Dogs are incredibly social creatures and want to create bonds with their humans. There is a special relationship between a man and his pup that is nothing to underestimate. It is based on mutual love, respect, appreciation and above all, trust. Contrary to popular belief, earning a dog's trust isn't always that easy. Giving out a few treats or belly rubs helps to build a bond, but does not mean they trust you with their life. That only comes after years of training and companionship.
Not every dog and owner has a great relationship built on trust, but your dog will easily tell you if they do not have faith in you. Here are some signs that your dog really trusts you. Additionally, here are some tips on how to build trust if you do not have that bond just yet.
Your dog keeps eye contact.
It may be a challenge for a dog to look into someone’s eyes, as such contact may even provoke a conflict. Your dog won’t look into the eyes of another dog, but as a person they will trust you more than anyone else in the world. According to experts, a dog’s ability to look into a person’s eyes in a non-aggressive way was one of the first steps toward canine domestication. Additionally, a study from the University of Japan found that when dogs and their owners stared into each other’s eyes during a 30-minute period, both of their oxytocin levels increased. Oxytocin is the chemical released when you show love.
Your dog checks in with you.
Even the most adventurous, independent dogs typically show their connection by “checking in” on their human from time to time. A dog that is trusting will look to their human for reassurance and guidance, even if they are typically very confident on their own. You and your dog are a team, even if your dog doesn't always agree with your choices (like not letting them loose at the park). Dogs that have bonded with their human will make regular visual contact with the owner in new and confusing environments to make sure that they are safe. Similarly, a dog that is not trusting of its human is more likely to run away, and not show care if there humans gives a response.
Your dog is happy to see you.
When you get home from a long day at work, does your dog rush over to get a pat on the head and a cheerful greeting? If so, that means they are happy to see you and welcome your presence. A good tail wag is a sign your dog is delighted and joys being around you. If your dog is comfortable sleeping with you, it is also a sign that they trust you to protect them. Dogs are the most vulnerable when they are asleep, so cuddling up next to you at night shows you have earned their trust. Dogs crave cuddles, snuggles, and hugs and will come dangerously close to your face with their licks if you aren’t careful!
Your dog is relaxed when they are around you.
A dog’s body language is the best way to tell if they are feel comfortable, scared, happy, mad, or similar. Dogs that are anxious will pace back and forth, cower, put their tales between their legs, pant excessively or pin their ears to their heads. These behaviors indicate that something is deeply troubling your dog, and it may be a sign that they don’t trust you to take care of it or protect them. On the other hand, dogs that are blinking often, wagging their tales, or keeping their mouth slightly open are showing that they are not worried and are comfortable in the situation they are in. Your dog trusts that you can keep things under control.
Your dog tries to protect you.
Does your dog watch you every time you go to the toilet? While it is not the best for getting privacy, this might be a sign that your dog is trying to look out for you encase of any danger. it shows that your dog wants to keep their eyes and ears open so they can warn you if needed. They see you as the leader of the family, and therefor offer their protective services. This is not the same as an aggressive dog that barks or snarls at others without reason. Dogs that lash out are showing the opposite signs of trust, and instead might be afraid you don't have the power to protect them.
You dog listens to your commands.
Most people think training a dog is all about the dog, but it’s actually about the human too. If the dog doesn’t trust his owner, they are far less likely to respond well to the training. Most trainers will use a positive reinforcement strategy as this helps build trust with the animal the most. Many people who bring home newly adopted rescue dogs struggle with training because the dogs have an inherit lack of trust. Rescue dogs see the worst of humanity through abuse and abandonment, therefore trusting their new families might not come as quickly. While training right away is important, it must be understood that the dog might need more time to really let their guard down.
Your dog does not experience your anger.
Dogs that are regularly yelled at for poor behavior are much less likely to trust their owners than dogs that primarily receive positive interactions. It is normal to get frustrated with your pet, but a study found that dogs are great at reading emotions. Moreover, when they feel that you are angry they are less likely to want to engage with you. They will not want to listen to your commands and may even retreat from the room you are in to find “safety”. They notice your negative emotions are associate with you frowning, having a harsh voice, or a furrowed brow. Like children, dogs respond better to a gentle voice.
Your dog learns your routines.
Routines are a great part of pet care because it helps your dog feel safe and comfortable. Your pet will not fear about when they will get their next meal, when they will have the opportunity to go outside, and when play time will arrive. This helps to greatly reduce their anxiety. This is particularly true if you are someone who leaves the house for long periods of time because of work. Your dog will get to know your work schedule and have less separation anxiety while you are gone, because they will know when it’s time for you to be getting home. Your dog will act calm when you leave, rather than tear up your house out of fear that you will not return.
Dogs are great pets to have and they show a great deal of affection to their owners when they are treated correctly. If your dog trusts you, they will show it through unconditional love and good behaviors. Building up trust isn’t always easy, but with patience and time a real bond will happen between you and your pet.