In this article we are going to look at five ways to improve your bond with your Labrador. Labradors have a fabulous reputation for being good natured. And this is well-earned. Most Labs love to spend time with their human family, giving as much affection as they receive. However, this is not true for everyone.
Just like people, some dogs are more reserved than others. Or bouncier and therefore more prone to distration. This can mean that despite their happy dispositions, some of us can feel a little less connected to our Labradors than we would like. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to strengthen the bonds that tie us to our dogs.
1. Hand Feeding
Most pet Labradors in the UK are fed on a diet of kibble. It’s great for convenience purposes, and has little mess.
But there is another hidden benefit to having a kibble-fed Labrador. Hand feeding. The act of you giving your dog his food directly, will increase the contact you have with each other dramatically. It will also improve the quality of the contact from his point of view, as it will be measurably more rewarding with food included!
If you have a raw-fed dog, then it is still possible to hand feed. Just make sure that you have some rubber gloves handy, and clean up thoroughly when you are done.
Hand feeding is a technique that has been favoured for years by people introducing an older rescue dog into their home. But there is no need for it to stop there. Many puppies, and older dogs too, will benefit. Hand-feeding can simply be a case of you passing food to your dog piece by piece, or even better of you using up your dog’s food in regular training sessions throughout the day.
If you need to improve the bond you have with your dog, hand-feeding at least part of his daily food ration is a great way to start. In fact, there is no reason to give your dog his dinner from a bowl at all!
2. Relaxing Together
I think we all have an image in our heads when we get our dogs, of them faithfully sleeping at our feet. Cosying up together on the sofa, relaxing. But not all Labradors seem to be this way inclined. It’s a common mistake that owners make, to accidentally reward their dogs for being ‘active’ in the house. When they lay still we ignore them, but when they poke and prod us, or skip about the kitchen, we take notice.
Fortunately, it’s not too tricky to reverse this situation. We can teach our dog to settle down. Once you have a Labrador who is happy to settle down, let them do so right by your side. As often as you like. Watching TV together, even taking a nap together, can help strengthen the ties that bind the two of you together.
Getting in a mess is fun. Most of us love romping through the park or the woods, getting muddy, then arriving home and taking off our wet-weather gear. It’s fun to get mucky, but it’s nice to know you can get clean again afterwards. Your dog is no different. From mud on their feet, to tangles in their fur, your dog would rather be clean and dry at home. This also gives you another great opportunity to bond.
There are a wealth of products available to help you keep your Labrador’s coat in a condition that he will be happy with. My personal favourite is the furminator, which removes annoying dead fur whilst it brushes your dog’s existing coat. Despite what we might hope, some dogs aren’t actually very pleased to be cuddled and stroked a lot by their owners. Grooming is a way of having physical contact with your dog that is also productive and enjoyable to him.
4. Clicker Training
Training your dog is a wonderful opportunity to bond with him. You will be helping him to keep his mind and body active, whilst paying attention to you. He will learn that you are the source of some real fun. When clicker training, this effect is increased even further.
Positive Reinforcement Training does not involve the use of aversives. This means that your dog will enjoy every aspect of his training experience. There will be no unhappy link in his mind between you and him. Clicker training works entirely without punishment, because the noise of the clicker acts as an ‘event marker’. This enables your dog to know exactly what it is you are asking of him. Most trainers then reinforce this wanted behavior through the use of correct timed treats. Even puppies, anxious dogs or grumpy dogs can respond well to clicker training, so whatever the reason you want to better the bond with your Labrador, this is a fantastic option.
5. Get Active Together
We all have busy lives. From work to children, to hobbies and spending time with the relatives, there is always something trying to divert our attention. Making time for hobbies is important though, and if you have decided to welcome a dog into your life, then you’ll want to include him in as much of it as possible. This will be a lot easier for some people than others, but there are quite a few activities that you can enjoy with your dog.
Well behaved Labradors are welcome in many rural pubs so a night out with your mates needn’t exclude your dog. Ask your boss if you can bring your dog to work. If your Labrador is generally chilled out and popular wherever he goes, then there is always the possibility that he would be welcome in your office too. Just be sure to ask nicely, and stay polite if the answer isn’t what you had hoped for!
When you aren’t at work, try and take him as many places as possible. Whether it’s walking over to a friend’s house or taking a ride in the car, if your Labrador is with you then you are increasing the bond between you. Remember, a well mannered dog is welcomed with open arms most places. If you want your Labrador to fit in at other people’s houses, then having a level of obedience training will assist this too. Even if it’s just once a day, take him somewhere with you that you might not have done otherwise.
Every Little Helps
Everything you do with your dog has an influence on the relationship between you. These things are cumulative. Dedicate as much time as you have to one aspect, or spread your time with a few minutes of each every day. It will all make a big difference. Keeping your Labrador happy is very important.
The points above are just five of hundreds of potential ways you can improve your relationship with your Labrador. Why not let us know in the comments below what has worked for you?
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The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website