Training and education

Bernese Mountain Dogs are very intelligent. They learn quickly and eagerly, yet, in order to achieve expected results, one should start the training very early. We must remember that our little ball will very soon become a strong and powerful “bear”! It is advisable that the training is accompanied by proper socialization. That is why I strongly recommend to every owner of a Bernese puppy to attend a dog kindergarten and a school for puppies, where our little bear will learn obedience, socialize with other dogs and people (the training is attended not only by dogs, but also by their owners) and it also will have an opportunity to see various places and objects. If socialization is delayed, it may cause anxiety in the adult life of a dog, which may lower the comfort of the dog’s and the owners’ life. It is also important to select a proper school for our puppy (a dog kindergarten), where the trainers have proper experience. It is also good to check other people’s opinions on the kindergarten. Such a school is a basis for our puppy’s education at the most important moment of its life, therefore mistakes committed at this stage may result in later improper behaviour of an adult dog. Yet, we should not require too much at the beginning: we should teach our dog proper and expected behaviour slowly, but systematically. Bernese Mountain Dogs are very sensitive, therefore I think that the only effective method to train and socialize them is to teach them while playing, using positive methods. I suggest that you start an obedience game with calling (e.g. “come here”), sitting (“sit”), lying down (“lie down”), guarding (“guard”) and then introduce new commands and tricks.

·  “sit” - it is the easiest command for a puppy: it is natural for a dog to sit in front of us or next to us, so we can use this feature in our training. Once he does it, praise him saying the command with a proper intonation. If your puppy does not sit this way by himself, you must help him a little bit to make him understand the command: when the dog is standing in front of you or next to you, very gently push the dog’s bottom, and when he sits, say the secret word “sit” and immediately praise the dog with a cheerful voice (a reward would be recommended). Another way is to move your hand over the dog’s nose towards his head holding a reward. He will sit by himself – then you can say the command and give him the reward.

·  lying and guarding: some people think these are the same activities, but others say that these terms reflect two different things. If we want our dog to take a different position while guarding, we must decide at the very beginning which command will match a particular activity, and systematically teach it to the dog. It seems that a Bernese puppy should not perform the “guard” command when he is less than twenty weeks old. He can only perform the “guard” command then (the difference lies in the position of hind paws and the pelvis), since pelvis bones of such a small dog are not yet entirely developed. Sometimes it is difficult for a puppy to learn this position. It is worth knowing that this may happen also in the case of a dog with a dominant personality. The best is to start with the "sit" position. The dog is sitting in front of you and you are holding a nice-smelling reward. Put your hand between the dog’s paws (move your hand downwards under the dog’s muzzle). At this point, the dog should adopt the “guard” position – say the command and further praising the dog, open your hand and let the dog taste the well-deserved reward. We may fail the first, second or third time round. If your puppy's efforts are unsuccessful, do not continue the training, but make a break and do something different, e.g. play with the dog, and go back to the training later.

·  "Come here" command: simple and very useful throughout the whole life of a dog. Just call the dog by its name slightly bending forward. Once the dog runs up and sits in front of you, give him a reward. If the dog does not run straight in front of us, we direct him with gestures and call him joyfully in order to teach him that each time he comes and sits when we call him, he will receive a delicious reward.
When training the dog, we must always remember about the fundamental principle: do not try to give commands when you are sure that they cannot be performed. And do not start the training if you do not feel like playing or working with the dog. Bernese Dogs can feel their owner’s mood and immediately reacts to it. So if we are in a bad mood, we feel irritated for any reason or we feel sad, do not start training on such a day. You must also remember that training is not a one-time process – it must be continued and repeated from time to time. It is also good to add variety to it not to make it a routine to our dog or to ourselves. Make the training a good fun both for you and your Bernese Dog and the success will be guaranteed.
Bernese Mountain Dogs grow up over quite a long time. So do not be deceived by appearances: a large dog of 40 kg in weight and 60 cm high at the withers is still a puppy if he is less than 2 years old. Many owners of 2-year-old or older Bernese Dogs say that their dog behaves almost like a puppy. It is said that Bernese Dogs grow up during the first two years of their lives, for the next two years they are adult dogs, and for the following two years they are serious, mature dogs, slowly getting older. That is why the process of training a Bernese Dog does not last several weeks or months: he needs our educational activity and creativity for a few years.

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