Bringing home a new puppy is such an exciting time. As a new owner, you are eager to adapt your routines and provide the best life for your new family member. Yet, you may have some worries as you take on this new experience, such as when and how well you and your puppy will bond. Here is what you can look to expect.
So, at what age do puppies bond with their owners? Puppies bond quickly with their owners between the ages of 8 to 16 weeks (2 to 4 months). Puppies and dogs older than 16 weeks can still form great bonds with their owners; it may just take more time and consistency than if the bond begins from a younger age.
Puppies can start their human bonding process from as young as six weeks.
That being said, most breeders agree that an additional two weeks with their mother and littermates is beneficial for the puppy’s overall health and does not lessen the future puppy-owner bond.
Nevertheless, chances are you still have some questions about building a relationship with a young pup.
So let’s delve into them so you can set your expectations and ensure you do all you can to fasten the process!
What Is The Best Age To Bond With A Puppy?
The best age to bond with a puppy is when the puppy is between 8 to 16 weeks old. From birth to two months, a puppy needs to be with its mother and littermates for health and socialization purposes.
At around two months old, a puppy can physically thrive without nursing from its mother, and its mindset is like that of a curious human toddler.
At this age, your puppy can have all of its physical needs met by its owner, will enjoy exploring and learning new things, and will quickly develop strong bonds with the humans in its life.
Dogs are pack animals, and as a puppy moves away from its mother, it will naturally begin
to seek out its place within a new pack.
As a puppy’s owner, that pack is sure to include you!
When your puppy is around eight weeks old, it begins to learn who it can and can’t trust, the daily routines of life away from its mom and litter, and all of the ins and outs of being a great companion.
By 10 to 16 weeks old, a puppy will be able to recognize people who have played a consistent and safe role in their life.
They will show signs of specifically recognizing their owners and are quickly learning where they fall in the social rankings of the family.
This is a great time period for building a bond that lets your puppy know you are a safe companion, but also the house leader.
How Do I Get My Puppy To Bond With Me?
The best way to get your puppy to bond with you is by spending positive one-on-one time with your puppy. You can spend this positive time cuddling, brushing, playing with toys, going for short walks, and helping your puppy have their needs for food, water, and bathroom breaks met.
Let’s look at how each of these activities can help strengthen the bond you have with your new puppy.
Before you brought your puppy home, it spent a large amount of its time cuddled up in a warm, happy pile with its littermates.
This was a space that felt safe and secure for your puppy as it slept.
When you cuddle with your puppy, you create this same feeling of safety and comfort for them.
Your puppy quickly learns that being next to you is a safe and wonderful place.
Gently grooming your dog with brushes teaches them that your touch is caring and feels good.
It also helps your puppy to look its very best.
Puppies love the comfort that comes from gentle brushing, just as they enjoyed their mother licking them to calm them down and clean them.
Brushing your puppy also gets your puppy used to being touched and handled, which can make vet appointments and trips to a groomer much easier!
When you first brush your puppy, it may want to nip and chew at the brushing utensils or your hands.
It is important that you remain patient with your puppy but also set boundaries for them to follow.
It is okay to calmly but firmly tell your puppy “No” if they try to turn your brushing hand into a chew toy.
If the puppy remains overexcited, give a few simple brush strokes and then wait to continue brushing at a time when they feel calmer.
Setting boundaries builds a relationship with your puppy that lets it know you care, but you are also the one in charge of the puppy-human relationship.
Playing With Toys
Puppies love to have fun just like human kids do.
When you play with your puppy with toys, you are teaching it healthy ways to spend energy and allowing your puppy to build positive, playful memories with you.
You can also use this time to learn what your puppy likes and doesn’t like to do for fun.
Some puppies may be shy at first, but regular short bits of playing will build their confidence quickly.
Going For Walks
Getting out and exploring the world is great for puppy socialization.
When you start taking your puppy for controlled walks, you are helping your puppy stay healthy while also demonstrating that your puppy can trust you in a variety of places, not just home.
When your puppy knows that a leash in your hand means a positive adventure is about to take place, they will look forward to spending every walk with you.
Meetings Your Puppy’s Basic Needs
It may seem obvious or overly simple, but by being sure to meet your puppy’s basic needs on a consistent and regular schedule, you are building important foundational trust with your puppy.
Your puppy has relied on its mother and human breeder for everything prior to living with you.
When your puppy learns that it can rely on you to provide food and water at regular intervals each day, its bond with you will grow.
How Do I Know If My Puppy Has Bonded With Me?
A puppy that has bonded with you will show visible excitement when you return home from being gone; when it gets tired and wants to relax, it will try to get as close to you as possible for some cuddles, will often make frequent eye contact with you, and will make attempts to listen when you speak.
One of the best parts of dog ownership is coming home every day to a pup that is overjoyed to see you.
When your puppy builds a strong bond with you, it won’t be able to hide its joy at having you around after you have been gone.
A happy dog will have a tail (and sometimes an entire backend) that wiggles from side to side; it may bark, and as a puppy, it may try to jump up and greet you.
On the other hand, other behaviors like self-isolation or even growling when you attempt to pick them up could be signs you are not quite there yet!
Happy greetings aside, a dog that is bonded with you will also feel safe enough to fully relax and sleep near you.
Dogs are pack animals and get comfort from the presence of others in their pack. A dog that is bonded with its owner will often seek them out before laying down for a nap.
If your puppy makes a point to move next to you or onto your lap when looking for a spot to sleep, it feels safe and bonded with you.
In the dog world, eye contact plays an important part in sending messages and reflecting relationships and respect.
A puppy that frequently looks at you is turning to you for guidance on how to interact with the world.
It is a sign your puppy trusts your leadership and your judgment.
Locking eyes with your puppy in a friendly way has also been shown to release oxytocin – a feel-good chemical for our brain linked with love – for both your dog and you.
Listens To You
If you think your puppy is listening to you, you’re not imagining things.
Puppies are constantly listening to the world around them.
If your puppy seems especially tuned into your voice, even if they haven’t learned any commands yet, it is a sign that they are bonded with you as their owner.
Choosing to pay attention to your voice and showing simple responses such as perking up when you say their name is a great display of your puppy’s bond with you.
Do Puppies Bond With One Person?
Puppies, especially young puppies, do tend to bond more closely with one person than others. This doesn’t mean that a puppy won’t feel love, affection, and closeness to more than one member of your human family. What it does mean is that your puppy is likely to turn to one person first in times of need or uncertainty and for extra cuddles.
Puppies are often happy to see a wide variety of people and will learn to enjoy each member of your regular family.
However, when a puppy is tired or scared, it will often seek out the person it feels most closely bonded with.
If your puppy seems to be sticking close to you more than other members of your family, it is just their way of showing their special bond with you as their primary owner.
Who a puppy bonds with also varies by breed.
Some breeds have been specially bred over generations to desire a bond with one person, while others have been bred to be easy-going companions to a variety of humans.
You may find that Chihuahuas or German Shepherds prefer a very strong bond with one family member, while breeds like Golden Retrievers or Beagles seem to become instant pals with everyone they meet.
While puppies certainly have a window of time where they will quickly form a strong bond with people, a dog of any age can build great relationships with its owner.
No matter the age of your puppy, doing things like spending quality quiet time together, engaging in fun play, and providing them with consistent care will build up positive connections between you both.
Your puppy will enjoy having a strong bond with you, all while benefiting from great relationships with everyone in your family.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.