YOU AND YOUR NEW BERNESE PUPPY


Bernese Mountain Dogs are not the largest of the dog breeds, but most Bernese puppies grow in a very rapid, uneven and uncoordinated fashion. This means that you need to take great care during your puppy`s first year to ensure that your Bernese has the very best chance of developing into a sound, healthy, well-adjusted adult.

Your Bernese puppy cannot and should not be reared in the same way you may have previously reared a puppy of another breed. Well meaning advice regarding feeding, exercise or training from friends or even veterinary practitioners, who have never owned or reared a Bernese, is quite likely to be inappropriate and may even lead to serious problems for your dog. Even different families of Bernese can grow and develop in very different ways, and what may be normal or advisable for one ‘type’ of Bernese may be quite incorrect for another.

If you want your Bernese puppy to grow up as sound in temperament and health as all the other Bernese you admired during your visits to your puppy’s breeder, then please DO follow the recommended diet and rearing routine throughout your puppy’s crucial first twelve months of growth and development. Dedicated breeders of Bernese try to carefully select for manageable temperament, good health and soundness, large size and all the desired breed points but the responsibility of ensuring correct growth patterns and soundness lies with YOU. Inheritance plays the minor role in soundness and development; the greatest influences coming from growth rate, feeding, exercise, activity levels, avoidance of accidents and many other factors. Therefore, your commitment to adopt and follow a careful, sensible, appropriately controlled exercise and management routine during your puppy`s formative months are absolutely ESSENTIAL.

DO be sure to take all precautions in order to try to protect your Bernese puppy from injury. Boisterous, unsupervised games with children or other dogs, running up and down stairs or jumping on and off of furniture, jumping out of the car, standing up on hind legs at gates, fences or even jumping up at people will inevitably lead to lameness problems which may not present obvious symptoms until sometime after the damage was done. Ensure your growing puppy is not over exercised by following our advice.

DON`T be in too much of a hurry to treat your puppy as an adult. Short, controlled walks on a lead (no galloping or leaping about) and compensation of EXTRA enforced rest after occasional periods of increased activity are well advised. Bernese are fast to grow but slow to mature and should not be expected to embark on an `adult` lifestyle before reaching at least 12 months old for bitches and 15- 18 months old for males. Until that time – they need carefully controlled feeding, exercise and training.

DO take car that the first introduction between your new puppy and your other pets or members of the family and friends is carefully “stage managed” to prevent the puppy from being overwhelmed or `mobbed`. Bernese puppies take most things in their stride and often look calm - if a little bemused, in strange situations. Be aware that the outward appearance may not reflect the stress felt by the puppy. Despite their size and robust appearance, Bernese are a very sensitive breed and careless treatment and unfortunate `accidents` or `incidents` can cause long term fears and anxieties for your puppy.

BE SURE the new companions are ONLY allowed together when carefully supervised until you are confident that they are 100% compatible. Puppies can pester older dogs relentlessly if allowed to do so and could suffer injury, either meant or accidental, from a long suffering `victim`.

TEACHING GOOD BEHAVIOUR TO THE NEWEST MEMBER OF YOUR `PACK`


Dogs are pack animals. They thrive within the pack hierarchy. Pack animals feel safe within the security of the pack, and they function best when they know their place –and their role - within the “class system” of the pack. The leader of the pack is the ultimate leader of his group, the decision maker, and the leader not only “controls” the lower ranking pack members, but enables them to relax - they understand someone else has the responsibility for making important decisions.

When a pack leader shows signs of weakness, one or more members of the pack will see the opportunity to better their position or ‘rank’ and so challenge the leader for the top position. If there is any weakness in the leader of the pack, the pack members become unsettled and chaos and disarray will ensue until the leaders role is once more clearly defined.

When bringing a Bernese puppy, or any other puppy, or any older dog into your home and family, you are introducing a new member into your pack. Your body language and speech tones will be well understood by your new dog - even the youngest puppy will recognise your ‘rank’ – as dogs rely on body language, facial expressions and many other tiny and subtle signals which we do not place so much importance on when communicating with our own kind. However, if you send out the wrong signals to your dog – you may inadvertently be telling your dog that you have accepted him as a high ranking member of the pack – maybe even giving him the impression that you are vacating the pack leader position.

It is essential that every human member of your family sends out the right signals to your new Bernese puppy that you already have a pack leader (you) and other high ranking pack members (your family and friends), and that the newcomer is the lowest ranking member. Of course you want to enjoy owning your new Bernese and you want to provide love and care and companionship to your dog – but allowing too many privileges to a puppy who is not equipped to make decisions for himself will only lead to trouble, maybe even heartbreak, later on.

Most Bernese rejected by their owners and handed into rescue groups are dogs who have assumed (or been awarded) pack leader status and have become an unmanageable liability.

ESTABLISHING GOOD CANINE BEHAVIOUR – IT DOESN’T HAPPEN BY MAGIC!

Although originally bred as a working farm dog, the Breed Standard describes Bernese as “A kind and devoted family dog” and “self confident, good natured, friendly and fearless.”

There is no doubt that Bernese thrive in a household environment, and so it is little wonder that the breed has become an increasingly popular choice for families, many of whom have children. Anyone who witnesses a well behaved Bernese interacting with children and the joy each party gets from the company of the other will be in no doubt of the Bernese’ suitability as a family dog.

It has been said that temperament is inherited and character is developed, and many people believe that to be true. Unfortunately, many new owners fail to understand just how much training and guidance needs to be given to their new Bernese puppy in order to ‘create’, or ‘mould’ a biddable, manageable adult dog like those they had previously admired.

Nowadays, many of the Bernese which are rejected by their owners are dogs (and a lesser number of bitches) who have become far too boisterous and extremely difficult to control. The majority of these unwanted Bernese will have been reared with children. This is not to say that children are the cause of behaviour problems in Bernese – that would be ridiculous. But the presence of children in a household does mean that management of fast growing, large breed puppies may be more difficult. Children inevitably create a more excitable, highly charged environment, and puppies will very quickly follow suit to become excitable and highly charged unless steps are taken to prevent this.

A high proportion of the unwanted Bernese which are passed on from their previous home or are taken into the care of Bernese Welfare/Rescue groups have a similar ‘history’ - they share all-too-common management factors, or perhaps they may be described as ‘mis-managements’ or ‘mistakes’ which if avoided, may have enabled their owners to cope with their dogs and not part company. These mistakes are not so easily rectified once the dog has become difficult. Breeders will offer advice to new puppy owners, and very often further conflicting advice is given by the vet, dog training clubs, animal behaviourists and the well meaning one time dog owner friend or acquaintance. It is a confusing situation for a novice owner, and very difficult for them to determine just who is correct. Whatever training regime is adopted, two things are definite about Bernese.

1. Bernese are very ‘tuned in’ to people – a much desired and prized breed trait. The unfortunate ‘opposite’ side of that desirable trait is that these dogs are people watchers, and even young puppies will very quickly recognise our character strengths AND weaknesses, and use those weaknesses to their advantage,
and
2. Their physical and mental development is very fast, and there is no time to be lost in establishing the correct relationship and adopting an effective training and management regime. Although some allowances need to be made for new dogs, the first few weeks in a new home set the pattern for your future relationship and success (or not!).

YOUR NEW ARRIVAL

All the attention and excitement generated by the arrival of a long awaited new puppy is understandable. Suddenly finding themselves the centre of attention with each movement and action provoking a more delighted response from the owners will encourage some puppies to have a very inflated idea of their position and importance within this new `pack`. Responding to your puppy in ways you may regard as confirmation of your love and a willingness to tolerate puppy behaviour may be interpreted by the puppy as repeated acts of homage. Your own responses, and to a greater extent your children’s enthusiastic display of pleasure and love may be seen as weakness, not leadership.

Children, with their high-pitched voices and inconsistent reactions to puppies obviously lack the authority of adults and so it is not surprising that puppies do not see themselves as being of a lower rank than the children. In a pack situation, those of equal rank are liable to be challenged in the pursuit of gaining higher status, and that is often where the canine/human relationship begins to flounder. Your puppy may soon realise that if ‘small’ humans can be dominated, then maybe adults can be dominated too?

Young children should never be left unattended with dogs for obvious reasons. Older children may be quite responsible, but their reactions may also send out mixed messages and so it is important to ensure that an adult is present whenever the puppy is interacting with children so that calm and order is maintained. No child should be expected to take responsibility for training or correcting a puppy,al though they often do find themselves having to deal with a naughty pup. Puppies should be prevented from engaging in any and all play or activity which could be misinterpreted by the dog as a power game between dog and human. No finger biting, No tug of war and NO wrestling games whereby the puppy takes liberties or gets the upper hand. Children, and adults should be encouraged to spend quiet, quality time with the puppy such as gentle grooming, stroking and just sitting down and calmly talking to the dog. Boisterous playtime and games inevitably turn into more generalised boisterous behaviour.

THE DAILY ROUTINE

Owners are often, understandably, so keen to make the new puppy feel welcome that they give their new puppy complete freedom to explore the home and garden, allowing and encouraging the puppy to wander around at will and dictate its own activities. THIS IS A MAJOR MISTAKE. Too much initial freedom will offer the puppy the opportunity to get into trouble. Of course the puppy needs to explore its new surroundings and become accustomed to the new environment. This is best done more slowly, gradually increasing ‘privileges’ over a period of time as too much freedom allows the puppy to please itself, and once the puppy realises that he likes to please himself he will be less keen to comply with your wishes.

To keep the puppy in order, and to prevent the pup from becoming too excited by the children’s enticements(!), a small area should be created so that the puppy can be put to bed for short periods during the day as well as being used as a safe place to secure the puppy at night. Not only will it ensure the puppy gets regular, peaceful rest but perhaps more importantly it reinforces your position as leader of your pack – YOU dictate what the puppy does and when the puppy does it!  Custom made collapsible puppy/dog crates are widely available and reasonably priced – an excellent investment.

The puppy den should be sited in a busy area of the house so that the puppy learns to settle down and relax amidst all the hustle and bustle of family life. Shutting the puppy away in another room may enforce restriction, but does nothing to establish a routine of settling down at certain times nor learning to ignore commonplace comings and goings. Once that routine is established and followed for at least another two to four months the den can be disposed of but hopefully the puppy will retain its ability to be calm and collected and not demand to be centre of attention all the time.

LOVE + LEADERSHIP = LOYALTY

Rearing a Bernese puppy to a well-mannered, well-behaved adult involves more than teaching the dog to respond to a set of commands. Achieving the desired canine behaviour, and responses and manageability comes from consistently demonstrating to your dog that you insist upon respect’ But, respect is not a simple command someone can teach a dog. All puppies will show initial respect and look for comfort and leadership from the higher ranking members of the canine/human pack, and you can DEMAND respect (or, inadvertently, attract disrespect!) by the way you use and project your voice, your choice of words, your body language, the way you touch and handle the dog and by showing consistent reactions to each specific behaviour of your Bernese pup.

Allowing a puppy to wander about freely, then sleep at will under the table or chair of his choice may sound ideal. New owners often think they are being caring and generous to the new puppy, but it is a privilege that can so easily be abused by a puppy who doesn`t know how to behave in his new environment. Within a few days, the puppy will be tempted to follow every movement of the children and adults in the home – even the family cat! Another aspect is that a ‘loose’ puppy will attract the attention of the children and their puppy training skills are not well honed!

Placing your newly acquired Bernese puppy into a secure crate or den for a few periods during the day and for night safety is the easiest and most important aid to establishing good behaviour patterns. The use of a secure enclosure not only provides the puppy with his own safe haven, but it will ensure (or enforce!) rest, calmness, and confirm his position as being a low ranking member of your family pack.

Training your new Bernese puppy should begin from the first day the puppy arrives home. It is never too soon to start to teach a puppy ‘manners’, and the ‘sit’ is the first step towards this. If you help the puppy into the sit position every time you stroke or pet him, he will quickly learn that is the way to endear himself and gain positive and enjoyable attention. The added bonus of teaching the ‘sit for fuss’ is that even an excited puppy rushing to greet someone will begin to automatically skid to a halt and sit awaiting a response, so lessening the excitement- fuelled finger chewing which is directed at children and those adults who show little authority.


Jumping up at people is a common puppy behaviour, but it is very annoying and can become difficult to prevent as the dog gets bigger and stronger. Most puppies do it to demand attention, but it often progresses to jumping up accompanied by biting or snatching at clothing or hands. Many people think the puppy merely wants to get nearer your face, and so they ‘reward’ the puppy by bending down to the dog’s face level. That may be momentarily enjoyable for both parties, but does nothing to inhibit continued jumping-up behaviour. Insisting on the ‘sit for fuss’ routine will help, and ensure that children do not encourage nor allow the puppy to jump up during their play.

Patting a puppy on the head is often the way children (and some adults) show affection to a pup, but this can encourage a young puppy to throw its head back and grab at hands, especially when the children raise their hands upwards to avoid the puppy teeth. Alternatively, stroking or gently rubbing the puppy on its chest has a more calming effect on a pup is more likely to keep the puppy ‘planted’ on the ground, and therefore less likely to provoke finger biting.

Training your Bernese puppy to walk in a calm and controlled manner on the leash is essential. Puppies tend to be rather erratic during their first few leash training sessions, but even at the initial stage it is important to ensure that the puppy is encouraged to walk in the correct position; either following you or walking by your side. It is never a good idea to allow even the youngest puppy to walk ahead of you whilst on the leash and therefore assume the position of leader – that place must always be yours! It is important that your puppy always accepts the leash ‘holder’ as the one in ‘pole position’, and therefore it is not wise to give children the responsibility of leash training a puppy. If your puppy learns that even when on the leash he can run circles around the children, it sets a bad precedent for future training.

When reuniting with your puppy – either first thing in the mornings or when you return home, many new owners make a grand entrance and shower the puppy with a big show of fuss and attention. Whilst it is lovely to be greeted by a puppy who is clearly pleased to see you, your puppy may interpret your actions in a very different way. All too soon you will inspire over-excitement and have a puppy that jumps up and whines and thinks you are paying homage every time to come home. Full grown Bernese who have learned to force their attention on visitors or returning family members are a complete and potentially dangerous nuisance. By ignoring a puppy for just a few minutes when you enter the room, then calling the dog to you for a controlled, calmer greeting you are, yet again, reinforcing your position of leader in a way the puppy will understand, without having to make too much effort.

Of course all puppies are cute and lovely, and Bernese are amongst the cutest and loveliest of all. It is very difficult for owners to foresee problems in their little ‘baby’, but problems can and do occur in far too many dogs. Unfortunately for us, we eventually have to accept the bitter reality that many of these problems are inadvertently created and encouraged by us. Just a little forethought and understanding can help prevent these problems occurring. Everything your puppy learns during the first 6 or 8 months of life will form the basis for his attitude throughout his life, so it pays to take care and involve ALL the family in a consistent Bernese training regime.

ADVICE + APPLICATION = SUCCESS

New owners of Bernese puppies can be forgiven for failing to recognise the warning signs of potential behaviour problems that may be encountered by dog owners. We have all seen badly behaved children and made comments about how we would never have such a problem with our offspring. Bernese owners make the same type of comments.

Possessing a vision of what you want your new Bernese puppy to grow into, forming an appropriate plan and applying what needs to be done when it needs to be done is the formula for success. Unfortunately, most of us just expect our dogs to grow into the perfect companion automatically, as if by magic, which brings us full circle to the beginning of this behaviour topic.

Nowadays the pet industry has grown into a multi-billion pound bonanza. Dog trainers, instructors, behaviourists plus cartloads of dog training equipment and gadgets are now easily available for those owners looking for help and answers. Everyone buying a new puppy, especially those who choose large, fast growing breeds like Bernese, are well advised to seek out and attend a recommended dog training club for both training guidance and an invaluable socialisation opportunity for the fledgling pup. Far too many owners fail to seek help until they already have a problem with their Bernese – he is already an unmanageable liability and the chance of getting back “on track” are nigh on impossible.

TRAINING EQUIPMENT

The most important pieces of ‘kit’ are a suitable collar and leash – without those you will have a very hard job in training any dog. Most Bernese puppies begin with a soft buckle-up collar, and then progress onto a training collar – sometimes called a half-check training collar – which is an adjustable webbing collar which has a small loop of chain which the leash is clipped to. Choke chains (more correctly also called check-chains) should never be used on young puppies. A soft, not too wide leash of about 3 feet long completes your essential needs.

Some classes advise the use of clickers, or rattling discs, to aid training. Those items may be if use, but they are no substitute for the best dog training tools available - your voice and your authority. Some classes also employ the use of toys to attract, and attempt to retain, your dog’s interest on you throughout a training session. Be aware that such use of toys can often incite over excitement to a Bernese pup – and that will inhibit your ability to maintain control. Use of a Halti (a device that looks like a horse head collar) should only be used as a corrective aid on an older dog.

The choice of training club, and training `method’, and even the type of lead, collar or other training equipment can make a very big difference to the overall outcome of your efforts. For those new to such things, the responsibility of making the right choices can be a nightmare - a bit like being dropped into the middle of a minefield! Everyone has a differing opinion, and if the wrong choices are made, you may suffer the consequences for the rest of your dog’s life. If you purchased your puppy from a breeder who made a good job of training their Bernese, then take advantage of their expertise and advice as well as seeking local help.

Puppy Playgroups are now widely advertised in most locations, and they are aimed at young puppies who have completed their vaccination course. Usually the age range of puppies allowed at these sessions will be between 12 and 20 weeks old. Many veterinary practices organise these playgroups and if not, they will know where such groups are. The idea is to allow the puppies to socialise and interact with others of a similar age and development, and so learning good canine communication skills as well as general socialisation. Although formal training in the popular sense is not employed at these groups, owners can share experiences with one another and obtain vital early guidance on basic training from the group instructors. Family participation is encouraged at most classes. Your puppy will learn how to interact with other dogs, children and adults in a (hopefully!) controlled and monitored environment.

BE AWARE; Bernese puppies are large and heavy and should not be allowed to “run riot” on polished or shiny floor surfaces at Puppy Playgroup sessions. Sliding or ‘spread-eagling’ on the floor or even knocks and bumps from other boisterous pups could prompt long term attitude and/or orthopaedic problems. Also, it is never wise to allow your Bernese puppy to “dump you at the door” as soon as he sees his newfound friends at the group! Be sure you curtail his initial enthusiasm or over-excitement for joining in until you decide it is time to allow him to take part in the activities and even then be sure you don’t allow yourself to become an invisible “wallflower”.

Puppy Training Classes, Pre-Beginner and Beginner Obedience Classes are organised by just about every dog training club in every area. Group training classes can be fun and most importantly, informative. There are all sorts of levels, or grades and although some clubs do have ‘exams’ you should not be put off by this. These are the classes where ‘training proper’ is implemented; walking your dog to heel on a loose leash, learning the stand, sit and lie down and of course the recall. Finding a class which suits both your personality and the temperament and character of your dog is not always easy, but it is well worth being a spectator at a few of the local training classes to see which club, training methods and instructor you would feel comfortable with.

BE AWARE: Bernese puppies are sensitive and easily upset, despite their efforts to convince you they are brash, confident clowns! Some instructors have harsh methods, or demand precise responses which may be too demanding for a Bernese puppy. It is never wise to allow any ‘trainer’ or instructor to take the dog from you to demonstrate a point if you feel uncomfortable about it. New Bernese owners may need guidance regarding the application of training techniques, but your dog needs to learn from you and not via someone else on the end of their leash if you are to gain the respect and compliance you require from your dog.

BE AWARE:
Some training classes may have other canine pupils which may be noisy, aggressive or just generally disruptive. Never allow your Bernese puppy to be subjected to any distractions which cause your puppy to be fearful or alarmed, as this will almost certainly have a detrimental effect on future progress within that training group. If a Bernese puppy becomes panicked or frightened, then he will remember that indefinitely and so the benefits of future training classes will be much reduced.

BE AWARE:
Your Bernese puppy will be growing at a phenomenal rate. Although merely a baby, the extraordinary rate of growth dictates that you need to get control of your strong and increasingly powerful juvenile! Therefore, do be sure to demand all the help you think you need from instructors – even if you have to resort to ambushing them after classes for extra advice! Every behavioural problem or unacceptable character trait your puppy shows will get worse as each week goes by, and with the puppy’s rate of weight gain working against you too, there is no time to be lost. Your need to gain control of an unruly Bernese puppy is far greater than the need of the owner of a Yorkshire Terrier puppy.

Individual Training is offered by many instructors, and this form of tuition can be very useful, in some circumstances, for those who feel the extra cost is justified. The instruction can be tailored to your own specific requirements, and there are less constraints and fewer distractions, (and maybe less embarrassment for owners) although everyone needs to have a dog that will respond to us despite, and regardless of, distractions.


FEEDING

If you purchased your puppy from an experienced breeder of Bernese, then follow the diet sheet supplied with your puppy. Dogs can exist on many different feeding regimes, but adopting the feeding routine that is correct for your particular puppy is most important, and your puppy’s breeder should be trusted to know what is suitable and what is not. If your puppy has been weaned onto a ‘complete’ type diet, then don’t be tempted to change, or make additions to that type of food without full and thorough discussion with your pup’s breeder. If the breeder had weaned your puppy onto a mixed, “home made” diet, you may wish to incorporate other appropriate foodstuffs to your dog’s diet, but always check with your puppy’s breeder before making any changes or additions.

CHOCOLATE contains Theobromine which is TOXIC to dogs. Feeding even small amounts of chocolate, merely an ounce or two, can cause irreparable and even fatal kidney damage to your Bernese. NEVER feed your dog chocolate made for human consumption. Doggy Chocolate does not contain Theobromine so is safe.

GRAPES and RAISINS
are also toxic to dogs if fed in quantity, and death has been reported in dogs having eaten just one or two handfuls.

SPICY FOODS
should never be fed to young puppies as they will irritate the gut.
OFFAL should perhaps only be fed in small quantities as it can have a laxative effect.
COOKED VEGETABLES are usually eagerly devoured, but avoid brussels sprouts in quantity as they cause excessive flatulence. Up to one third of a meal could consist of vegetables.
RAW VEGETABLES, pulverised through a juicer, are an excellent source of natural fibre and vitamins.
FRUIT fed raw, as a treat (not grapes or raisins – see above) is usually eagerly accepted and enjoyed but beware that too much will cause diarrhoea or stomach upsets. COOKED BEANS and other PULSES will also cause flatulence if fed in quantity.
PASTA and RICE can be fed `plain` or cooked in vegetable or meat stock and may be mixed with meat as an alternative to biscuit meal.
MEAT and PASTRY leftovers from your own meals can replace some of the `dog meat` allowance but be aware that too much may make the dog fussy.
MILK may cause digestive problems as some dogs are unable to digest the lactose, so introduce it gradually to ensure digestive tolerance.
LIVE YOGHURT is a useful food - it introduces “good” digestion-aiding bacteria to the gut.
CHEESE is a useful addition to the diet, but no more than an ounce per day for a puppy.
FISH should be fed cooked and boned, and oily fish may be offered occasionally.
POULTRY should be fed cooked and boned. Calculate the quantity of any scraps added to the meal as your puppy should not be expected to eat his own ration plus all the additional scraps.
And remember – too many CHOICE foods will only encourage your puppy to become fussy!

RAW FEEDING - Many owners are keen to feed their Bernese a "Raw Diet" but that can take many forms with many components and so ALL owners are advised to investigate thoroughly and carefully RESEARCH the possible benefit and possible hazard of offering raw items to their specific dog.

FEEDING PRACTISES
Ensure that your puppy is routinely fed in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. Whilst it can be a good idea to leave food with a newly acquired young puppy at bedtime to provide a little comfort during the first one or two nights in a new home, it is never a good idea to leave food down for your dog to access at leisure. Finicky feeders get systematically worse if allowed to nibble throughout the course of a day and may then be unable to face up to a full dish of food at any one time. Bernese should be encouraged to eat their entire meal in one go, so allow 5 minutes for a meal to be eaten and then take any uneaten food away until the next mealtime.

Bernese can quite easily, and happily, eat their food from dishes placed at floor level, but some owners prefer to feed their large breed dogs from raised food bowls. For those Bernese fed from raised bowls, the upper rim of the bowl should be no higher than the dog’s elbow.

Never give your puppy food and drink taken straight from the fridge and be sure that any frozen products are adequately thawed right through. Avoid feeding puppiess hot food.

Bernese, in common with other large, deep chested breeds, can be prone to Bloat (Canine Volvulus) and feeding times should always be carefully planned and managed.

NEVER
feed your puppy or adult Bernese immediately after boisterous play or exercise – ensure your Bernese is calm before offering a meal and avoid exercise and excitement for an hour or so after each feed.

NEVER allow your Bernese to drink large quantities of water immediately after eating a meal.

BONES
Large raw marrow bones are eagerly accepted by both puppies and adults alike, and your puppy may have already been introduced to the joy of chewing at a bone. Scoop out and remove some of the rich marrow before allowing your puppy to chew. Cooked marrow bones are readily available from pet shops, and can serve as a useful distraction to avoid the puppy getting into mischief if you have to leave the puppy alone for a while. Do not feed more than one marrow bone per week to a puppy. Smaller cooked bones from chops, chicken or the Sunday joint should NEVER be offered as these splinter too easily and are potentially lethal.  Some owners who have adopted a "Raw Diet" for their Bernese DO feed raw chicken bones and raw chicken carcass and other raw bones but again owners are advised to do thorough research and consider whether their specific dog is suited to to that method of feeding.

CHEWS
A wide variety of chews are available, and these too can be a useful treat or distraction for your puppy. Pigs ears, hooves, beef hide strips etc. are usually enjoyed, but be aware that too many can cause dietary imbalances and may encourage your puppy to become less interested in meals. Do not feed more than one or two chews per week to your puppy.

TREATS
Treat biscuits such as Bonios, Jumbone etc., should not be fed too often as the puppy will become finicky with “ordinary” foods, and treats fed in excess may also cause stomach upsets or diarrhoea.


WATER
Bernese drink a lot of water compared to some other breeds. A fresh supply should be available at ALL times and replenished regularly. A very heavy type of bowl should be employed whilst the puppy is young otherwise the bowl may be used as a plaything and carried around, and when tired a puppy will often lie next to the bowl and use it as a head rest.

INCREASING AMOUNTS
Exactly how much a Bernese puppy should eat depends on many and varied factors, so inevitably owners have to rely on common sense and a bit of trial and error. Bernese puppies should look plump and stocky – not lean nor racy.

In general terms, if your puppy eats heartily ALL the food offered in the course of a week, then increase the daily quota of food by about four ounces in total and see if the puppy seems more satisfied.

NUMBER OF FEEDS EACH DAY

To help maintain a healthy digestive system in your puppy, it is important to try to offer meals at fairly evenly spaced intervals throughout the day. But, once adult, it may be unwise to feed a large meal after 6pm to reduce the risk of bloat fatality occurring after you have gone to bed.

At about 14 weeks old a puppy can be reduced to three meals per day. Consider delaying the lunchtime feed a little and/or bringing forward the evening meal to help bridge the gap.

By about 8 months old, most Bernese can be reduced to two meals per day.

Some owners prefer to feed their adult Bernese just once a day and this routine could be adopted for a Bernese bitch after she reaches a year old. Male Bernese need a larger quantity of food per day, so to aid their digestion and reduce the risk of Bloat, male Bernese should be fed twice daily throughout their adult life.

LOSS OF APPETITE
Many Bernese puppies and adolescents go through stages of “picky feeding”, and this can be regarded as quite normal although it inevitably causes great concern and worry to owners. The onset of teething at about four months old may coincide with this phenomenon and owners are advised to try to keep to the normal feeding regime as much as possible until the phase passes. Males very often go through three or four short phases of food refusal during the first two years of life whilst bitches are less often, if ever, affected.

Disinterest in food may last a few weeks at a time, and the reaction of the owner can greatly influence the speed in which the routine returns to normal. Over anxious owners may be tempted to offer weird and wonderful morsels to tempt the dog, but at best this may lead to a finicky feeder and at worse a dog with a mild food phobia.

Don’t indulge your puppy’s food whims! So long as your Bernese is drinking and eating at least a little of the usual diet then your dog is unlikely to suffer any long-term effects.

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS

If your Bernese puppy has been fed as the breeder advised, additional supplements are unnecessary. Over supplementation is extremely harmful to growing Bernese and the misguided use of additives to the diet may cause long term problems affecting growth, digestion and behaviour.

If, despite all advice you feel you must add vitamins for your own peace of mind then use a recommended brand in strict accordance to the manufacturers guidelines. Do not be tempted to overdose – twice as much is not twice as good! Because of the very concentrated nature of these products, spread the daily dose between each meal rather than all in one meal to avoid irritating your puppy’s stomach. NEVER add just calcium or just cod liver oil or any other single vitamin or mineral supplement other than in the unlikely event of treating a veterinary diagnosed deficiency.

UPSET STOMACH OR DIARRHOEA

Variations in the quality of drinking water from one area to another can cause changes in the consistency of motions passed by your puppy, but within a week or so of arriving in your home your puppy should have adjusted to the change. The volume of food consumed, and the variety of foods given to a growing Bernese puppy can cause a slight variance in the formation of faeces. Sometimes puppies produce less solid faecesl than adult dogs, but the stool should still have some shape and form. Stress can also be a factor in tummy upsets so there is good reason to take great care until your puppy is well settled.

An occasional tummy upset is a common occurrence in puppies, just as it can be with small children. Don`t be misled into adopting drastic, permanent changes to the normally advised diet because of one or two minor `hiccups`, but do make a note of the `offending` substances for future reference (and avoidance!)

Diarrhoea is most commonly caused by your puppy ingesting inappropriate substances such as soil or compost, plant material, food left out for the birds or even the contents of a dustbin! Sitting or lying out on wet concrete paths or grass can cause a chill to the pup’s stomach. But, most problems are diet based and easily rectified after a little detective work to pinpoint the cause.

If diarrhoea persists for more than 36 hours, if blood or mucous are passed, or if the puppy appears at all depressed or listless then veterinary treatment should be sought without delay.

At the first sign of a tummy upset, start the puppy on a `convalescent` type diet for at least 48 hours to allow the gut to recover.

CONVALESCENT DIET


Feed several small meals during the day consisting of boiled chicken (boned, no skin) or boiled white fish (boned – no skin) fed with an equal quantity of boiled white (not brown) rice.

AVOID ALL OTHER FOODS (including supplements) to allow the puppy’s irritated gut to recover fully and allow the puppy only boiled water to drink - definitely NOT milk.

When returning the puppy to the normal diet, add one dessertspoonful of plain LIVE yoghurt or a probiotic product specifically for dogs to each meal for a day or so to help replace the digestive bacteria normally found in the gut. Reverting back to the usual diet too soon, before the stomach and bowel are functioning normally will not only prolong the diarrhoea but has been known to cause long term hypersensitivity.


THE PUPPY DEN and BEDDING


A small area such as a utility room, or a corner of the kitchen or perhaps dining room should be sectioned off (about 3 feet by 3 feet is big enough to accommodate a 7 week old puppy, or ideally utilise a baby playpen) to serve as a bed and place of safety for the puppy. Strong collapsible “dog crates” are made for such a purpose and are easily available, and well worth investing in. The floor area should be covered with newspapers and a blanket of piece of polyester fleece “vet bed” should be provided as a bed plus a water bowl and a few toys for amusement. The puppy can also be fed in this area. Site the pen in a place that your coming and goings can be viewed so that the pup learns to settle down whilst life goes on all around.

From the first day that you have your new puppy, be sure to put the puppy `to bed` a few times during the day. This will not only ensure the puppy has ample rest, but will also teach the puppy that you are the one who decides what goes on. Your puppy will quickly learn that this is a normal routine in your household, and so will be unlikely to become noisy or destructive when confined at night or when you are busy, or when the puppy is left alone whilst you are out.

TOYS

Puppies are easily amused by almost anything they find, and lots of puppies spend many hours playing with things they probably should not have. Cardboard boxes and tubes, or a knotted rag are fine for a puppy to play with, but only under supervision. Soft cuddly toys pose a danger if the puppy chews and swallows the eyes or filling. Hard, robust toys such as Kongs or Buster Cubes are ideal for puppies and adult Bernese too. Avoid giving Bernese puppies soft vinyl toys as they are too easily chewed into small pieces and swallowed.

TOILET TRAINING

Your puppy should be taken outside, weather permitting, after each feed, upon awakening and in fact every time you think of it. Take the puppy to a suitable area of the garden and STAY with the puppy (without causing too much of a distraction), offering praise when the puppy performs. Time spent on guidance will ensure quick results.

Most breeders use newspapers to line their puppy pen, so your puppy has probably already become used to the feel of newspaper underfoot. When not confined to the puppy den, a few newspapers placed on the kitchen floor will be a likely place for the puppy to choose to use before reliably trained to go outside, but this practice also sends a message to the pup that it is “OK” to go inside! It is quite possible to have a puppy clean during the daytime by about 12 weeks old, but night time `mishaps` can be expected for two or even three months longer.

GROOMING (Read more about Grooming by clicking HERE)

Your Bernese puppy should be groomed each day as this is an excellent method of bonding and will also teach the puppy to accept handling and examination. Regular grooming can be a very enjoyable and soothing experience for both dog and owner and presents an opportunity to check ears, teeth and toenails for problems and a chance to inspect the skin for signs of parasites or soreness.

Puppies groomed on the floor tend to keep trying to walk away until they have learned not to, so place a very young puppy on a non-slip table or work surface for ease of grooming. Teach your puppy to lie flat out for grooming sessions, and if you can achieve this by about 12 to 14 weeks old you will make grooming a pleasure.

GROOMING EQUIPMENT

Combs and brushes need to be chosen not only for efficiency of grooming but also for the comfort of the owner. Combs with teeth along the whole length of the spine are difficult to hold and some plastic ridged handles on combs and brushes cause blisters to the hands after just a few minutes use. A narrow toothed metal dog comb (those with a smooth metal or wooden handle are the most comfortable to use) and a `Slicker` type brush (a flat pad covered with uniformly bent pins) are suitable for puppies and adult Bernese alike (see Canine Chemist – Suppliers Index). As your Bernese grows, invest in a wide toothed comb and a moulting rake to complete your grooming kit.

BATHING

Bathe your Bernese puppy or adult, in warm water, as often as necessary and use a branded, specially formulated dog shampoo (see Canine Chemist – Supliers Index). Human baby shampoo may be used in an emergency. Dandruff is not uncommon in Bernese puppies due to the thick, dense, woolly nature of the coat, but never use any human dandruff control shampoo as it is far too harsh canine skin. Puppies under 16 weeks old should always be dried fully, with a hot air dryer, after bathing. Older puppies and adults also enjoy being dried, but if bathed on a warm sunny morning they may be towel dried and allowed to finish drying naturally without coming to any harm.

FLEAS and EXTERNAL PARASITES

Fleas are present all year round and the warm environment in a house makes them a common problem. Fleas can be picked up anywhere and the cleanest of dogs are likely to be infested at some time during their lives. Many of the fleas found on dog are actually cat fleas, so the introduction of a puppy into a previously cat-only home may bring a previously unknown problem to the fore as the cat fleas readily hitch a ride on the new host. Other small pets such as rabbits or guinea pigs can also harbour mites which will transfer to your puppy and may cause problems. Cat and rabbit ear mites also favour dogs ears and may prove difficult to eradicate. Safe, effective and hygienic products are available to remove fleas from the dog host and also those fleas which lie in furnishings and crevices within the home (see Canine Chemists - Suppliers Index).

Most parasite preparations are unsafe for use on puppies under 12 weeks old, but fleas and other external parasites infesting a younger puppy can be removed by bathing them with a specially formulated parasitic shampoo available from pet shops, or by using a flea comb.

Bernese which suffer flea (or other parasite) infestations as puppies often go on to develop skin hypersensitivity with symptoms of recurring bouts of wet eczema throughout their lifetime. Therefore, avoidance of parasite infestation is essential.

WORMING

Puppies should have been wormed during the first few weeks of life by their breeder, and all dogs need to be wormed regularly, usually 2 or three times a year, throughout their life. Puppies need to be wormed a little more often during the first year of their life. Worm eggs can be picked up anywhere, and puppies can be quite indiscriminate about the things they choose to swallow and so are prone to reinfestation. Follow the suggested regime of whichever product you have been advised to use to be sure you are keeping parasites at bay. If you have children it is especially important to follow a regular worming routine for the lifetime of your dog.

VACCINATIONS

Vaccines help provide extra immunity against the most common canine infectious diseases - Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and Parvo-virus. Many owners opt for the widely used vaccination cover as advised by their local vet but there are an increasing number who are concerned about the use and side effects of vaccines and so opt for a HOMOEOPATHIC NOSODE alternative to protect their pet from Helios or other similar suppliers.

The minimum recommended age at which vaccines are administered will depend somewhat on the brand of vaccines promoted by your vet. Most veterinary surgeons are also retailers of dog food and many have also diversified into running training classes, behaviour counselling sessions and grooming services. It is in the best interest of their business to attract new owners to their premises at the earliest opportunity to enable them to promote their consumables, products and services and to doting new owners. Follow your breeder’s advice.

Un-vaccinated puppies may be taken out in the car, or accompany you on visits to friend’s homes and gardens but the puppy should not be allowed on pavements, in public parks or allowed to mix with dogs belonging to other owners, until the vaccination course is completed.

EXERCISE

There are lots of conflicting ideas about exercising a growing Bernese puppy. Common sense needs to prevail. As with a small child, it is OK to have the occasional busy, active day. There is no reason that your puppy cannot accompany you on a family outing, so long as you ensure the puppy is not too overtired and you compensate by insisting on enforced rest the next day.

It is important to get your puppy out and about whilst still very young, but regard those outings as education and socialisation, but NOT exercise. Young puppies (up to 12 weeks old) should be taken out in the car, maybe accompany you to visit friends if their home and garden is safe for a puppy - BUT they should not be walked other than the garden.

After vaccination, it is OK to take your puppy for a little walk to get used to the lead, and maybe go for a “toddle” up the road or drive to a park for maybe 10 minutes – it will be mostly standing still anyway until the puppy (and you) master lead skills!

At FOUR MONTHS OLD your puppy could manage approx 15 minutes lead walking in total per day, and no more than 4 or 5 days per week. If you decide to let the puppy have some off lead “free exercise” somewhere, then 10 minutes maximum instead of the lead walk is more than enough. Too much boisterous free running will risk injury and possible long term lameness. Be sure to protect your puppy from over-boisterous play with older, stronger or faster dogs.

At SIX MONTHS OLD your puppy could manage approx 30 minutes lead walking (NOT all in one session) maximum per day, on no more than 4 or 5 days each week. Although the size and strength of an adult Labrador, your puppy is still very much a baby and needs to be guided carefully. If you do take your puppy out for longer for some particular reason (a family day trip for instance), then there is no reason not to take the pup with you but don’t exercise the pup (other than in your own garden) for a couple of days afterwards to compensate.

The most common time for lameness problems to occur in large, clumsy breeds like Bernese is between 5 and 8 months old – and that also, not surprisingly, coincides with owners having increased the exercise regime on puppies who are still vulnerable to injury. A little extra care, by resisting the temptation to over-exercise your puppy during this very fast (and uncoordinated!) growth stage will reduce the risk of bone damage and so increase the chance of long term soundness in your Bernese.

At EIGHT MONTHS OLD your puppy could manage up to 40 minutes lead walking per day, but ideally a bit less. Compensate for extra busy days by missing walks the next day.

If your puppy begins to pester you or even demands to be taken for a walk – then you are likely giving too much exercise and have inadvertently encouraged your puppy to become too active and too demanding! Stop all off premises walks for a couple of days, and then only take the puppy out at irregular times and not every day during the following two weeks.

Count any lessons at Dog Training Classes as the exercise quota for that day.

Don’t encourage your puppy to play running games – no chasing balls or Frisbees or sticks.

Allow your puppy to interact and play nicely with other dogs, but ONLY under adult supervision, and on non-slippery surfaces. If things get too boisterous put your puppy on a lead and allow the dogs mix in a more controlled, sedate atmosphere.

Don’t allow your puppy to jump out of the car, or climb up and jump off of furniture, walls etc. Even negotiating steps/stairs at speed can cause a problem for your puppy. Upon landing, all the weight will be jolted onto the soft growth plates at the end of the bones and damage will likely occur – maybe even long term damage.

Keep a diary of events – if the puppy has a particularly hectic day, or falls or gets knocked over etc, make a note of it, as subsequent lameness could be associated with that event.

TEETHING


Most puppies begin to lose their puppy teeth from 14 to 16 weeks old. A perfectly natural process, most outgrown teeth are swallowed by the puppy but occasionally owners will find one on the floor. Many owners report their puppy chewing, increasingly, at both suitable and unsuitable objects, and that behaviour may be directly associated to gum discomfort. But, chewing may also be related to the puppy reaching a “naughty” stage of development – they just want to be doing something! Be sure to provide the puppy with suitable objects to chew, try to take preventive action by more careful supervision and don’t forget to tell the puppy “No!”

UMBILICAL HERNIA

Many Bernese puppies have umbilical hernias and it is rare for these to cause any problems to dogs.

This type of hernia is formed at birth when the abdomen wall fails to heal over at the umbilicus. It is, in effect, a weakening where the ring of muscle fails to close, so allowing a protrusion of fat to pass through and lie under the skin of the abdomen. It is noticed as a small, soft fluctuating swelling which causes no discomfort. Most hernias will have closed by the time puppies are about sixteen weeks old. Usually the protrusion will remain outside the stomach wall but feel firm, or it may have retracted inside the abdomen. If the hernia can still be manipulated back into the abdomen after 5 months old, then veterinary advice should be sought. Any umbilical hernia which is becoming visibly larger should be investigated without delay. It has been suggested that umbilical hernias are inherited.

Copyright Jude Simonds 2019 ©








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