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4 Service Dog Bonding Exercises to Help Strengthen the Connection Between Service Dogs and Their Handlers

Updated: Apr 17

Building a strong and trusting bond between service dogs and their handlers is essential for the success of their partnership. Our trainers at Compass Key Service Dog Training understand just how important it is to foster that strong bond, especially because of the role that service dogs play in the lives of individuals with disabilities. That’s why we’d like to explore some possible ways to deepen that bond in today’s blog post.

Today, we’ll talk you through four service dog bonding exercises that you can do to help enhance the connection that’s so essential in your lives together. Please keep in mind that these are exercises that should be done alongside and in addition to service dog training as a whole.

A woman walks her Labrador through a leaf-strewn forest path surrounded by autumn foliage.

1. Take Walks Together

A lot of service dog bonding exercises are more ingrained in the daily care of our furry companions than we might think. For example, there’s no underestimating the power of going on routine walks together. In fact, the Animal Foundation of Las Vegas, Nevada takes the time to highlight the importance of walking your dog and emphasizes that “walking your dog is about so much more than just ‘potty breaks’”. The benefits of regular walks for your dog are numerous and include the opportunity to provide regular exercise, mental stimulation, and keep your companion healthy and happy.

If it’s possible for you to take the opportunity to go on regular walks with your dog, definitely take advantage of it. These routine walks will not only serve as the chance for you to bond more with your service dog, but also offer a plethora of benefits for yourself and your dutiful companion.

2. Gentle Grooming Sessions

Many of the positives of regular grooming for your dog tend to speak for themselves, especially in the form of improved hygiene, a healthy coat, and less shedding. However, grooming sessions can also have additional benefits beyond a healthy appearance, including giving you an opportunity to bond one-on-one with your dog. Common grooming activities might include brushing their coat, clipping their nails, or even giving your dog a massage.

For more insight into some safe at-home grooming practices, PetMD by Chewy has some insights in “DIY Tips for Grooming a Dog At Home”. Keep in mind that there are professional dog groomers for a reason. If you’re ever concerned about grooming your dog, it’s best to consult a professional.

A man plays with a joyful dog outdoors, with trees in the background.

3. Interactive Playtime

Incorporate interactive play sessions into your routine. Playtime between a dog and their handler is foundational when it comes to the physical and mental well being of your service dog. Oakland Veterinary Referral Services goes into more depth on the benefits associated with playtime with your dog and one of the main ones is, of course, the strengthening of the bond you share. Additional benefits include providing the dog with enriching activities, helping to reinforce training skills, and giving the dog an outlet for their energy. 

Be sure to pay attention and take note of the kinds of activities your service dog enjoys and take the time to engage in those activities—whether it's fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek, whatever it may be!

4. Creating an Enrichment Plan for Your Dog

Pet enrichment, according to “5 Reasons Why Every Pet Needs an Enrichment Plan” by Pet Harmony Animal Behavior and Training, is all about meeting the needs of your animal companion. When you meet those needs, you’re helping to facilitate a better life for you and your pet, as well as your lives together. In her article, founder of Pet Harmony, Allie Bender, highlights that by paying attention to the needs of your pet and planning thoughtfully around them, you can help curb behavior problems, improve quality of life, and get the most out of your relationship with your pet. When it comes to forging a stronger relationship with your dog, developing an enrichment plan for them is a must. 

Bender elaborates in another article titled “Dog Enrichment Categories Explained” on the 14 different categories that enrichment for dogs falls into. These categories include health/veterinary, hygiene, diet/nutrition, physical exercise, sensory stimulation, safety, security, species-typical behaviors, foraging, social interaction, mental exercise, independence, environment, and calming. If you’re looking for more information on how best to make a detailed enrichment plan for your canine, Bender offers an insightful multi-post blog series

Three people are enjoying time with a fluffy white dog on a sandy beach.

Compass Key's Approach to Service Dog Bonding Exercises

At Compass Key Service Dog Training, we recognize that the bond between a service dog and handler is the foundation of a successful partnership. Our experienced trainers are here to help incorporate service dog bonding exercises into our training programs, to help ensure that the connection between service dogs and handlers becomes a heartfelt companionship. To find out more about our training methods, please visit our blog post on the subject!

A Stronger Bond, A Brighter Future

Strengthening that crucial bond through the use of service dog bonding exercises is all about cultivating a deep, trusting connection that benefits both parties. With the help of Compass Key Service Dog Training and these four service dog bonding exercises, you and your service dog can work to forge a relationship that will lead to a brighter and more successful future together.

To learn more about Compass Key Service Dog Training and the vision we’re deeply passionate about, visit our About page. You can also find additional information about the services we provide on our designated services page.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us via our Contact Us page or see our FAQs.

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