Are you wondering how to bond with your dog? You don’t have to raise your dog from puppyhood. Read on and we’ll explain!

Praise for the pet pup. Unlike our complicated human relationships, unconditional love and dedicated friendship just come with the job. But like any good friend, the bond grows over time. It’s the one-on-one time together and the daily routines that foster attachment and transforms your dog from family pet to family member. Kathy Diamond Davis, author of Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others offers insights into maximizing this human/dog dynamic. With some surprises, some pointers, her article “Bonding with Your Dog” is nothing if not heartwarming. Woof Report just had to pass along the highlights.

The Pup Myth

People will tell you that it’s just not possible to truly bond with a dog you didn’t raise from a puppy. They insist that if you didn’t hold and handle a dog during his early socialization period, he’ll never learn to bond with people. “What people don’t understand, though, is that the human in the puppy’s early life does not have to be you,” says Davis. “It’s the ability to bond that is formed through this early experience. Dogs routinely form new bonds with humans at all stages of life.”s Davis points to police or service dogs who form their first attachments with a breeder, then puppy-raisers, followed by trainers and finally, the police handler or disabled person who needs their assistance. These dogs “are in their fourth home when they form some of the closest human-dog bonds possible,” Davis explains. “Clearly bonding does not require that you adopt a dog as a puppy.”

Just the Two of You

Just like kids, dogs thrive and attachment grows when you give them your dedication, attention and time. That’s why it’s essential to take time every day to spend with each dog you have, preferably away from the distractions of home. If you have multiple dogs, this can also support training efforts Davis explains. “If they always go out together, training will not be as good and bad habits and fears can rub off from one dog to the other. Most of all, you’ll be missing important bonding opportunities.”

Get with the Program

The predictability of routine has the power to build lasting bonds between people and dogs. Walking and feeding your dog on a schedule and rewarding good behavior consistently all add up to trust, the one thing any good relationship must have. “People who reliably meet their dogs’ needs develop dogs who trust them. The dogs have steadier nerves because they’re free from worry about not getting fed that day, being left outdoors during a scary thunderstorm, or waiting too many hours in a crate.”

You pay into your relationship by taking time every day with your dog for grooming and exercise, perfect opportunities to reinforce gentle training exercises. Practice rewarding walking on a loose leash, paying attention, retrieving and coming when called. Or Woof Report’s favorite, maintaining eye contact with the sweet soul you’re lucky enough to call a best friend or even a family member. Davis gets to the heart of it. “When you create and maintain a good bond with your dog, you make the dog a real member of your family. This is the role in which dogs probably enrich, lengthen and even save more lives than in any other job dogs do for humans. It’s great for you, and great for your dog.”

The Scoop:

Kathy Diamond Davis’ article with bonding tips is no longer on the website, but find her book on and read another of her enlightening articles related to bonding, What to Think About When Petting Your Dog,  on a Woof Report favorite site, The Whole Dog Journal

Thank you to Mike and Larry for the photo.

Originally published January 2009; reviewed and updated January 2017.