Your new Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy and how to raise them right
In this article
When you are just thinking of getting a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
Pre-puppy prep: Choosing a Bernese Mountain Dog Breeder
Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy in the house
Feeding your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
Walking your Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy
Socializing your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
Vaccinating your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
When you are still at these early stages of planning your future puppy ownership, it’s important to make sure that you have thought your decision through. Is a Bernese Mountain Dog really right for you? The more information you have about this wonderful (but unique) breed – the better. Please take time to read about them. On this site, you can read some comprehensive articles to find out more about Bernese Mountain Dog temperament, Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan, shedding, and many other useful bits of information.
Most of all, you need to make sure you are ready to adopt a dog – any dog. Are you ready for the responsibility that will be on you, and not just you, but your whole family? This includes early wake-ups to take the pup for a walk. And then lots of walks throughout the day, which will take hours out of your day – the more the better. It’s carving out time to play with your dog and train them. It’s also dealing with dog hair in the house, occasional vomiting accident, occasional chewed furniture, extra space taken up by your dog in your car, and many, many more sacrifices.
Is your family really ready for it? If even one member of your family doesn’t like the idea of owning a dog, or doesn’t like your dog in particular, it can affect your dog’s well being in a big way. Moreover, it can affect the dynamics of your whole family. It’s probably an overstatement to say that a family can be “broken” by a puppy (like it sometimes happens with a new baby!), but getting a new puppy, like any stressful event, can certainly strain your relationships with your family members.
If you are sure you are going to be a great owner for a Berner, you will need to find a respectable Bernese Mountain Dog breeder. This involves doing a lot of research, and possibly meeting more than one breeder to make sure your puppy is well-bred and free of genetic and other health issues. You can read more about choosing a good breeder here.
Once you have decided on the breeder and have a date when the puppy is coming to your home, you need to do some prep work. You will need supplies, such as puppy beds, toys, a crate (see how to choose the right size crate in my article about Bernese Mountain Dog size). Find out what food your breeder has been giving your puppy and stock up on that. Get some puppy gates to keep your puppy out of the areas of the house where you might not want them to be.
You will also need to stock up with a lot of patience. You will need it 🙂
This is where the fun begins. Your pup is finally in the house. Your family is so excited! What can you expect from this time – the first days and weeks with your pup?
Well, you can be certain it will be a bit of mayhem. A puppy is like a child. There will be lots of work involved into raising that child into a good “adult”.
First, you will have to teach your new “child” some rules. They need to know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed in your house. A new puppy doesn’t know they aren’t supposed to chew your furniture, eat your house plants, chew on your cat (although the cat will probably take care of that), or pee inside. It’s up to you to teach them.
Like with a new baby, you will have to spend almost all day with your pup in the first week or so of their being in your home. Some people even take time off work to stay with their new pup. Did I mention that having a new puppy is like having a baby? In fact, it may even be a bit harder: you can’t put a diaper on a puppy.
When it comes to feeding your Berner puppy, in the first few months you might just want to feed the same food they were fed at the breeder’s. This will help avoid digestive problems and will also make the puppy more comfortable during their first weeks with you. A puppy should get more meals per day than an adult dog: you should feed them at least 3 times a day.
Later on, when the puppy is a little older, you can choose whether to feed your pup home-made food or commercial (dry food or wet food). You can read more about how to feed your Bernese Mountain Dog here.
One of the most important factors defining your dog’s health and mental well being is physical activity. It’s hard to overestimate its importance for a dog – any dog – but especially Bernese Mountain Dog. They were bred for centuries as working dogs. They have always been very active. Although for most Bernese Dogs their shepherding work is in the past, they still need plenty of activity daily.
If you want to have a beautiful, strong, impressive dog, it’s not enough to feed them right and groom them. They need proper musculature, and that can only develop if your dog gets enough exercise. It’s also very important for a young puppy to get enough daily sun exposure, let alone stimulation.
It’s ideal if you have a fenced yard and can let your pup play outside as much as they want, or can go out in the yard with them. But if you can’t, you need to provide your pup with at least 2-3 hours of active play daily. However, taking your pup on 2 hour walks is not the best idea: puppies get tired quickly and tend to expend their energy in short bursts of activity rather than hours of exercise. So if you don’t have a fenced yard, you will need to take your pup on 4-5 short, 30-minute walks.
While exercise and play are important, don’t over-exercise your pup. It’s not advisable to go on jogs or bike rides with your pup – that would be too much for them. Calm, more relaxed games are best. You can also start training your pup to walk on leash, or play fetch with them. It could be a great bonding time for you and your young Berner.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are a fairly heavy breed, and too much exercise can put unnecessary and harmful pressure on the puppy’s bones and muscles. This is why it’s important to not overexercise. The puppy should walk/play as long as they want, but not more than that. If the puppy is tired and lies down to rest, you should let them rest. At 5-6 months of age, a walk shouldn’t be longer than about 30 minutes.
Don’t let your puppy go down or up the stairs at this tender age – it can be harmful for their musculoskeletal system.
During your very first walks with your puppy, it’s best to take them to calmer streets with fewer people and less traffic. This will help your pup stay calmer and not overexcite them. A walk in the park or down a forest trail could be ideal at this stage. Once they get used to the outdoors environment, you can start taking them to more “exciting”, busy places.
Remember that exercise is not the only purpose of walking your pup. Socialization is also a crucially important task at this age. Your little Berner needs to learn how to behave in both human and dog societies. Part of teaching them the “rules” is exposing them to as many “social” situations as possible. Let them meet other people, passers-by, children and other dogs.
Don’t rush during your walks. Stop to meet and greet other people and dogs (of course, only those that would like to interact). The more social situations you expose your pup to, the calmer and more well-behaved they are going to grow up to be. Take your pup on bus or train trips so that they learn how to behave in such situations as well.
If something scared you pup, try to calm them down and reassure them, or distract them. Try not to let them experience fear for long. Any strong fears they experience at this age may stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Be mindful about vaccinations. The first round of vaccines is normally administered by the breeder right before the pups go into their new homes. The second one is normally at 12 weeks, and the 3rd one around a year old mark. You should discuss the vaccination schedule with your vet.
I hope this little guide has been helpful in answering some of the questions you might have about owning a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.