Our pets are constant companions, and a source of joy, support, and comfort. More than half of all U.S. households have at least one dog or cat and many have multiple pets. There is a growing societal awareness of the human-animal bond and pets are taking on larger roles including service animals, therapy support, and disease detection such as seizures in humans. Studies have shown that pet owners stay healthier and enjoy an overall higher quality of life than those without pets. The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial relationship of trust and respect and the reason your pet showers you with slobbery kisses and a wagging tail whenever you return home. Our Animal Emergency Care team knows that your pets are family and we have compiled five ways to build on and strengthen the special bond you share with your four-legged companion. 

#1: Teach your old dog (or cat) a new trick

Socialization and training are vital when pets are young and will ensure they have good manners and feel safe and comfortable in various situations. However, many pet owners stop at basic obedience training. Training your pet should be a lifelong endeavor and teaching a new trick or skill will exercise their brain and strengthen their cognitive abilities as they approach their grey muzzle years. Designate daily training sessions with your furry pal and teach them new tricks like high five or roll over. Pets, especially dogs, are natural people pleasers and will thrive from learning new skills with their favorite human companion. Do not forget to include your feline friend and also designate time to teach them a new skill such as high five or fetch. Provide ample praise and treats so they understand the desired behavior. You may also consider enrolling your pet in an obedience or agility class to learn advanced  skills.  

#2: Stay active with your pet

Many pet owners show their pets love by sharing a bite of their dinner or giving them extra treats. However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous for your pet’s health. Extra furry dogs and fluffy felines can deceive their owners who often are unaware that their pets are actually overweight. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control report more than 50% of U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese. Staying active with your pet will not only ensure a healthy amount of exercise but also strengthen your bond.

Pets who maintain a healthy weight have an increased life span of more than two years. Try walking your canine pal for five minutes four to five times daily and gradually work up to 30 to 45 minutes of activity. Your feline friends can also be leash-trained but patience and walking slowly are vital for them to accept a leash. Encourage your cat to walk around the house behind a feather wand or give them their favorite treat each time they follow you. Benefits to incorporating daily activity with your pet include: 

  • Increased ability to maintain a healthy weight 
  • Improved cardiovascular function 
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved digestion
  • Decreased incidence of arthritis
  • Increased joint mobility

#3: Schedule daily playtime with your pet 

Daily play sessions with your furry pal will improve and strengthen your bond and provide reinforcement to your pet that time with you is enjoyable and fun. A consistent daily play routine will improve your pet’s emotional well-being and prevent accidents or inappropriate behavior because of boredom. Ensure you use a variety of activities to exercise your pet’s body, burn calories, and stimulate their brain including:

  • Playing a game of hide and seek and providing your pet with ample treats when they find you or the hidden toy
  • Playing fetch with a variety of toys or balls 
  • Playing a game of tug-o-war with a rope or other soft toy 
  • Playing a game of cat and mouse with a feather wand or toy mouse to encourage your cat’s natural stalking behavior

#4: Provide your pet with regular wellness care  

Regular wellness and preventive care will ensure your pet remains healthy and by your side for as long as possible. The human-animal bond has increased the demand for advances in veterinary care, and animals now are living longer healthier lives. Your pet may not always enjoy being vaccinated, and they may be scared during a veterinary examination. However, speaking calmly to your pet before, during, and after their examination will provide reassurance and comfort. Consider purchasing pet health insurance like Trupanion so you are prepared for any costly veterinary care for an unexpected accident or illness. 

#5: Schedule home grooming sessions for your pet

Regular brushing or bathing is the perfect way to spend quality time and bond with your pet. You should always consult your veterinarian before choosing a shampoo and establishing a bathing routine. Cats rarely need bathing because regular baths may disrupt their natural oils and can potentially dry out their skin. Brushing your dog or cat daily will prevent matted fur and is the perfect way to gently check your pet for any lumps, bumps, or skin abnormalities. Home grooming sessions will also help ensure your pet is more comfortable during their veterinary visits. Ensure you gently handle your pet’s ears, paws, and tail during home grooming sessions to acclimate them for the handling they will receive during a veterinary examination. 

Our Animal Emergency Care team understands the special bond you have with your pet. Call your family veterinarian to ensure your pet receives regular wellness care or contact us if they get into trouble after hours. 

Sources:

https://habri.org/blog/top-5-benefits-of-the-human-animal-bond/

https://www.petmd.com/dog/training/training-tips-strengthen-your-bond-your-dog

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-subjects/the-human-animal-bond/overview-of-the-human-animal-bond?query=human%20animal%20bond

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/health-and-the-human-animal-bond/health-and-the-human-animal-bond?query=human%20animal%20bond