Just like every dog is unique, every dog breed has its own unique traits, quirks, and shortcomings.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is part of the “working group,” but this highly intelligent dog requires specific training that you will not find in a generic dog training book.
How To Train A Bernese Mountain Dog
Training your Bernese Mountain Dog is done by establishing yourself as the “pack leader” without using fear tactics. Instead, interact with your pet thoughtfully to show them that you’re in charge. Bernese Mountain Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, redirection, and consistency.
What Makes Bernese Mountain Dogs Different
Bernese Mountain Dogs are working dogs, meaning they thrive when they have a clear job and role to perform.
Unless you live on a farm in the Swiss Alps, their role is probably to simply be your companion. This is a role they are wildly successful at when shown how to do so.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive, which is why styles of training that involve harsh corrections do not work with this breed.
Instead, show your dog what to do by going over the top with praise for correct behaviors.
For example, if your dog is chewing on a sock (or something else they are not supposed to have in their mouths), quickly reprimand the behavior with a stern “no.”
Then, go get one of your dog’s toys and invite them to play with it instead. At that moment, and whenever you see them playing with their own toys, give a ton of positive reinforcement.
This redirection is a great way to correct the sensitive Bernese Mountain Dog.
Bernese Mountain Dogs Constantly Monitor Your Responses
Dogs know different tones of voice, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are especially sensitive to this. The tone of voice matters.
Bernese Mountain Dogs love to please, so if you laugh at something they do they are liable to repeat it. This makes positive reinforcement easy, but can also be a pitfall.
It may look funny when your dog is chewing on your underwear, but do not reinforce this behavior with a giggle!
Even the smallest disobedient action is likely your dog’s way of seeing how much you will let them get away with.
If your Bernese Mountain Dog is testing you, remember that you’re the leader of the dog pack. Your consistency in training shows your dog that you are in control, which is actually what your dog wants.
Anxious, destructive dogs are usually found in homes where there is no clear leader.
Your dog will be more thrilled knowing that you’re in charge. This gives your canine the chance to be good like how you want them to be.
How to Teach A Bernese Mountain Dog a Command
Giving and teaching a command should come from a neutral voice. If your dog does not understand at first, that is not a reason to scold them.
Regain their attention, then clearly and confidently give the command.
When you can, help your dog understand what it is you want.
If you are teaching them to sit, applying a small amount of pressure to their tail-end can help them understand what it is that you are asking. You can use the same technique when training them for the “lie down” command, as well as many others.
It is also important to use the same words and actions when teaching your Bernese Mountain Dog commands. The command “sit” is always “sit,” not “sit down” and so forth.
Remember, consistency is key!
How to Reinforce Good Behavior
When your dog successfully completes the task or command, give them tons of praise. Usually, the best reward to give your dog is attention.
Saying things like “Good sit” in your dog’s favorite baby voice followed by ear rubs after a successful command is a great, clear reward.
Even throwing a toy for them to play with in their victory can be considered a reward.
Treats are another great way to get your dog’s attention, but there are drawbacks. You don’t want your dog to be obedient only because they’re getting food.
Additionally, too many treats can lead to obesity.
For these reasons, use treats sparingly. Even your dog’s normal kibble can be used as a treat and it has far fewer calories.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Train a Bernese Mountain Dog
How Long Should Training Sessions with A Bernese Mountain Dog Last?
Bernese Mountain Dogs need time to process information and are not high-stamina dogs. Putting both of these traits together means that you should keep your training sessions as short as possible. Leave your dog wanting more! Sessions should not last until your dog has no mental or physical energy left.
When Should I Start Training My Bernese Mountain Dog?
Immediately! If your puppy is old enough to be away from its mother, then it is old enough to start basic training. If you are adopting an adult Bernese Mountain Dog, the answer is the same. Your actions are constantly giving your dog information on how to behave.
What Commands Should I Teach My Bernese Mountain Dog First?
Because Bernese Mountain Dogs are such a large breed, teaching your dog not to jump is very important. When you return home, teach your dog that they will not be greeted until they are waiting calmly. Jumping dogs do not get attention.
In any dog’s training, it is important to remember that they are sensitive creatures that want to be the best dog they can be.
So, be patient, consistent, and enjoy the process of training your Bernese Mountain Dog.