Getting a new puppy is one of the coolest things on earth, and responsible pet owners don't make the decision lightly. Puppies are a big responsibility and conscientious owners are careful to make sure they are providing everything their new family member requires to keep them healthy. But what about bonding with your new puppy? Does that just happen automatically or are there things we can do to make our bond stronger? To answer that question, we can refer to our high school psychology class and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Most living beings have very basic requirements to stay alive. Those needs include food and water. Before they are weaned, dogs get their food and water from their mother's milk. Once they are taken away and placed in your home, they depend on you for that nourishment. This is the first step in bonding with your puppy. Although you may not equate the fulfillment of physiological needs as being a step in bonding, it is. Make meal time for your puppy personal. Feed him small bits at a time and interact with him while he is eating. Be sure to give him lots of love and praise.
Safety and Security
Once their bellies are full puppies need to feel secure. Think about what made them secure when they were first born: the warmth of their mother's body, the sound of her heartbeat or maybe the crowded sleeping conditions with all the litter mates. To help you bond with your new arrival, you need to provide for the loss of those things. Snuggle with him as much as possible, holding him closely and wrapped warmly. Let him feel your breath on his head and become accustomed to the sound of your whisper to comfort him.
Love and Belonging
This is the fun part of having a puppy and what most people think of when they think of bonding. It's very important, but can only be effective once the first two tiers of the hierarchy are met. Engage in age-appropriate play with your puppy and keep your training positive. It's important not to yell at, spank or scare your puppy when he does something wrong. Also keep his puppy schedule in mind. Puppies tend to exert great amounts of energy for short periods of time, interspersed with reenergizing naps. As much as possible, make yourself available to play during his awake times until you can gradually train him to adapt more to your schedule.
Bonding with a new puppy involves more than just scratching his ears and rubbing his belly. It requires adequately fulfilling all of his lower level needs first so that he is in the right physical and mental state to enjoy love, attention and play.
"Muttlow's Hierarchy of Needs," The Inquisitive Canine
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