Want a happier relationship with your dog? This trainer's simple tip is a game-changer

Woman and dog in field of flowers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Have you ever heard of attachment theory? Originally used to describe the relationship between infants and their caregivers, modern-day attachment theory is based on the idea that all humans regardless of age need safe and loving connections with other humans to thrive.

You're probably wondering what on earth this has to do with your relationship with your dog! Well, it turns out that attachment theory can also be applied to our connection with our canine companions.

We often think that communication and connection with our dogs are strengthened through the use of tools — such as dishing out the best dog treats as a reward for good behavior. But according to expert trainer and behaviorist Renee Rhoades, what really deepens our relationship with our dog is helping them feel safe.

She shared more about this in a recent Instagram post and it's really got us thinking...

"Secure attachment forms through consistent, responsive, and positive interactions, fostering trust and a sense of safety," explains Rhoades. "When humans and dogs interact positively, both species experience an oxytocin boost, strengthening their emotional connection."

When it comes to ways for improving your relationship with your dog, avoiding punishment is one of the best things you can do to ensure your connection with your pup stays strong.

"Psychologically, punishment can induce stress and fear, increasing cortisol. This damages the trust and security foundational to a healthy attachment and can lead to behavioral problems and reduced social learning capability," Rhoades explains.

"Punishment fails to communicate the desired behavior effectively, often teaching a dog what not to do rather than what to do, which can confuse and frustrate the animal."

The science behind positive reinforcement for dogs, on the other hand, shows that when you reward the behavior you do want to see instead of punishing the behavior you don't want, your pup has a greater capacity for both learning and memory retention. 

"Healthy, productive communication between a dog and a human is best cultivated through positive reinforcement methods that strengthen the bond by fostering trust, security, and mutual understanding," Rhoades confirms.

So if you want a happier relationship with your dog, remember their ability to form a deep bond with you is rooted in their sense of safety. Do your best to listen to them, focus on rewarding the positive and your connection will go from strength to strength. 

American Journey Peanut Butter Recipe Grain-Free Oven Baked Crunchy Biscuit Dog Treats
$4.19 at Chewy

American Journey Peanut Butter Recipe Grain-Free Oven Baked Crunchy Biscuit Dog Treats
$4.19 at Chewy
These grain-free, crunchy snacks are sure to please your pup. Small in size and packed full of flavor, they're made with wholesome ingredients that will keep your dog motivated and energized. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.