Pets will love you unconditionally and return even the simplest kindness with unfaltering loyalty. But this isn’t automatic. New pet owners may find themselves struggling to bond with their pets, and some even give up and think, ‘This just isn’t for me.’
Be patient. Like all relationships, your bond with your pet takes time and commitment. Here are some ways to build the trust and affection between you and the new furry member of your family.
Have some quality time
It’s not enough to set out a clean water and food every day. Spend time with your new pet. Like kids, animals like routine and will soon come to expect and look forward to your special time together. You can take your dog for a walk every morning or evening, or play with your kitten when you get home. Do this regularly, and even the most solitary animal (yes, pets have personalities too) will soon seek your company.
Follow your pet’s pace
I adopted a kitten who must have been abused or terrified by its first owners. It startled whenever I approached it and refused to be touched. I learned to approach it quietly, with no sudden movements, and offer my hand so it could get used to my scent. I would pet it, but when it ran away, I didn’t chase it—just speak quietly and reassuringly. Eventually it started sitting near me when I would write in the evenings, and one night it surprised me by hopping into my lap.
Turn grooming into bonding time
You need to groom your pet, but instead of treating it like a chore, see it as a chance to interact. For animals, licking and grooming are social activities, between mother and child and members of a group. Imitate that connection by talking to your pet as you brush its coat, petting it, and rewarding it with a treat.
Bonding with your pet doesn’t mean spoiling it. All animals have a leader (like an alpha dog) and that should be you. Setting firm rules, like where your dog should do its morning business, or stopping a kitten from scratching furniture, is important—because you’re not going to really like a destructive pet, and it will sense your dismay. Just be consistent, and praise it when it does the right thing. Your pet will enjoy pleasing you, and as you both settle into a routine and clear expectations from both of you, your trust will deepen.