1. Establish Trust

Use only positive, reward-based training methods as opposed to old school, punitive training techniques. With the latter, your dog may tow the line but he will shrink from you (you = negative outcomes). “Don't use aversive training methods such as leash corrections or yelling at your dog, because research suggests this can affect the dog's relationship with you,” says Zazie Todd, a social psychologist, certified dog trainer, founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, and author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. With positive reinforcement, not only will you encourage the behaviour you like, but you will end up bolstering your relationship via classic conditioning (you = treat = positive feeling).

2. Consistent Rules and Boundaries 

Imagine if someone was constantly changing the ground rules on you—one day you could lounge on the couch and the next day you were scolded for doing the same. You’d become a bit jumpy, not knowing what was okay and what wasn’t, wouldn’t you? Establishing clear rules for your dog and thereby setting them up for success is one of the most important things you can do for your relationship. This goes not only for you, but for everyone in your household. Discuss the rules with everyone who will be interacting with your dog to make sure you’re all on the same page. 

3. Tricks and Teamwork

Sassafras Lowrey, author of Tricks in the City, advocates for using trick training to build a better bond with your dog. “I think one of the most important things we can do if we want to improve our relationship with our dogs is to spend fun and intentional time together,” Sassafras says. “Good relationships don't just happen, they are built, and a fantastic way to develop a stronger connection with our dogs is to play and train together. Trick training helps your dog to build confidence, and it's a way for you to build confidence in communicating with your dog.” Keep trick training sessions fun, short, upbeat and full of treats, she advises. Her terrific book, Tricks in the City, offers step-by-step instructions for teaching an array of tricks. For simple tricks like sit, down, stand, spin, etc., hold a tasty treat near your dog's nose and lure them into the various positions. 

4. Good Things

This is what you want your dog to learn: You are the provider of Good Things. In your presence, wonderful things happen. Think attention, play time (a session of your dog’s favourite game), and treats. Doling out your dog’s dinner bit by bit as she does as you’ve asked (sits, stays, etc.) is never a bad idea.

5. Make time for fun

We all need some fun in our day, dogs included. “The best way to improve your bond with your dog is to do joint activities that you both enjoy,” says Zazie, “whether that's petting your dog on the couch, hikes in the forest, or training your dog using little bits of food such as chicken as positive reinforcement. Think about what your dog likes to do and try to give them opportunities to do those things more, within reason and so long as it's safe! And always give them a choice, of course.” 


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