Spend 10-15 minutes each day teaching your dog a new trick or behavior
One of my favorite activities to do is trick training. What's great about trick training is the possibilities are endless. You can build on behaviors they already know, practice in new areas, or do combinations of tricks so your dog will never know what to expect. I love using Lucy's meals for trick training. It's a way to make sure she is working for her dinner - just like I do - and staying mentally engaged with me. I think she actually prefers working for her food over freebie dinners!
Every day, play your dog's favorite game
You probably already know what your dog's favorite game is - what game do they initiate with you more than anything else? Whether it is fetch, tug, or keep away - every dog has some game that makes them SUPER happy and engaged. By taking some of your time every day to play their favorite game, you will strengthen your bond and feel closer than ever.
Put down your phone when you are giving them attention
Have you ever petted your dog with one hand and scrolled down your social media feed with the other? I know I am guilty of that. I also know that my dog notices. Embarrassingly often, she will actually knock my phone out of my hand while I am "multi-tasking". By paying attention to these cues, I have learned that she knows when I am distracted. Just like we don't want a date staring at their phone - we should give our dogs the same respect when we are spending time bonding together.
Learn about canine body language, so you can understand how they communicate with you
Often times, humans will anthropomorphize dogs - that is, attribute human characteristics to them. While we are fortunate that our dogs have been conditioned over thousands of years to adapt well to life with humans, they are indeed still dogs. When you learn and understand more about their canine body language, you can help advocate for them if they are in an uncomfortable situation (think - overwhelmed at a dog park, walking through a crowded street). Advocating for our dogs and removing them from a potential uncomfortable scenario is an important skill towards improving your bond and building mutual trust.
When you communicate, do it in a way they can understand, and be consistent.
Consistency is extremely important - you can't make a 'no-couch' rule when your spouse is home just to break the same rule when they aren't. Communication can be difficult when you don't speak the same language, but along with learning their body language, once you figure it out you will build trust and deepen your bond.