Take heart in knowing that this is not rocket science. Really. When you consider that a healthy dog – physically and mentally – only wants to please and that his needs are simple – sustenance, shelter, love, attention, medical care and an “Alpha dog” to follow — you should have no problem becoming his best buddy in the whole world.
Even if your new older dog has had a history of abuse or neglect, understand that dogs are forgiving creatures and when given even the slightest of reasons will love unconditionally. Far more often than not, they can be re-trained to become devoted companions to a master who is patient, persistent and kind.
Your most important task at hand when you bring a dog into your home is to establish the family hierarchy. Dogs are social animals that feel security when they are part of a pack with a leader. You and every member of your family must become “Alpha” to your new family member. (Refer to my article Dog Training – How to Become the Alpha Dog Over Your New Older Dog). Here are some quick tips to make sure your dog realizes his proper place in the “pack”.
Family members always lead, the dog always follows
Never compromise, make sure he follows through on every command
Family members should always initiate every interaction with the dog
Do not relinquish to your dog’s every desire
To establish trust, pet, touch, cuddle and talk to your dog when you spend time with him
Be firm when necessary but also be fair and affectionate when deserved
So, what can you do to become best friends with your dog? In my research for this article I found lists and lists of little things that you can do to become your dog’s favorite.
I’ve selected those I feel will do the most to build a mutually devoted relationship with your dog. Here they are, in no special order.
Make certain your dog is in good health. Be sure he gets his required shots. Clip nails and groom him with a brush – especially the long hair breeds. Have your vet check for parasites – internal and external. Use flea and tick preventatives. Heart worm medicine if prescribed. Doggie vitamins if your vet approves. A healthy dog will be a happier dog.
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage “dogs won’t bite the hand that feeds them.” There is an element of truth in those words. Make sure your dog sees you in the role of feeder. You’ll have a special place in his heart (and stomach).
Give them every opportunity to make you happy. Play, frolic, and rough house. Get down on the floor. He’ll very much enjoy having you at his level. Let them cheer you up with kisses and plenty of tail wagging. He’ll love you for it.
Whenever possible take your dog along with you, and make sure he has plenty of opportunity to enjoy family time. They need to be a part of the pack and not alone for extended periods. Spend lots of quality time with your dog.
Be consistent with your commands and with your expectations. Wishy-washy owners cause dogs incredible frustration. If you scold him one day for something, make sure you scold him each and every time for the same thing until he learns not to do it. Dogs don’t understand “slack”.
Make your commands single words when possible but always simple. Give praise and affection when he behaves properly, and stern instructions when he is naughty – followed by praise when he corrects his behavior.
Exercise your dog frequently. You’ll both benefit. A “pooped” dog is a happy dog. Lot’s of walks. Allow him to have interaction with other dogs. Remember, dogs are social animals and need to be around other dogs to be well adjusted.
Obedience training should begin immediately. There are plenty of very affordable resources that will teach you how to properly train your dog. I provide a link to my favorite below. Learning boundaries and learning to obey provides your dog lots of opportunities to please you. Remember, making you happy makes them very happy.
Provide your dog ways to work out stress or get through those lonely times when he has to be left at home. Scatter his favorite chew toys around. If he is an incurable digger, make him a sand-filled “dig box” in the yard.
Remember, there’s really no magic to making your dog consider you his best friend. Consistency; praise when deserved; discipline when required; delivered with a firm tone; proper health care; proper feeding; comfortable shelter and a little corner to call his own; plenty of bonding; playtime and exercise; leadership and guidance; obedience training; time to socialize with other dogs; and a happy home filled with happy, loving pack mates.
Author Bob Hunsicker has been an avid dog lover since his days as a vet assistant while working his way through college. He’s a strong advocate for the adoption of rescue dogs. “These are dogs that have been neglected and oftentimes abused. They are truly deserving of a second chance to do what dogs do best – bring enjoyment and unconditional love and devotion to a home.”