like your dog is mouthing too close to your hand or growling too much, you can safely remove the toy.
Make sure you initiate the game, we recommend having a specific toy for tug, so when it comes out our dogs know what we're going to play.
By sharing the 'winning,' it helps build confidence in your dog and rewards them. However, when you decide the game is over, it is over.
If you have an aggressive or possession guarding dog, it might be a good idea to avoid the tug of war and engage in alternative games.
Go Find - This game uses either a high-value toy or a treat. It involves making your dog sit and wait, hiding the toy or treat out of sight, returning to your dog, and telling them to go and hunt out the reward. It is an excellent way for them to use their powerful nose.
Train your dog to wait before engaging in this game. Do so gradually by making them sit or lay, telling them to wait, sometimes a 'stop' hand signal works well, and taking 1 step away, return to them quickly at the beginning and reward with a treat. Increase the space between you and your dog as they progress. If they move before you return to them, take it back a few steps and decrease the waiting time.
If it is your dog's first time playing, start easy. Hide it in the same room, or let them watch you place it under a table or towel as they understand the game, up to ante.
Use something easy for your dog to sniff out, we tend to use treats, but if your dog has a favorite toy, this could be a great idea.
Fetch - Hunting and retrieving is very stimulating for dogs. This game taps into that perfectly, it involves throwing a toy and your dog collecting it and bringing it back. You may need to teach your dog how to fetch. Some dogs instinctively will chase the toy, but may not bring it back.
To teach your dog to fetch, start by getting them interested in the toy and playing a game of tug with it.
Your dog will need to know how to drop the toy, and this is easily taught by making the game uninteresting. E.g., holding onto but not tugging back, if the dog releases the toy, use queue words like 'yes' or 'nice' then reward them by giving the toy back and continuing with the game.
Once your dog is interested in the toy and knows how to drop it, throw the toy a short distance. Encourage them to bring it back by either calling them or moving backward.
It is common for your dog to lose interest quickly initially, however, preserve. The more your dog plays, the more fun and exciting the game becomes.
Providing mental stimulation for dogs is vital for a happy, healthy, smart dog. There are many different ways to introduce enrichment activities to your dog, some as simple as taking them somewhere new and allowing them to sniff new smells. By helping your dog or providing these toys, your dog will associate you with these fun games, and this will help improve your relationship. These are our top enrichment activities:
Snuffle Mat - You can make or buy a snuffle mat. Check out our post on How To Make A Snuffle Mat here. Snuffle mats are mats with fabric or fleece strips attached to which food can be hidden in. The mats are great for nosework, as well as engaging in their desire to hunt. They are also handy for quick eaters and keep energetic dogs busy.
Kong - Kong, as a brand, create hollow rubber toys that can be stuffed with food. This allows them to chew and lick to retrieve the food. The licking is relaxing for dogs and is a great way to keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated. Kong offers a vast variety of shapes and sizes for dogs of all ages and sizes.
Old Dish Towels - Using old dishtowels or socks create great games for dogs. Braid three together and tie up the ends. Stuff with kibble or treats and let your dog work out how to retrieve them. It is great for teaching them to use their nose to hunt for food and problem-solving skills for trying to release them.
Boxes - Used delivery boxes make perfect toys for dogs, we use empty cereal boxes to hide treats in and allow our dogs to work out how to find them (usually by ripping them to shreds). You can hide toys or treats inside and allow your dog to figure out how to get inside. Make it more challenging by placing boxes inside boxes, or taping up the box.
With all of the enrichment activities, ensure you keep a close eye on your dog, so no harmful materials are ingested.
Dogs are sociable animals and tend to like hanging out with people and dogs. If there is an occasion you can take your dog, and you feel it is a safe and comfortable environment for them, do so. It will enhance your relationship as your dog will associate you with fun, new places. They will also see you as their protector or a safe place in some situations.
Puppies need socialization, and they need to explore the world, meet new people, meet friendly dogs, hear new sounds, see new sights, smell new smells to learn. Properly socializing your puppy will help them become confident and happy.
Rescue dogs may not be used to many places, so take it slow and introduce them to the world in safe, friendly environments in order not to frighten them.
Make sure to read your dog's body language, and don't be afraid to leave if you feel it is too much too soon for your dog.
Signs Your Dog Is Feeling Anxious or Apprehensive:
Tail tucked between its legs
Staying close or hiding behind you
Ears pinned back
Whining or excessive barking
Forcing them into something they are not ready for can have adverse effects. Don't be afraid to say 'no,' whether that's to someone who wants to pet your dog, or to introduce to another dog. Keep them on a lead at first to keep control of the situations, and it will also allow you to remove your dog from an uncomfortable situation easily.
These are our favorite places to take our dogs:
To restaurants - Make sure they are well exercised before bringing them in. Don't expect to be able to have a full meal on your first visit, start with a drink, and progress with time.
To friends houses - Once your puppy is potty trained, it is a great idea to take them to visit as many people as you can, it will introduce them to new smells and surroundings.
To the beach - If you have a local, dog-friendly, beach it can be an excellent place for new smells as well as the water. Check out our article Can All Dogs Swim? For some great beach tips.
To the dog park - Once your dog is confident around other dogs, the dog park can be a great place to go. It gives them a chance to burn off energy and meet new dogs.
To the lake - Swimming is an excellent exercise for dogs, if your pup has never swum before, consider a life jacket and make sure to go in with them, so they are safe and comfortable with the water.
To a class together (agility, basic training, dancing) - Nothing builds a bond closer than working together. Learning a new sport, or engaging your dog in a new class is great for meeting like-minded people, as well as socializing and exercising your dog.
Dogs love exploring. Both street walks and park walks are great for meeting new people and new dogs. Exploring a new town can also be great to desensitize your dog to a whole variety of sounds and smells. By taking your dog out for more walks, it will help bring you closer together and build a lasting friendship.
Learn A New Trick
Training a dog, a new trick can be time-consuming, but by spending that quality time with your dog, it will help create trust and make your dog fonder of you. Through positive voice and treats, your dog will associate you as something happy, fun, and exciting.
Start with short 10 minute sessions to not overexcite or frustrate your dog.
Always end on a positive note, if your dog does the trick perfectly once, maybe it's time to stop for the day and practice again tomorrow.
Exercise your dog before beginning with the training. Your dog will listen better and be able to focus more when they are physically more tired, and there is nothing harder than trying to train a dog who has bundles of energy and just wants to race around.
Easy starter tricks:
Sit - Bottom on the ground
Stay - Stop where you are and don't come until I get you
Wait - Stop where you are and don't come until I call you
Shake - Put your paw in my hand
Wave - Wave your paw
Down - Lay down on the ground
Bow - Bottom in the air, chest, and head on the ground
Drop - Let go of whatever is in your mouth
Come - Come here now
Become your dog's leader, and by this, we don't mean the age-old 'alpha-dog' 'leader of the pack.' We don't recommend negative, aggressive techniques that have been shown to install fear in our furry friends. Being a leader is far more about teaching them how to behave, being consistent, and creating a routine.
Understanding Their Place
We must be clear and consistent with our dogs. Letting them sleep in the bed one night, then not another, feeding them from the table, then telling them off for begging is all very confusing. Dogs don't understand our language. They can associate verbal queues and noises, e.g., when their name is called, basic commands, etc. But most of the time, they gather information through our body language, movements, patterns in behavior, and vocal tone. Discuss with your household the basic rules and ensure everyone sticks to them; this will create a happier and more harmonious life for you and your dog.
Consistency and a stable routine are crucial to creating a secure, happy, and content dog. Feeding, toileting, and bed-time are all things that are relatively easy to be consistent with. But make sure to schedule in playtime, walks, and training as these go a great way when building a loving, reliable bond with your dog. Consistency with training is also vital; make sure everyone who is in regular contact with your dog is on the same page. This way, your dog will know how to behave at all times; there will be no confusion with what they are and aren't allowed to do. This will make your dog feel happier and more secure.
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Disclaimer: Each dog is different, and every circumstance is different. All efforts have been made to provide accurate information. However, it is not provided by a qualified Veterinarian, Veterinarian Surgeon, or Behaviorist. The information provided is purely educational. The information should not be used as an alternative or substitute for medical care. If you have any health or medical concerns, contact a qualified Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinarian immediately.