Bernedoodles are naturally friendly dogs, but, as is true of all breeds, it is essential to socialize them correctly to decrease the chance that they will be fearful of or aggressive to other dogs, animals, and humans. Ideally, it would be best to start socializing your pup as soon as they have their essential vaccinations.
The Multi-Pet Household
If you already have pets and are introducing a Bernedoodle into your family, the best thing you can do is ensure that everyone gets off on the right foot. This requires careful planning and, in many cases, slow introductions.
Understanding Animal Communication
Dogs generally communicate similarly no matter the breed, but other animals have their own methods of communication. For example, when a dog wants to play, it will generally lower its front paws and stick its butt in the air, wag its tail, and its ear might perk up (depending on the type of dog).
Now think about how a cat shows aggression. They put their butt in the air, they swish their tails menacingly, and their ears go back. Do you see how these are all very similar to what a dog does to show that they want to play? This is just one example of how a dog can miscommunicate with other animals – and why it is up to the owner to introduce their pooch to other animals in the household carefully.
Introducing Your Current Dog to a New Bernedoodle
If you already have a dog (or dogs) and are introducing a new Bernedoodle puppy or adult, you should do so slowly and carefully. Even if your dog loves other dogs, remember that it can be quite a different thing to have another dog come live in their home. For this reason, it is a good idea to have the initial meeting in a neutral location such as a park that your dog has never been to.
Ideally, you will have a friend or family member that can help you. Each of you will take one of the dogs and go to the meeting spot alone. Try to bring the dogs together to greet each other. Do your best to keep the leash slack so that the dog does not feel it is being held back.
At this point, there are many ways either dog might act. They might be excited to meet each other, which they will show by circling and sniffing. They might urinate near one another, circle each other, or even ignore the other. Let them do what they would like with as little interaction from you as possible. Keep the interaction brief.
If at any point the dogs try to fight or otherwise become aggressive with each other, do not pull on their leashes. Instead, wave a treat above the nose of each to get them to separate. Let them calm down. Keep them near each other but not close enough to get at the other. Provide them with calm pets, lots of treats, and other comforting things.
If all goes well, try heading out on a short walk together. If all the dogs still seem to like each other – or they seem indifferent – then you can take them home and see how they do. Keep them on leash initially so that you can quickly jump in if things get out of hand. Otherwise, allow them to explore together and get to know each other.
Introducing Your Cat to Your New Bernedoodle
If you are a cat household bringing in a Bernedoodle, you will have a few options depending on how dog-savvy your cat is and how cat-savvy your dog is.
If neither animal is used to having the other around, you will want to start very slowly. When we brought our puppy home, we had two cats who had never met a dog. It took several months to introduce them fully.
First, we ensured that the cats had somewhere to go that the puppy could not go. We did this by installing a puppy gate on our stairs that includes a cat door. This allowed our cats to go upstairs where their litter and food is, to get away from the dog. It allowed them to slowly make the trek downstairs to meet the puppy on their terms.
I will admit that there was a period of time where my husband and I wondered if our cats would ever be brave enough to come downstairs or if we would have cats upstairs and a dog downstairs for the rest of our lives. Luckily, it happened just as we hoped – the cats eventually started coming downstairs, and they now love playing with our Bernedoodle. It just took a lot of time and patience.
If you are getting a Bernedoodle that is used to cats, or you have cats that are used to dogs, then you do not have to go this slow. However, it is still wise to give the animals time to get used to each other before formally introducing them.
Bring your Bernedoodle home and keep it confined to a room or two for the first day or two. Let your cats smell that the dog is in the house, and the dog smell the cats in the house. This gives both of them a chance to adjust to the other.
Then try bringing the pup out on a leash. Allow the animals to approach each other. If they do so peacefully, you can drop the leash – but keep it on the dog at first so that you can quickly grab it if any of the animals get upset.
Once your pets are used to each other, you should not assume that they will never have a kerfuffle. Just as human siblings will fight from time to time, your animals might too. Never leave them alone with each other unless you are 100% confident that your dog will not go after your cats or vice versa.
The First Few Weeks of Being a Multi-Pet Household
Whether you have introduced your Bernedoodle to another dog, another cat, or any other pet, the first few weeks are critical in the long-term success of a blended household. Stick to your original pet’s routine – feed them at the same time as you used to, and feed them in a separated room to prevent drama over food. Walk them or play with them at the same time. In short, try to keep their life as similar to before as possible.
Do not leave two dogs alone together until you are confident that they are entirely used to each other. Continue to give them lots of treats, praise, and attention when they communicate properly. If you notice dogs fighting over toys, growing, snapping, showing their teeth, or long stares, then it is time to separate the dog from the rest of the family until it can settle down.
As time goes on, the pets should get used to being together and, hopefully, start to become the best of friends. Suppose this does not occur, and your current dog is aggressive toward your new Bernedoodle even after taking care with a slow introduction. In that case, you might need to work with an animal behavior specialist who can determine the cause and solution to your particular dog’s nervousness and/or aggression.
Playdates Are the Best Way to Start Socializing with Other Dogs
If you do not have another dog in the home and want to introduce your Bernedoodle to other dogs, it is wise to start with one-on-one playdates. If you have a friend or family member with a dog that loves other dogs, ask them to get together.
Start at a neutral place, like a park. Keep both dogs on their leashes and allow them to sniff each other and greet each other. Unless they show signs of aggression, you should follow their lead and allow them to get to know each other however they feel comfortable.
Once they seem to be comfortable with each other (or indifferent to one another), take off for a short walk. If they walk well together, then you can take them to your home or your friend’s home for a supervised play date.
The first time you introduce your Bernedoodle to another dog will likely be the most nerve-wracking because you will not know what to expect. Once you know that your dog likes other dogs, you can more quickly and easily introduce them to other dog-savvy dogs.
Taking Your Bernedoodle to the Dog Park for the First Time
The most important thing to know about taking your puppy or dog to the dog park for the first time is that it should not be the first time your pooch interacts with other dogs. Remember that the dog park is overwhelming to a dog.
There are new smells, other dogs, new people, and new rules that your puppy or dog is not aware of. This is why we start by offering advice on socializing with other dogs and then move on to advice about the dog park. If you take your Bernedoodle to the dog park before they are ready, they can quickly become fearful of the park, and that can transfer to all their interactions with other dogs.
If you have already introduced your dog to a few other dogs and they have done great, then you are ready to take your Bernedoodle to the dog park.
Everything You Need to Bring with You to the Dog Park
You’ve gotten your pup trained, and you’re excited to go to the dog park. Congratulations! If you have several options, start with a smaller dog park that gives your Bernedoodle a chance to explore but that you can easily keep them in your view.
Before you hop in the car, consider this list of items that can make the experience a more positive one:
- Their leash. Yes, the dog park is leash-less, but you will need to get your dog from your house or vehicle to the park. Then take it with you into the dog park. If something goes wrong, you will want to be able to leash your Bernedoodle quickly.
- Keep your dog’s collar on. Depending on the particular area in which you leave, you will likely need to keep their city license, rabies tags, and any other required tags. The easiest way to do that is to keep their collar on.
- Bring poop bags. You will need to clean up after your dog in a dog park just as you would if you were walking your dog through your neighborhood.
- Bring treats. If you have to call your pooch to you, you want to be able to reward them. This is a good chance for advanced training because you can teach your dog to respond even when distractions abound. We recommend getting a treat pouch so that you will have treats quickly available when necessary.
- Only bring toys you are prepared to leave behind. If you bring a Frisbee, ball, or another toy for your pup to play with, you should be prepared to lose it. It might simply get lost, another dog might claim it as its own, or you could forget it. Whatever the case, it is not wise to take your pup’s favorite toy to the dog park.
- Whether it’s been dry as the Sahara for months or it’s a wet, windy afternoon, Bernedoodles will find water if there’s water to find. You should assume that your dog is going to get muddy and dirty at the park. Bring one or two towels to wipe down your dog, and then bring another one or two to cover your backseat during your drive home.
- Your Bernedoodle is going to run around, and they are going to get tired. Bring a bottle of water and a small bowl to give your Bernedoodle a quick refresh when they need it.
Preparing for Bad Experiences at the Dog Park
We have taken our two dogs to the dog park hundreds of times, and very rarely is there any problem at all. That said, they do happen, and it is crucial to be prepared.
- Wildlife. It can be hard to keep control over a dog once it’s seen a rabbit, squirrel, or another form of wildlife. The goal is to prevent them from taking chase. Do anything possible to get your pet’s attention in a positive way. You can offer treats, call their name, and squeak a toy you brought with you. You do not want to make negative noise – such as yelling at your dog – because this will not encourage them to come back to you.
- Dog fights. Well-socialized dogs can still get into fights with other dogs. It might be that one tackled the other too hard or that they were both going for the same toy. Whatever the cause, resist the urge to jump in the middle to break them up. Dog fights are dangerous, and you should avoid getting physically involved. Instead, call your dog to you. Even if they do not immediately stop and come to you, they know you are there. Then make a loud noise, such as clapping or whistling, to get the attention of both dogs. Alert others in the hopes that the owner of the other involved dog(s) can recall their own dog.
- Ideally, everyone at a dog park would be well-versed in dealing with dogs, but this is not always the case. For example, someone might run up to your dog and roughly pet them. This is not safe behavior. You do not have to aggressively confront the offending person, but you can politely tell them to please approach your dog slowly, to let your dog come to them, or to leave your dog alone. This can feel uncomfortable, but it can also prevent unnecessary issues with your dog.
Taking the time to properly introduce your dog to the dog park can lead to many years of excellent socialization with your Bernedoodle’s new doggy friends.