With any relationship, bonding provides the foundation upon which everything else rests. A new Service Dog partnership isn't any different. Proper bonding from the very beginning allows teams to move forward with confidence, both for work and training. Keep reading to learn tips and ideas that facilitate relationship building with your canine partner. Note: These bonding tips do not replace the official bonding protocol(s) provided by your Service Dog's organization or program. Always follow the guidelines and procedures required by the organization placing your Service Dog. These tips are meant to supplement or enhance other bonding protocols. In particular, owner trainers, Service Dog candidate evaluators, and others in similar situations might benefit from the ideas presented. Additionally, established Service Dog teams can utilize the bonding tips to help build or rebuild their team's focus and performance. Bond (noun, verb) - (1) the formation of a close relationship; (2) the attaching of one thing to another; (3) to join one thing securely to another; (4) a strong force of attraction holding one thing to another Common Service Dog Bonding Fear: "What If My New Service Dog Doesn't Like Me?!" New Service Dog handlers often worry about whether or not their new Service Dog likes them. Early interactions between dog and human frequently contribute to this fear since, in the beginning, many Service Dogs focus on their trainer and ignore the new handler. Furthermore, a fledgling Service Dog team's first few weeks together usually involves many mishaps, miscommunications, and misadventures. Tackling this fear requires new Service Dog handlers and organization placement specialists to remember something very simple: the newly graduated Service Dog and brand new handler likely do not know each other yet. For evaluators and owner trainers, the same holds true -- all new candidates and Service Dogs in Training (SDiTs) start as strangers. Bonding Requires Building a Relationship Like any relationship, going from "stranger" to "acquaintance" to "friend" to "partner" involves getting to know each other. In the beginning, new Service Dog teams learn each partner's likes and dislikes. They learn about preferred schedules and how to interact with each other. The human half of the team learns how to communicate with their dog. Likewise, the recently partnered Service Dog masters their new handler's nuances in speech, delivery, and body language. Until the two learn to reliably convey information, cues, needs, and desires, they aren't truly a team. In other words, until the new Service Dog and handler know each other,
Everyone knows that Service Dogs are supposed to be calm, well trained dogs who work hard to help their human partners.