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  • Writer's picturebertandernietheberners

Three Things I'd Do Differently Raising My Next Dog

Updated: Dec 4, 2022

Let's get real - there are a couple of things that I'd change about how we trained Bert and Ernie. We won't be getting another dog for (hopefully) a very long time, but when the time comes, here's my list of things I'd change in the future.

Take them all the way through obedience/manners class

Ernie is a full graduate of the Animal Humane Society's behavior program, but Bert dropped out at Level 3. Why'd we quit? Well, Bert had a tough teenage streak. He was really stubborn and refused to participate when it came time to practice "go to mat" aka the Place command in class. We'd practice it at home without issue, but when we got into the classroom, Bert's blinders went up and he'd turn his listening ears off. It got to be an exercise in frustration for both of us, and after many weeks of flunking the test to pass to the next level, we called it quits.

Below, Ernie (center) demonstrates proper form for "go to mat." Bert (L and R)...does not. Can't you just imagine him saying "I'm touching it!"? Such a stinker!

For future pups, I'd want to make sure that they passed all five levels of the coursework like Ernie did. Going to training classes is good discipline for both dog and handler, and it helps to build your bond with your animal! These types of programs (or titles like CGC) are important stepping stones on the way to future dog activities including sports like agility and rally or therapy dog work, if that is something you'd like to pursue.

Help them fall in love with their crates

We crate trained both Bert and Ernie when they were puppies, but neither of them ever grew to love their crates the way some dogs do. They didn't mind going in there when we had to leave the house, but they never chose to go in of their own volition. For some dogs, the crate/kennel becomes a relaxing, safe space to take a break by choice. Our guys just never seemed to like it as much as the couch or a comfy dog bed.

Baby Ernie peers out of his kennel

Both Bert and Ernie slept in crates at night when they were small, but by 5 or 6 months old, we allowed them to sleep on the floor or on dog beds in our bedroom with the door closed. Now that they're grown and trustworthy, they have run of the house at night - and usually someone ends up sleeping on the couch. This works fine for us, but it can be nice for dogs to be really comfortable in crates since they'll inevitably spend time in them at the vet, at grooming, or sometimes at daycare/boarding situations.

Bert preferred a dog bed to his kennel from a young age

Learn to clip dog toenails

Something we could have done a better job with both dogs is getting them used to a nail clipper or grinder from a young age. We don't often need to clip their toenails since they usually wear them down pretty evenly walking on city sidewalks, so the relative infrequency of this grooming tasks makes it extra hard! The good news about this do-over is that there's still plenty of opportunity to do some positive association training and get Bert and Ernie used to the look and sound of our clippers so we can start trimming nails at home more easily.

Current state of nail trimming...

The good stuff!

All of this said, there are some things that I'm really proud of when it comes to how we trained and socialized our dogs. First, Bert and Ernie are both excellent car passengers. This is really important because we take so many road trips! Second, the boys are both great with handling. Because we cuddle, pet, and play with them so much, they are really comfortable having their feet, tails, and mouths handled, which makes veterinary care a lot easier. Third, they're good at settling when we visit new places. A lot of this comes from practice and mindful preparation (setting them up for success - see this post: Everything you need to know about taking your dog to a brewery), but because we take Bert and Ernie along with us on lots of outings, they've gotten good at adjusting to new surroundings.

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