Welcoming a dog into your family should be a magical experience, filled with excitement, joy, a wee bit of nerves and lots of adventures ahead.
Sometimes the reality doesn’t meet our expectations though. We then have an overwhelming feeling of shame and guilt because we’re not loving every second of having our new family member. What’s wrong with us? Why are we not enjoying this as much as other people are? Surely I should bond instantly with my dog?
You look at your friends’ social media posts and they look like they are having an amazing time with their dog. Lots of smiles, gushing posts about how amazing their new dog is, amazing pictures of places they’ve been together. Meanwhile you’re looking at your dog like nope we’re not having the same experience.
I’m gonna tell you a little secret
Finn’s first few months
I want to give you a bit of background to how Finn chose us. We had recently lost our eldest dog and I had mentioned to my local rescue we were looking to give a home to a male Border Collie under 6mths and to consider us if one happened to come in. Well low and behold just 30mins later Finn arrived! Cue everyone saying it’s a sign, he’s meant for you!
I mean who asks for a dog and half an hour later exactly what you asked for is presented to you. It must be meant, I couldn’t help but agree with people.
So why, when it was so destined, have I struggled so much to bond with him?
Finn was signed over by his original owners at the age of 16wks and I totally understand why! He’s not a bad dog, the opposite in fact, he desperately wants to be a good boy. But his strong working Collie genetics make him behave in a way that is not compatible with an urban lifestyle.
As a trainer this wasn’t a surprise, a Collie chasing cars. But at such a young age and with such intensity it caught me off guard. And we live near many roads. Not ideal in the slightest.
This meant I had to deal with this issue fast and help him find other ways to cope around traffic. Cue lots of training sessions, keeping him away from traffic whilst we worked on other things but after 3mths he found it a lot easier.
Light & shadow chasing
I won’t lie my heart sank when only 2 days into having him he started to chase the reflections he saw on walls and floors. This is a serious behavioural issue that can cause long term problems and to see it in such a young puppy made me really sad.
So we had to make sure we did everything to minimise how often he got to practice this. Cue us sitting in the dark with the curtains closed to stop light coming in.
Being too rough with my other dogs
Finn would get very excited when out on walks with everyone and this would lead him to display normal but unwanted Collie herding behaviours. He would herd them and then because he was too excited he would bite them hard. The others would react by telling him off, but he didn’t get the hint and would keep doing this leading to no one wanting to play or engage with him when he was off the lead.
I didn’t like my dog
With all his issues we had to change a lot of our normal routine and cater everything to help him. I was feeling resentful if truth be told. He was having a negative impact on not only our lives but our other dog’s lives too. I was also feeling guilty that I had these feelings, maybe he wasn’t meant for us, maybe I should never have adopted him.
After 6 (long) months I started to see the dog I wanted, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our training was paying off, he was growing up and becoming a wonderful dog. I am really starting to enjoy him now.
You’re not alone in feeling like this!
It doesn’t matter whether you have these feelings because you offered an older dog a home or you’ve just welcomed a 8wk puppy home. Every dog is different and sometimes they surprise us with unplanned behaviours or maybe your circumstances changed not long after welcoming them home meaning things are trickier.
Let’s build that bond
If all of this resonates with you then don’t feel alone or you just have to make do with the dog you have.
Ask for help!
Contact a professional trainer who will help you understand your dog and why they are behaving the way they are.
All of Finn’s problem behaviours were because he didn’t understand how to behave in a human world. As a dog he was displaying completely normal behaviours.
A good, ethical trainer will help you start to see you have a cracking dog who you can go on adventures with and who will listen to you.
A lot of the behaviours I taught Finn are covered in our courses at East Coast Dog Training. You can either work through our courses at home at your own pace or you can join our in person classes if you are local to us.
Having the support of a trainer rather than checking out videos on social media will speed up the learning process because you’ll have someone who you can talk to and knows your circumstances.
This could mean in a very short time you have a dog who you want to spend time with.
Worrying about not bonding?
So you’re thinking of getting a dog but you’re worried that you might end up not liking them. Now you’ve read this and thought gah! even a trainer is admitting to not liking her dog – there’s no hope for me.
Never fear, here are some top tips to avoiding this happening
Research not only the breed of dog you want but more importantly who will be breeding your precious pup.
Talk in depth to the rescue if you’re adopting a dog. Try to find out as much as possible about the dog’s history. Try and visit the dog several times before you take them home. If the rescue has said a particular dog isn’t suitable for your family, believe them and look at other suitable dogs. There’s a good reason it’s not the dog for you and your family. Research the breeds that are in the dog you’re interested in so you know what to expect.
Call dog professionals to ask them what to expect from the breed or type of dog you are interested in. They will be able to ask you about your circumstances, expectations and can offer advice from their experience of working with similar dogs. That way you will be more prepared.
I hope this blog has made you feel more hopeful about building that bond and you now know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Feel free to get in touch by booking a call