Have you ever found yourself facing challenges in forming a deep bond with your dogs?
It's a common experience that many of us go through, and it can be quite overwhelming at times. Let me share a personal story of mine about Skippy, a dog who entered my life during a period of immense change. Reflecting back, I must admit that if I had known what lay ahead, I might have hesitated to bring her home. Skippy was unlike any puppy I had raised before, constantly pushing boundaries and testing my patience. Our initial interactions were filled with conflicts, and I struggled to establish a strong connection with her.
It wasn't supposed to be this way
Initially, I had intended for Skippy to be trained as a demo dog for my classes, a role previously held by my beloved shepherd, Billie. My plan was to spend the next two years training them together, with Billie acting as the guiding force. But life had a different plan in store for us. Just two months after Skippy's arrival, Billie received a devastating cancer diagnosis and passed away swiftly. The weight of grief and loss made it even more challenging for me to bond with Skippy. I was still mourning my soul dog, the one who had profoundly transformed my life in countless ways. I wasn't emotionally ready to let another dog into my heart. However, I had made a commitment to Skippy, and despite my reservations, I knew I had to honor it.
As I navigated through the process of training Skippy while grieving, it felt like an overwhelming task. I needed her to be ready for the next season of classes, compressing the timeline that I had initially envisioned. The first year was undoubtedly rough, and while she was a good dog, she wasn't my favorite to work with during demonstrations. However, we persevered and worked together, slowly but surely making progress. It took me a full two years to reach a point where I wasn't merely tolerating my dog.
Over the past three years, our bond has evolved and transformed, creating a connection that is entirely distinct from the one I shared with Billie. Skippy has become my calm and grounding companion, accompanying me to work and filling my days with her happy-go-lucky and goofy nature. This is the bond I had always dreamed of, and it was a bond that I fought hard to achieve.
How do we start bonding when we're struggling so much?!
But what about those who find themselves struggling with bonding, experiencing the puppy blues, or feeling disconnected from the dog they were once so excited to bring home? How can we rekindle that connection and build a solid foundation of love and trust?
First and foremost, it's crucial to acknowledge and accept that you are facing difficulties in bonding with your dog. Recognize your thoughts and emotions, even if you don't feel the need to share them with others. By acknowledging your struggles, you free yourself from the burden of keeping it a secret and open the door to starting the bonding process.
Next, try to avoid comparing your current dog to any previous ones you may have had. It's natural to long for your past furry companions and hope that the new dog can fill the void they left behind. However, each dog brings a unique experience into your life, and it's important to embrace that individuality. You can develop a fresh and meaningful relationship with your current dog, one that may differ from any previous connections you've had.
Finding shared activities can work wonders in fostering a strong bond. This may require some exploration and experimentation to discover what truly resonates with both you and your dog. Whether it's playing games, engaging in agility training, or simply being hiking buddies, there are countless opportunities to create shared experiences that deepen your connection. Remember, it's essential to have activities that are separate from your routine interactions.
Lastly, training can be a powerful tool for strengthening the bond between you and your dog. The goal of training is to become the most important and beloved figure in your dog's world. By achieving this, your dog becomes more attuned to your presence, desiring to be with you and fostering a sense of closeness.
In my personal journey, daily training sessions, even when I didn't feel like doing them, played a significant role in deepening the bond with Skippy. The bonding process may take time and happen gradually, without any grand "I LOVE THIS DOG" moments.
Building a strong connection with your dog can be challenging, but the time and effort invested are undoubtedly worthwhile. I'm curious to know about your experiences with bonding. How have you navigated through the journey of forming a deep bond with your dogs?