The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Bernedoodles" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.
Author Credit: David AndersonOnce your Bernedoodle is settled into your home, it’s time to let it experience the world. Spending time on walks, at dog parks, and even trips to the vet are all enhanced by good social skills. Socialization means exposing your puppy to new experiences in order to make it feel more comfortable. The world can be a new and scary place for a pup, but having a good owner to show it the ropes can put its little mind at ease. Have your Bernedoodle get used to being around different types of people and animals from a young age, and you’ll end up with a happy and well adjusted dog.
The Importance of Socialization
Good socialization can have a beneficial effect on your dog’s physical health. When a dog gets scared or stressed by outside factors like other dogs or trips to the vet, it ignites a response to preserve its own life. When it senses danger, the flight or fight response kicks in to protect itself. As humans, we know that the friendly veterinarian isn’t going to hurt it, but your Bernedoodle might not know that.
When those danger hormones kick in, they are preparing your dog to either fight for its life, or bolt. While these stress hormones can save your dog’s life in the event of a real danger, it serves no purpose to its irrational fears. The hormones travel through the blood and pass through the kidneys while causing harm to internal organs. If this happens frequently, it can cause damage to your dog’s immune system, making it more susceptible to disease and infection. Over time, stress that could easily be avoided can make your dog ill.
Proper socialization also keeps others safe around your dog. When a dog is stressed and scared, one natural reaction is to snap at people. Biting can protect it in case of an attack, but it not useful when someone’s just trying to pet your dog.
In certain instances, like visiting the vet or a groomer, this fear can cause both the caregiver and your animal harm. If a veterinarian is trying to examine your dog, and it is unable to sit still out of fear, the vet cannot give you a good assessment, and a diagnosis might be missed. Similarly, your groomer may use sharp objects so if your dog can’t hold still it may get a poke.
If your dog does not feel comfortable around anyone but you, it makes leaving it in the care of others very difficult. A kennel may send a nervous dog into hysterics, and if you hire a dog sitter, it may treat him or her like a dangerous intruder. It can be hard to leave a nervous dog in someone else’s care, which means you might not be able to travel without your dog.
When a dog cannot interact with other people or dogs, it can be dangerous for everyone involved if the dog enters a situation it does not want to be in. Not only is it putting unnecessary stress on your dog’s system, someone may be bitten when the dog finally snaps.
On the other hand, a well-socialized dog is a joy for everyone to be around. It’s great knowing that other people can trust your dog and your dog can trust others. You won’t have to worry about taking your dog out into public and it will be happy to see the world and everyone in it. A socialized dog will have a much better quality of life than an unsocialized dog.
Interacting with Other Dogs
If you don’t already have another dog, you may wonder why it’s necessary to show your dog how to behave around other dogs. Many dogs don’t get a lot of interaction with others of their species. However, if you take your Bernedoodle outside of your home, chances are you’ll probably meet up with another dog at some point. If your dog has never interacted with another dog, it might not know how to react.
To understand the importance of socializing your dog with other dogs, it helps to understand how dogs interact with one another. If you go to a dog park, it’s comforting to know when your dog is just playing and when you need to intervene. When you know what to look for when your dog is interacting with others, it gives the owner a little peace of mind to know that their precious pup is just doing what dogs do.
Though they don’t vocalize like humans do, dogs communicate with others through their body gestures. Dogs are very sociable creatures—they like to live in packs. A dog that’s used to being around other dogs will likely join in on the play.
Dog behaviors are often classified as being dominant or submissive. This isn’t necessarily a positive or negative thing, and the roles can switch depending on which dogs are interacting. Some common shows of dominance include putting paws on another dog’s back, humping, tail up, and general alertness. A submissive dog will stay low to the ground and might even roll over and expose its belly. Just because a dog is submissive around others doesn’t necessarily mean that it is anxious or afraid.
There are some cues that may suggest a dog is anxious around others. Intense panting (not related to exercise), yawning, ears pinned back against the head, and a tucked tail all suggest that a dog is afraid. When a dog is tense, bares its teeth, and stares at the other dog, it may be gearing up for a fight. Alternatively, if the dog makes a bowing motion where the front of it is low and its bottom is in the air, it is inviting others to play with it.
Dogs communicate a lot by their sense of smell. If you’ve watched dogs greet one another, you know that they give each other a good sniff. While scientists don’t know exactly what kind of information is being transferred, we know that dogs can smell the sex of another dog. In the wild, a male may need to be able to smell another male to know if he is in competition for mating. Even though many dogs in the park are neutered and not able to mate, their brains are still hardwired to sniff out the competition.
The best time to introduce your dog to other dogs is when it is still a puppy. It may be harder to socialize it when it gets older because it may already be apprehensive of other dogs. A puppy training class or a dog park are two great places to let your dog interact with a wide variety of dogs. If your dog is timid, you can try organizing play dates with friends’ dogs. This is also easier on a nervous owner because you have more control over who gets to interact with your Bernedoodle.
In general, Bernedoodles tend to get along well with other dogs. They have the tendency to be shy, but once they have a little experience, they’ll be playing with the other dogs in no time.
Socializing Your New Bernedoodle with Current Pets
Socializing your new Bernedoodle is especially important if it’s going to be part of a larger family of pets! There’s a little more at stake here because unlike play dates, there isn’t the same option of leaving the party. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve decided to bring a new dog into the family, then you’ve probably determined that your other pets are friendly around dogs.
First, choose a neutral location for the meeting. Dogs can be territorial, so you don’t want them to feel like they have anything they need to defend. Once they seem comfortable around each other, have them meet at home. Supervise them closely until you are certain that they can get along. It’s best to keep them separated during this stage while you’re not around to watch them. For example, utilize your puppy gates to give them the space they need.
Eventually, the dogs should get to the point within a few weeks where they can interact with each other without supervision. There should not be any signs of aggression from either dog. If you find that after a long time your dogs do not get along, you may wish to consult with a behavior specialist.
When introducing your new Bernedoodle to cats, the same general rules apply. Start very slow and leave plenty of space between the dog and cat. This may take a little more time, so be patient. The goal here is to get the Bernedoodle to the point where they aren’t interested in the cat and won’t bother it.
A more detailed look at adding a new dog to your pet family can be found in the next chapter.
Introducing Your Bernedoodle to Other People
When interacting with people, you want your Bernedoodle to be calm, yet happy. You don’t want a fearful dog that barks or runs away from strangers. On the other hand, you don’t want a dog that is overly excited and jumps on houseguests.
A good place to start this type of socialization is in your own home. People love meeting new puppies, so this is a chance to have friends over to introduce them to your Bernedoodle and vice versa. If your dog is skittish, keep it in a separate space until the people arrive. That way, it won’t experience the anxiety of people ringing the doorbell and approaching the house.
Keep it slow and positive. Let your dog approach your guests. If someone reaches out for an uneasy dog, this may frighten it more. When it’s feeling comfortable, it will approach people. Good behavior needs to be rewarded. If playtime and affection aren’t enough, have your guests feed your Bernedoodle treats if it is calm.
Bernedoodles aren’t typically aggressive around people, but sometimes poor breeding or bad past experiences can make your dog fearful of humans. If your particular Bernedoodle shows aggressive behaviors, have it meet people outside of the home. That way, it’s less likely to feel territorial.
Never force your dog to socialize with someone if it is really unhappy. Instead, gradually let it get comfortable with the idea of being in the vicinity of other people first. Then, you may allow someone to hold the leash while walking together. After time, your Bernedoodle may feel comfortable enough to allow people to pet it.
It’s fairly common for Bernedoodles to want to bark at people at the door. They are protective dogs and just want their people to know that someone is approaching their territory. While your dog might not mean any harm, it’s not a desirable behavior for most homes. Have it get used to people at the door by staying calm when someone rings the doorbell. Speaking in a high-pitched, excited voice to your dog when someone arrives will only encourage this behavior. Instead, teach it to lie down on its bed when someone comes to the door. That way, it’s too distracted to bark, and is in a safe place for being around new visitors.
Introducing Children to Your New Bernedoodle
This is a similar concept to introducing your dog to adults with a few extra considerations to make. Many adults have experience with dogs, but many children do not. Before bringing the Bernedoodle home, give your children instructions for how dogs are supposed to be treated. Emphasize the need to be gentle with the dog and to give it plenty of space. Let them know that if a dog growls at them, they need to stop whatever they were doing and back away.
Remember that children should always be supervised with dogs. It doesn’t take much for something to go wrong during playtime and your dog to snap at your child. When stressed, even good dogs are capable of injuring children. A bad experience between your child and your Bernedoodle can leave a lasting impression on your family.
Dogs can get annoyed by children because they have a ton of energy and may not recognize a dog’s cues that they’re overstimulated. While you may notice that a tail between the legs means your dog is unhappy, your young child might not. Like any kind of socialization, your dog needs plenty of time and space to become comfortable. Luckily, this breed is typically very gentle with children.
Good socialization can change the way your dog sees the world. A socialized dog is a pleasure to be around and is happy and healthy. The owner benefits from a socialized Bernedoodle, too, because you can feel comfortable letting others care for your dog. Start early, and in no time, your Bernedoodle will feel comfortable with both people and other animals.
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