One of the top questions we are asked is, “Will my new protection dog bond with me?” The obvious answer is Yes. Dogs are social animals who enjoy the company of humans. Additionally, we specifically pick dogs who are exceptionally loyal by nature because they make the best personal and family protection dogs. To help our buyers with the bonding process, we will do several things at the handover session to begin forming the bond and then once the dog is home, there are several things buyers can do to help their new protection dog bond with them:
1. Hand Feeding
Food is a primary reinforcer for dogs; they need it for survival. So for that reason, we use food as a training reward during the early stages of training in the puppy imprinting phase and throughout the dog’s life during structured training sessions to further motivate the dog. Because dogs are food motivated, hand feeding is a great way to bond quickly with a new dog. For the first few weeks, we recommend that our protection dog buyers feed at least half of their dog’s daily food allowance by hand. This will help their dog view them as their new “person,” and it will provide a strong positive reinforcement foundation for their relationship. Hand feeding can literally be giving handfuls of kibble, or it can be using food as a reward for obedience exercises – both are acceptable and effective.
2. Quality Time
Just like humans, quality time is a love language for dogs and an effective bonding tool. To bond with a new dog, nothing beats quality time. Our dogs love playing fetch, training, going for car rides, cuddling and hanging out around the house. The more hours in a day spent with a new dog, the more quickly that dog views you as family and part of the pack. (And yes, your protection dog can sleep in your bed with you if you’d like!) When a dog is learning to adjust to a new home life, quality time is an essential part of the bonding process. Our protection dogs are well-trained and well-behaved and can do a great number of activities like fetch and swimming, so spending time together is effortless and enjoyable.
3. Withholding Reinforcers
Dogs have a pack mentality and view their leader as the one who provides good things. In addition to hand feeding and spending quality time together, we want to emphasize the importance of reinforcers. A reinforcer is anything a dog likes and views as a reward. In a dog’s world, good things are earned and given as a reward for good behavior. For our protection dogs, we want them to view their new family members as leaders who provide good things. For that reason, we recommending putting up toys, bones and other high value items rather than leaving them out for the dog to access and play with whenever he/she wants to. By withholding resources, resources become more rewarding and the dog begins to associate their new family members as the gateway to good things.
Bonding with your new protection dog will be a fairly easy and straightforward process. That said, it will take time – anywhere from a few weeks to a few months – for the bond to form. We see it as a good thing that our dogs do not transfer their loyalty easily. And we know that once bonded, our dogs will take a bullet for you. Their loyalty is limitless. Through hand feeding, quality time and withholding reinforcers, our dogs will bond to their new families permanently and in a beautiful and natural way.