01 Jan General Training For Your Bernese Mountain Dog
In a sense all interaction with your puppy is training, the trick is make sure you are training the puppy and not the other way around! A well behaved dog is a joy and pleasure to live with and poor behaviour is hard work, embarrassing and potentially dangerous and expensive. Generally speaking Bernese are relatively easy to train and virtually all issues we have ever heard about have been caused by the owner’s uneducated actions.
Rewarding good behaviour is the important mantra as many actions considered as admonishment for bad behaviour by owners are actually perceived by the dog as positive attention and therefore, far from deterring bad behaviour, actually encourage and reinforce it.
Some puppies will have a bad start in this area by being from at least one parent with a poor temperament. This is why it is so important to see both parents and be totally happy with their temperaments above everything else, people sometimes get carried away with physical aspects and forget character. If searching for a puppy unless you really really know what you are doing then do not accept excuses for poor behaviour or character of parents. Bernese should be confident and friendly.
Training your dog is important and should be done all day every day in everything you do. This is not in the formal sense but in the way you react to your dog. Most dogs presenting at training classes with problems could be described as in the category of ‘spoilt’ i.e. allowed to get away with things until they expect their own way all the time and cannot be controlled.
More formal training is very common nowadays and there are many classes and dog trainers to be found. Classes are good places to not only train but socialise your puppy but you have to remember this, you do not train your puppy in a 2 hours a week class but you learn how to train yourself to do it properly for the rest of the week.
If you need more most trainers run one to one sessions where you can have more intensive education for you and your dog. You have a legal obligation for your dog to behave in public and if you need help to ensure this then there is no excuse for not obtaining it.
Your breeder may be able to help with advice or other dog owners in your area could recommend trainers or behaviourists you could visit.
The best way is to get your dog outside as often as possible and give lots of praise when he or she does perform in the right area.
We have found that the puppies very rarely poo in the box from about 6 weeks and wait to go outside in the morning as far as possible. The sooner you get up in the morning and the later you go to bed to facilitate all this, then the better results you will have. Just take them outside as often as possible in the first few, oh so important weeks, and wait as long as it takes for a “result” of any kind and really let the dog know this is good behaviour when he does it with lots of praise ideally associating a single word with the function for future use. Don’t give them chance to think about ‘doing it’ in the house. This is one reason it is important to put lots of time in for the first few weeks to encourage good habits.
A Bernese with good temperament is friendly, confident and makes friends easily with people and other dogs and is admired wherever he/she goes. Slight initial wariness of strangers is acceptable but this should quickly disappear and this kind of dog is a joy to live with and have around.
A Bernese with a poor temperament can be nervous, shy and avoids contact with all and sundry and is never happy except left alone at home. He or she can be so nervous that he/she may be pushed into a fear biting incident and can be a real chore to live with.
The only difference between these two types is sometimes simply lack of socialisation and experience whilst still young.
We cannot stress enough that baby Bernese need to get out and about as much and as early as possible and these experiences need to be positive ones. Whilst you have to wait for the vaccination regime to be completed before fully visiting general public places where dogs may have been, before this you can visit friends and relations anywhere to get your Bernese some life experience early on. They can visit houses where all the dogs are known to be vaccinated. Take him short trips in the car to get him used to travelling, you don’t actually have to go anywhere but if you can go somewhere good it will all help make it a positive experience for him. Encourage people to come and see you so he doesn’t get too insular in his new home. Once he/she can go to public places take him/her into town, to the car boot sale (if not too congested), meet the kids from school, down the pub, anywhere and everywhere really. Just remembering of course he is a puppy and shouldn’t be walked too far. The most important thing though is to make sure these trips are plentiful and fun, use praise and treats if necessary. Get people to make a fuss of him and if needed reward him with treats. Walk him on the lead (safely) on road sides with traffic passing, up and down steps, basically anything that has new aspects for him to experience.
If your dog is a little unsure of something distract him with treats and praise until he settles. Don’t push anything to excess if he really isn’t coping or you may create a complex about the situation. Make the “trauma” short with a relaxing break but then go back for another short experience. The more you can do with him or her early on will be rewarded later.
Similarly, different experiences in the house are best encountered whilst the puppy is young. Vacuum cleaners, washers, TVs etc can all cause problems if an older dog is suddenly confronted with them for the first time. Good breeders make sure your puppy has a good start to domestic background in their house but you will need to carry this on for the important developmental months.
This area cannot be stressed enough it is so important in the first few months to facilitate plenty of experiences of all types but make them all good positive experiences.
If you get all this early basic behavioural stuff in place then if you want to move not to more specialised training later, such a carting or showing or agility etc then you will be in a good place to move on from and make rapid progress.