Ah Berns!

Ok, now its Bernie’s turn or we like to call him, Bernie Werns (the pup on the right in the picture)!

Bernie came to us totally unexpectedly.  After my husband and I settled into our new home in El Paso, we were thinking of adding on to our family.  We felt Jack adjusted too and we knew more as pet parents, so we kept our heart and eyes open!

At the time, I was volunteering at the Humane Society.  There is a pet/adoption fair at this wonderful place called Saddleblanket.  On a side note, check out Saddleblanket (www.saddleblanket.com).  Not only are they “Southwest Interior Design Center”, but the family who owns and operates it are total animal lovers and host the pet/adoption fair every year in October, if you’re in El Paso go check it out.  ANYWAY, my husband and I decided to volunteer for the day at this event. In addition to our duties of scooping poop and refilling the dog pools, we checked out all the vendors.  We came across Dona Ana Pets Alive-Action Programs for Animals.  All of the dogs in the kennels were barking and excited to see everyone stopping by, except for one….Bernie!  Bernie was laying there chill and relaxed like whatevs.  My husband gravitated to him and wanted to meet him.  So, we took him out for a few minutes and fell in love with him.  He was shy and reserved, but something spoke to my husband, so without intention of adopting any dog that day, we were on our way home to pick up Jack so him and Bernie can meet!

We arrived back at the fair with Jack and introduced him to Bernie.  They pretty much ignored one another, but now looking back at this, I see it in Bernie’s personality which Jack picked up on, to give Bernie some space, which Jack obliged and now they are best buds.  After completing my certification program with ABC and spending hours observing dogs in social settings, I understand the importance of first impressions.  So much happens nonverbally with dogs and the first meeting is definitely key to seeing how the personalities of two dogs will mesh.   Things like glances, lip licking, play bow, sniffing, body rigidity or loose wiggly body and tail placement are all indicators from one dog saying to another dog or a human “what’s up and how I’m feeling right now”.  I will discuss more about body language and give some fantastic recommendations for books later, I want to get back to my intro of Bernie.

Bernie lived in several different foster homes, so moving around was especially disruptful.  After we picked Bernie up and brought him home, we noticed he needed some time to adjust to change.  First, even though he was house broken , he had accidents throughout the day and night.  We had to revert back to crate training.  Not necessarily for him to remember to go outside, but rather to build trust with him that we will take care of him.

There are a many steps to crate training, in particular for puppies, so not all of them were necessary for Bernie.  Some of the steps we implemented started making his crate enjoyable to be in at all times he was in there.  We would give him treats and toys to keep him busy.  We gradually increased the time of him being in there and NEVER used it for punishment.

As soon as he came out, we brought him outside for a bathroom break.  This was important for him to get used to a routine, which reinforced his level of trust we’ll take care of him. Bernie was also used to using a doggie door in foster care to go potty.  He didn’t have that luxury living in an apartment, so regular  trips outside on a leash was vital for everyone’s sake.  We gradually moved the time between potty breaks up, so now he’s able to go through the night without any need for a trip outside.

We also PRAISED, PRAISED, PRAISED him for relieving himself outside.  Since we had failed attempts because accidents do happen, we wanted to be sure he was reinforced with his favorite squeaky toy or treats (both are huge motivators for him) when Bernie went to the bathroom outside.  Positive reinforcement gets you the behaviors you want faster and more reliably than negative or aversion training.

Now, Bernie is a more well adjusted dog who still needs time to get to know people and dogs.  Understanding Bernie’s temperament and what he needs allows for more successful interactions with dogs and people and in new situations.  My husband will attest to the trust building between him and Bernie and how crucial it was in building their bond.

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