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COMPANIONSHIP

Companionship is vital to every dog, because dogs are extremely social animals who instinctively need to be with their pack at all times. Whenever you adopt a new dog, you and your family become his new "pack." He'll want to spend all of his time with you no matter what you're doing -- whether you're cooking breakfast, watching TV, cleaning the car, driving to the market, hanging out with friends or even sleeping. Your dog simply needs to be with you! This is the trait that earned him the reputation of being "Man's Best Friend."

Separation Anxiety

This intense need for companionship is evidenced by the fact that many dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left alone by their owners. They act out their anxiety by doing destructive things, like chewing up the furniture or eliminating inside the house. They panic, thinking the members of their pack have abandoned them.

If your dog acts up while you're away, don't punish him. He isn't trying to get back at you for leaving him alone. He simply hasn't learned that there are times when you can't take him with you. The best way to prevent your dog from experiencing anxiety attacks while you're out is to prepare him for extended periods of separation. Start by leaving him alone for just a few minutes. Gradually, over a week's time, stretch your absences to a few hours. In time, he'll understand that you always do come back for him, and that there's absolutely nothing to fear.

Discipline

Knowing that dogs are afraid of being left alone or isolated, dog trainers use this fear as an effective training tool. You can also exploit this tendency to teach your dog what is and what is not acceptable behavior. If you put a misbehaving dog in his crate for a ten- to fifteen-minute "timeout," you'll impress upon him that his unacceptable behavior has caused him to be "banished from the pack." But don't take this reprimand too far. Ignoring your dog, locking him in the basement or leaving him outside longer than necessary -- while he yelps and whines-- can be counterproductive. You run the risk of de-socializing your dog if he's left isolated for too long.

Quality Time

Now that you understand how important your presence is to your dog, you know that spending quality time with him will greatly enhance your bond. Here are some activities that, if performed regularly, will reinforce your bond and help make your dog an active, healthy and happy pet:

  • Take him for a long walk
  • Play games together
  • Teach him some tricks
  • Groom him lavishly
  • Take him with you on your vacation
  • Allow him to mingle with a roomful of guests
  • Take obedience classes together

When you're with your dog, be sure to give him plenty of love and attention. Spending quality time with him is an investment toward lifelong loyalty and friendship.

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