picture of a bernese mountain dog in nature and the text : bmdtutorials.com - bernese mountain dog tutorials by a dog parent, for dog parents

Chapter 2 - The Arsenal

2 months old Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy
Bruno at 2 months old

When Bruno adopted us, the breeder let us know they chose the puppy’s parents from family trees with excellent health. I don't think I checked, — you should for your own dog — but we're lucky and he’s healthy. Nevertheless, we still had to take a few expensive vet trips: once he broke a claw, a few other times he had never-ending diarrhea, another time he had to be neutered because of his prostate, another time an insect bite right in his gum. What I want to say is it's wise to foresee a budget for the unforeseen.

So how much does it cost to have a Bernese Mountain Dog? Aside from the buying price, you have the annual vaccines, the education, recreation, accessories and maybe the groomer if you don't take care of it yourself, plus the vet costs for unforeseen situations. In other words, it costs almost as much as any other member of the family.

To get an even better idea about costs, here’s a shopping list with the essential equipment for your new puppy.

A playpen

Maybe you're saying, “What, a playpen? No way, it’s barbarian to confine your puppy in a playpen, why would I even want such a thing in my house?” If this is the case, know you're not alone. This was my first reaction too.

But it's not as bad as it seems. People often use playpens even for babies. If it's okay to put a baby in a playpen, it's certainly okay for a puppy. When he's in the playpen he can’t:

  • Transform all your house in a toilet
  • Chase the cat
  • Chew your TV cable
  • Try on your new ballerinas
  • Taste the chocolate brownies on your living room table — and trust me, he easily gets to the living room table by three months. Besides, chocolate is toxic for dogs

On top of that, you put the puppy in the playpen:

  • In the same room where all the family is, usually the living room
  • For two hours tops, or four in extreme cases
  • Only when you can’t keep your eyes on him, not all day long
  • Only if he's tired enough to fall asleep in the next five minutes. Otherwise, you walk together or play, then try again
  • Only during the first year or until he earns the right to the whole living room. He earns this right when he knows what he’s allowed to chew on in the living room, where his toilet is, and he also has the physical ability to hold his bladder long enough to get to that toilet. Later he earns the right to the kitchen, to the hallway and so on. This way, when he’s a grown up, he already has the right to the whole house and garden

What do you do if you don't have a choice and you must leave the house without your dog for longer than two hours, four tops? You can:

  • Come home at noon if you don't live far from your workplace and you have the time during your lunch break
  • Ask a friend to come by the house and check on the puppy
  • Hire someone to spend part of the day with your puppy, a dog sitter
  • Hire a dog walker to come once or twice a day to walk your dog. This is interesting because most of the times, dog walkers walk multiple dogs at the same time. So it's an opportunity for your dog to make friends
  • Bring your dog to doggy daycare, where he can stay the whole day. I like this solution because he doesn't have time to get bored and he also gets to enrich his socialization with other dogs

No matter what you choose, make sure you leave your dog in good hands. It should be someone who uses positive communication methods with dogs. Ask questions and find out if other dog parents are happy with their services.

When you’ve chosen somebody to take care of your dog while you’re away, remember to give them a list with the cues and words your puppy knows, what his eating habits are and what are the rules of the house for your dog. For example, no table scraps or if he’s allowed on the couch, etc..

Bare in mind the first months he can’t come in contact with dogs that are potentially not vaccinated, and he’s to avoid walking in places where such dogs might have pooped. So a dog walker and daycare might be an option for later, when he’s done with his vaccines.

What if you’re one of the lucky ones and you work from home? Well, your dog still needs to know how to be home alone for at least 45 minutes. So you do this exercise every day because it’s essential for his mental health. This way, when there's no one home, he sleeps worry free on the couch, or under the table or in his bed. Or on the floor. Probably on the floor.

Puppy pads

Imagine you’re at the supermarket, you filled the shopping cart, you paid and now you want to go back home to walk the puppy. Then all of a sudden, what's that? Crrr, crrr, smartphones, and tablets for free crrr. Come and get it crrr, crrr. And everyone starts pushing and crowding, which makes it impossible for you to get out of the store.

This time you won't get home on time to take your puppy out to pee. But you don't worry, because you know he'll go on his puppy pad. Maybe you're asking, Alright but my puppy isn't a TV dog star. How will he know to go on the puppy pad and not elsewhere? Excellent question.

Dogs like to have a clean sleeping and eating place. You install his playpen so his bed and water are at one end, and his puppy pad at the other end. When you leave and can’t take the puppy with you, you put him in his playpen. This way, if he can't hold it anymore, he'll choose to wet his puppy pad rather than to get his bed dirty. Tadaaa!

You may want to always have one or two puppy pads with you when you're in the car, especially the day you bring him home for the first time and until he gains control of his own bladder.

A plush blanket and a dog bed

We've tried many beds, blankets, pillows, and carpets with Bruno. He even had a four- foot straw bed he chewed when he was one year old. But I find him most of the times sleeping on the ground. Guess why. Because it’s cooler with his belly directly on the tile floor.

That being said you should still get him a dog bed. During the winter I find Bruno sleeping on the couch or on his bed at night. Also get him a soft plush blanket, he uses it as a pillow during the summer.

Two water containers

Use a smaller one for the first months and a bigger one when he grows up.

When Bruno was a puppy we had bought him a few stainless steel containers. They don't break and they're easy to wash. There's just one problem: he doesn't like stainless steel. Is it the taste or maybe the sound it makes when he touches it? I don't know. But when I put a plastic water bowl next to the stainless steel bowl, he chose the plastic bowl each time.

When Bruno grew up I put his water in a big salad bowl. I noticed he didn't drink out of it, he drank from the fishpond or from a bucket filled with rainwater, or from an old bathtub we had converted in a garden decoration with aquatic plants. I guess the salad bowl wasn't big enough for him to rinse his snout. So now I put water for him in a bucket and he’s happy.

Hollow chew toys

As a puppy, Bruno chewed on cables, tried to learn from my programming book, write with my crayons, use the TV remote, take selfies with the camera and change its batteries.

Why am I telling you this? Because you might like your remote control, and there’s electricity passing through cables. So now what? Well, for example, you can give him stuffed chew toys. These are hollow toys you can fill with food, they’re usually made of rubber or silicone. If you get him used to them since he’s little, they'll become his hobby. I also want to say it's okay if he just licks them or if he smashes them on the ground to extract the food. The important thing is he interacts with them and they keep him busy. You give him these chew toys when he’s in his playpen.

Here are some advantages:

  • He's doing something constructive. While he chews on his toy, he can't bark, chew on the table leg and he can't run and jump like a mule deer
  • His jaws are taking a yoga class. He contracts, releases and stretches his jaw muscles, and then he feels relaxed. These muscles tend to be tensed in humans and dogs. To understand the yoga effect, try to massage your own jaw muscles, right between the jawline and the cheekbones, close to your ears. Well, how does it feel?
  • Chewing and licking calm the nervous system. Do you remember that horror movie you saw while eating two popcorn bags? No? Never mind, it must've been me
  • It teaches him what he may chew on, because he doesn't have the occasion to make bad habits chewing on forbidden things

So put 10 chew toys on the shopping list so you always have clean ones. And make sure they have two holes, not just one (it's a toy-tongue vacuum creation thing)

A buggy or a stroller

Do you remember that in the previous chapter our breeder takes the puppies out in a buggy? It’s because puppies finish their first vaccines and are immune only ar

ound their 12 weeks. So they're not allowed to walk in places where they might be contaminated.

But this period overlaps with the most important socialization phase, when they need to meet at least four strangers every day. Now what? The solution: you walk him in a stroller. Or buggy if you want to look more hip.

On top of that, when he’s little, he’s only allowed to walk for a few minutes at a time. That’s because we want to protect his joints. But you can do long walks if you put him in the buggy when his paws-on-the-ground time has run out. The rule is 5 minutes for every month of age. So 15 minutes twice a day when he’s three months old, 20 minutes when he's four months old, and so on. When he grows up it’s you who’ll get tired before he ever does.

Towels

Or not, if you don't mind using your own towels to wipe the dog. When Bruno is wet, he does everything in his power to dry himself. If I don't have a towel ready, he wipes himself on my leg, on the floor, furniture, whatever he can find. I have a few old towels I saved for him.

Biodegradable bags

To pick up the hmm, hmm, cigars when your puppy has produced them in public. You can find paper bags and fake plastic bags made of maize starch.

A pooper scooper

To clean up the smelly presents your puppy produced in your yard. And you can even bring the pooper scooper on walks if it doesn't bother you to carry it. Especially since some models allow you to attach the poop bag directly on its claws.

Hygiene pants or doggy diapers

In case you choose a female, for The Cotton Rainbow Code operations. Did you get it? For when mother nature comes? Surprised? Well, dogs have periods, too. The first may start as early as 6 months or as late as 18 months. If you want to spay your female, the best time is between 6 and 8 months of age15.

And since we’re talking about spaying/neutering, neutering your male dog is best done when he reaches 12 to 18 months. We got Bruno neutered when he was 2, not by choice, but because of his prostate. Before we did however, he’d fall in love with a cushion sometimes. It was enough to distract him, then channel his attention on a different activity and he’d stop. This is The Interrupt and Redirect Rule in action, it works for most undesired behaviors and you’ll see more examples of it in the following chapters.

An indestructible plush toy that doesn't make any sound

The Bernese Mountain Dog doesn't destroy toys intentionally, at least as an adult. I can't guarantee it when his milk teeth are changing. Otherwise, he treats plush toys as is if they were real animals. He transports them around the house as a mother and he cleans them with his front teeth. It's a soothing activity for the Bernese Mountain Dog, like the pacifier for a baby.

That being said, make sure the plush toy is empty because he's a curious dog. And if he makes a little hole by mistake, he might want to take out the whole filling. And we wouldn't want him to swallow it.

Bruno has many plush toys he takes care of as long as they're clean. He abandons them when they're dirty. Then I put them through the washing machine and when they're ready he plays again with them. He also has a pink soft rubber pig that grunts when you squeeze it. He likes this pig, he walks with it everywhere.

Once I was trying to encourage Bruno to play with me. I took the pig and I squeezed it. When he heard the pig grunt, he immediately came. I was very happy. What he did next left me mouth open, jaw on the floor. He took the pig out of my hand, delicately put it on the ground, then went to sleep under the table.

It's the same story with any toy that makes a sound. As soon as he hears it make a sound, he stops tugging on it. This is why I recommend you get him silent toys.

Interactive toys

When I say interactive what I mean is toys for you to play together with them. A tug toy, cones, four-inch jumps, you can even get him weave poles.

If you want to teach him frisbee, make sure you throw it lower than his height, the Bernese Mountain Dog isn't allowed to jump, for his joints’ well-being.

You can also get him a tennis ball for fetch games. It's not in his nature to play fetch but he can learn it alright. We combine fetch with tug which makes Bruno growl, laugh, run and bounce like there’s no gravity. As with any other game, it lasts two minutes tops, that's how Berners function. He usually thinks he's done a great deal of work and goes to sleep right after. However, it wasn’t always like that. I remember how he’d play with Lila almost all day long when he was a puppy.

So. Tug, cones, jumps, tennis balls. Maybe a frisbee.

A clicker

A clicker is a small plastic box containing a piece of metal and a button. When you push the button, it clicks. It’s an effective communication tool.

Click means, I like what you’ve just done, and, You’ll get a treat for what you’ve just done.

No click means Try something else. You can use it when you want to teach your puppy new words and behaviors.

Bruno learned Sit, Down, Stand, Stay, Shake hands, Close the door, enjoy wearing a harness, a muzzle, and he overcame his fear of the vacuum cleaner thanks to the clicker.

Dog movie stars are often trained with the clicker, and the same communication principle gets giraffes at the zoo to climb willingly on the scale, baboons to have their teeth brushed, cotton-top tamarins to accept injections, dolphins to find and neutralize mines in the open ocean and goldfish to swim through a loop made from bent coat hanger wire.

Maybe you're thinking, This sounds amazing, but I don't want to carry a clicker around all the time, like a bracelet. Don't worry, you only need the clicker at the beginning of teaching a new behavior. And you only need it during the training sessions, not the whole day, so it won't become your new fashion accessory.

Okay, so how does it work? Let me explain.

Let's say you want to teach your dog the word Sit. Now imagine you're taking a picture of your puppy exactly when he sits. You push the button at the precise moment his buns touch the floor. Well, instead of pushing the camera button, you push the clicker button.

Tutorial : Teach sit using a clicker

Click for spontaneous sits, until he sits on purpose

So one day, you take your clicker and some treats, sit comfortably and observe your puppy. You just look at him and wait. Eventually, he'll sit. In that precise moment, when you see he intends to put his buns on the floor, click, you catch him in the act. Then you praise him and give him a treat.

I hear you, I hear you very well when you say, Hey, but I don’t want to constantly use food, I want him to listen to me all the time, not only if I have food in my hand. Look, food is the best motivator for a Bernese Mountain puppy, so it’s the easiest tool for teaching him new behaviors. But when he knows the behavior, you can ditch the food. Almost. You’ll still reward him once in a while to maintain what he's learned. So you're not gonna walk around with your pockets full of treats all the time.

Besides, you make sure your puppy doesn’t see the treats, otherwise indeed you’re bribing him and we want an honest dog. Ha-ha-ha. But seriously, bribing teaches your dog to offer behaviors only if he sees the food. So hide it.

Alright, let's come back to our clickers. So he sits, you click and you give him a treat. You either throw the treat on the floor, or you offer it to him from your hand, so he has to get up to get it. This way he can sit again. And when he does, again click, praise and treat. You repeat until he sits on purpose to get rewarded multiple times in a row.

Time to add the cue Sit

Next, when you’re sure he's gonna sit, you quickly say, Sit! right before he does. But you must be so sure he’s gonna sit, that you're willing to bet a tattoo with the text Kick me if he doesn’t.

So let's say you're sure he’s gonna sit. You say Sit!, the puppy sits, and precisely when he does, you click, praise and treat. Repeat 20 times or so.

No more click for spontaneous sits

Next, you step it up and you click only when he sits after you asked him to do so. He's not getting any more treats when he sits on his own. For a few moments he might get frustrated, I used to get treats each time I put my buns down, why isn't it working anymore? And it's understandable. I mean, imagine you want to open your office door and you can’t, Hey, what's going on? I keep scanning the access card and nothing. Why isn't it working anymore? So you'll surely try to scan the access card a few more times, before you realize the rules have changed and now you only need your fingerprint. It's the same for your puppy. He'll surely offer some more spontaneous unsolicited sits, before he realizes he only gets rewards when you say, Sit!

So you repeat and repeat, Sit!, click, praise and treat. For how long? Until he sits 8 times out of 10 when you say, Sit! From that moment on you may stop clicking for Sit, we can assume he knows the meaning of the word. But you'll keep praising him each time he sits at your request, and you also reward him randomly. Sometimes multiple times in a row, sometimes not at all a few times in a row.

Sit-stay, a longer sit

From now on you can start waiting 2 seconds before rewarding him. During this time he remains in the Sit position. When that goes well, you can wait for 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, and so on, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. When you make him wait longer, you give him treats more often. For example, let's say he can remain in the Sit position for 4 seconds and now you want him to wait for 8 seconds. How do you do that? Well, after 4 seconds you tell him calmly, Good dog! you give him a treat directly in his mouth, so he doesn't have to get up to get it, and you tell him, Stay! Then you wait 4 more seconds, you praise him and you throw the treat on the ground. And this is how your puppy now knows to remain in the Sit position for 8 seconds. You repeat this a few times, until there's no more need for the treat in the middle. Then you can try a longer duration, for example, 16 seconds. And you use the same procedure: a treat directly in his mouth after 8 seconds, and another one at the end.

Sit at a distance

Another challenge you can introduce is the distance. Your puppy sits if you’re next to him. But what if you’re ten feet away? Try it. Does he sit? Probably not. Here’s how you can teach him.

You position yourself half a foot further from your dog and you say, “Sit!” He’ll probably sit, half a foot further is not such a big change. When he sits, click, praise and reward him. Repeat at this distance four to five times.

Next, move another half a foot further and ask for the sit. Does he sit? Great, then click, praise and treat. He doesn’t? Move back closer and do a few more repetitions. Then try to increase the distance again.

Continue increasing the distance half a foot at a time. Until when? Try to think of situations where sitting at a distance could be useful and work toward that distance. For example, how far away from you could he get when playing off-leash at the dog park?

Troubleshooting

But what if the puppy gets up before the time runs out? It's okay, you try again with a shorter duration.

Proofing the Sit

Next, you practice Sit in different situations. In the kitchen, in the living room, outside, when your back is turned, when you jump on one foot, when you're clapping your hands, when you're dancing, when someone else is dancing, clapping their hands, and so on, you get the picture. Why? So he understands Sit means Sit no matter what’s going on around.

Oh, and one more thing. Whenever you practice in a new situation, you can use the clicker again for a few repetitions, until he catches on. Also, remember this, the practice sessions must be like a pixie haircut, short and cute. So 2 to 3 minutes, then you take a break.

A treat pouch

If you want to keep your pockets clean. You can attach the pouch to your pants, to your belt or to your belt loop. I recommend you get a pouch with a magnetic closing, so you don't sow treats each time you bend over or when you run. On top of that, the little pranksters know how to get their snouts in an open pouch when you're not looking. But they can’t get in a closed one.

Green pouch for holding treats, the magnetic opening allows for easy access for you but not for the dog
Notice the magnetic opening/closing

A greetings mat

Half the size of a yoga mat. Your puppy sits on it when you greet guests. This is where he waits to say, Hi! We talk about this in detail in Part 4: The Greeting Protocol.

A harness, two leashes, a muzzle

I recommend you put the leash on a front clip harness, at least until he learns to walk nicely on-leash. Bruno has a Multi Harnais Classic Animalin harness with a front clip and a back clip. I also love Ruffwear and they sell front clip harnesses too. I’m not affiliated with any of them, but if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.

A front clip harness is the perfect tool to learn walking nicely on-leash when there are many distractions. Let me explain.

There are two kinds of walking on-leash. We've got walking on-leash when there's nothing interesting around, and walking on-leash when there are other dogs, cats, rabbits, sheep and other fascinating things your dog wants to examine. Lunging with the speed of a bullet and the force of a freight train. He’s born to pull, after all. When he gets at the end of the leash, he'll find himself with his back at the distraction and facing you. This is a perfect opportunity to gain back to his attention. It teaches him lunging gets him nowhere.

So, a front clip harness, a 7-foot leash and a 33-foot leash (for teaching recall). We talk about how to present the harness and leash in Part 3: Operation Terra, and about leash walking and recall in Part 4, chapters On Leach Action and Recall.

Bernese Mountain Dog wearing a front-clip harness in the middle of a field with frosty grass
Bruno enjoying the frosty grass and wearing his front-clip harness

What about the muzzle? It’s mandatory if you ever have to take public transportation, including trains and international trains. Choose a muzzle that allows you to easily feed him through its openings. For example a basket muzzle. You find the instructions on how to present him the muzzle in Part 3: Operation Terra.

Dog treat passing easily through a basket muzzle
Notice how the basket muzzle allows feeding treats

A ramp to get in and out of the car

As I was saying, climbing stairs and jumping are on The Big No-no List for the Bernese Mountain Dog. Then how does he get in the trunk? Using a ramp. A simple ramp with no steps. Teach him to use the ramp even if he travels only in the back seat. It's part of building self-confidence and body awareness for dogs. We talk about the ramp in Part 4: On Leash Action.

Bernese Mountain Dog using a ramp to get out of the car trunk
Bruno getting out of the trunk

A special safety belt for dogs

In case he travels in the back seat of the car. You attach one end to the harness — under no circumstances to a collar — and the other end to the bench attachment mechanism, just like you do with the car’s seat belts.

I also recommend you get a blanket to protect the seats from mud and dust.

Combing and brushing tools

A brush and an undercoat rake or a dematting comb because your Berner has a double coat. I recommend you use the brush every day, and the rake or the comb once or twice a week. When I don't do that, Bruno’s coat becomes like a carpet in certain spots. Especially around his neck, his ears and on his pants, you know the fur on the back of his legs.

Dematting comb
Dematting comb
Undercoat rake
Undercoat rake

A nail clipper for dogs, a nail file or sandpaper

Especially for the claws on his thumbs. The other claws use themselves up on walks. If you don't like the nail clipper, you can use a nail file. I like the nail file idea because you get smooth edges, which is an advantage over the nail clipper. Whatever you choose, make sure you get him used to it right from the beginning. It's part of his socialization. More on that in Part 3: Operation Terra.

And here's another tip. You know how cats like to scratch tree bark, wooden fences, or your couch with their claws? In a similar way, your dog can file his own claws on sandpaper. I recommend you use the clicker and treats to teach him this skill.

For example, you click + praise + treat the first time you present him the sandpaper. Then when he looks at it. When he gets close to it. When he put his paw on it. When he leaves his paw on the sandpaper for a second. Then two seconds. Then when he removes his paw away from the sandpaper. And so on. You use your own approximations, depending on your dog’s progress. It's like a game of hot, warm, cold. No click means cold. Click + praise + treat means warm. How about hot? Click + I just won the lottery kind of praise + treats that fall like The Niagara.

A powerful vacuum cleaner

One that won't choke on the first dog hair ball. Find a vacuum cleaner specifically designed for houses with pets. A quality filter is essential, and a special brush for furniture and carpets can definitely help.

Vichy candy

You know how some dogs eat 💩 or they roll in it? I'm not a doctor, but when Bruno ate wild boar poop, we looked for a solution. It seems to be related to mineral salts and we were advised to give him a Vichy tablet/candy once in a while. This candy is known for its digestive properties, so we tried it. Well, it works. Now hold on for a second, while I go buy some stock actions at Vichy. There, all done. Just kidding. But I’ll let you know if I ever do get some.

Dewormer for dogs

Dogs put in their mouths all sorts of nasty stuff they find on the ground, as I was just telling you. They also lick their fur and all their body parts, they lick other animals and drink water from puddles. So put a dewormer on the list too.

Flea, tick and mosquito products

For Bruno, we use both essential oils and traditional flea, tick and mosquito pipettes. The pipettes really do work against fleas but they’re not so effective against mosquitoes and ticks.

At first, we were only using pipettes. But the first spring we moved to the country side, we’d remove two to three ticks from Bruno’s skin every day. In the pipette’s defence, it was a tick year. Millions of tons of ticks in the grass. After some investigation, we found out rose geranium is the evil godfather of ticks. Here's the recipe. In a spray bottle you put:

  • 15 drops of rose geranium essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon of pure alcohol or 3 tablespoons of vodka
  • 4 cups of water

You shake the bottle and you spray the dog’s fur every day in spring and autumn, making sure not to put the substance in his eyes, ears, nose, mouth and other orifices.

That being said, you know the blah blah: consult an essential oils professional before using this recipe or any other essential oils.

And about mosquitoes, well, the investigation is still running. So for the moment, for fleas and ticks, pipettes and rose geranium spray.

Tick tweezers

With these tweezers, you grasp the tick right under its mouth, close to the dog’s skin. Then you turn the tweezers many times, until the tick unclenches its teeth by itself. You get rid of the tick and disinfect the bitten spot. Tadaaa!

Tick tweezers
Tick tweezers

Tincture of propolis

or another disinfectant for tiny scratches or insect bites

An electrical toothbrush and toothpaste for dogs

It can be a normal electrical toothbrush with a small round head. It's also part of the socialization.

Food

Kibble or wet food from the store? Home-cooked meals? And if yes, then what and how? Or maybe it's better to feed him raw food? The subject can take a whole book. Actually multiple books.

Bruno never got used to store-bought kibble, his stomach gets upset immediately. That's why now he eats home-cooked food: some legumes, fruit, vegetables, some cereals, some grains, bone marrow, some chicken liver and other similar meat, small fish and dietary supplements (glucosamine, chondroitin, L-carnitine, taurine, calcium, MSM, zinc, manganese, meadowsweet, blackcurrant and brewer’s yeast tablets)

Although Bruno’s diet is far from vegetarian, plant-based whole food makes up a large part of his diet. Did you know that according to PETA2

  • The dog is omnivorous
  • A vegetarian diet for dogs is ethically consistent with animal rights philosophy?

And PETA is the biggest international organization for animal rights protection. So I have reasons to believe they know what they're talking about.

On top of that, I always think of Bramble3, the vegetarian dog (a Border Collie) who lived 27 years and 211 days. She entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest living dog in 2002. Not too shabby for a dog, don’t you think? Most dogs live to be 16 give or take. Most Bernese Mountain Dogs live to be 8 to 12 years old and a few get to live 15 to 16 years. Bramble inspired me to do everything in my power to increase Bruno’s chances of greater longevity and quality of life. And if the way is paved with veggies, then so be it.

Bramble ate only rice and vegetables all of her life. Zero animal proteins. Ann Heritage, Bramble’s human, actually fed a vegetarian diet to all of her dogs. And they all lived long and healthy lives.

Heck, if it wasn’t for Dr. Weston Price’s research on the relationship between nutrition and dental health, Bruno would be a vegetarian.

Okay, now what? I'm not trying to convince you to do as I do. All I want is to show you there’s more to food then kibble, you have other options. I want to encourage you — no, to challenge you — to do your own research and make an informed decision.

Sticky rice, the risotto kind

No matter what kind of food you choose, rice stays on the list. Will you feed your puppy the same food as the breeder? If not, he’ll need some help until he gets used to digesting it. The helper: sticky rice. You cook it and blend it with his new food. Give him sticky rice each time you change his type of food.

What not to feed your dog

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of forbidden food:

  • Food containing xylitol, like chewing gum, candy, some kinds of toothpaste,and some store-bought cookies
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine and caffeinated products, like coffee, chocolate, green tea, black tea, cocoa, cola, energizing drinks
  • Nutmeg
  • Milk (cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk) and dairy
  • Fat
  • Sugar and added sugar products
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Persimmon pits
  • Prune pits
  • Apple pits
  • Peach pits
  • Tomato plant
  • Raw potatoes
  • Onions and the like
  • Garlic
  • Raw eggs
  • Raw fish
  • Raw legumes, for example, raw beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas
  • Chicken bones, marrow bones, fish bones (but you can give instead raw bovine
  • kneecap, it's great for cleaning your dog's teeth)
  • A lot of salt
  • Raw dough
  • Human medicine

Food hierarchy

Maybe you're wondering, What’s food hierarchy? Well, you know how you have your everyday food? Let's say it's broccoli mushroom rice or beans in tomato sauce and pickles. Then you have your special food. Maybe it's barbecued fish, or baked potatoes, or donuts. And then you have your extraordinary food. For example, pecan pie or cheesecake, or walnut apple tart with the apple backed whole.

This is the food hierarchy. Now let's invent some code names. How about Good-food for rice and broccoli, Yummy for donuts, and Yummy-wow for the pecan pie?

What does this have to do with your dog? Well, we take the food hierarchy and we use it for his food. The food hierarchy depends on your dog’s taste and what you choose as his basic food. For example, Bruno’s basic food is mushroom cauliflower chickpeas. This gets the code Good-food. The store-bought treats have the Yummy code, and dried sprats have the Yummy-wow code because he likes them more than store-bought treats. Does that make sense?

So what do we do with these codes? We apply them to your dog’s food. Every morning you weigh his Good-food for the whole day. If you chose kibble, then cable has the Good- food code. You put a third in a bowl or a Tupperware, you stuff the other two thirds in his chew toys.

You give him his chew toys when he’s in the playpen. This way he has something to do and he learns what's okay to chew on. You put the bowl or the Tupperware within the reach of the whole family. Each member of the family rewards the puppy for doing something good, anything good. Is he relaxed? Then you can give him a treat. Is he looking into your eyes, is he looking cute, is he sitting? You give him a treat. Because

What you reward is what you amplify.

You also use Good-food when you’re doing exercises inside the house and there’s nothing distracting his attention. For example, it’s just the two of you at home and you're teaching him the meaning of Sit.

Next, you use Yummies for the same exercises outside, because the difficulty increases as the distractions increase. It's harder to focus when it smells like cat, or when he hears children play at the neighbors’, or there are cars, bikes, skateboards, butterflies, craws, other dogs, etc.. So if you’ve taught him Sit inside using Good-food, you teach him Sit again when you’re outside, but this time you use Yummies.

What about Yummy-wows? Well, Yummy-wows are for socialization. For example, when he meets a new person, he gets petting and a Yummy-wow. Or when he sees something unusual he might worry about, for example, dogs doing agility, he also gets a Yummy-wow. Even when he grows up, it's still a good idea to always have three or four Yummy-wows in your treat pouch. Because life is full of new stuff. This way he always gets a positive feeling about something new.

And one more thing. Make sure Yummies and Yummy-wows are tiny. We want your puppy to maintain a healthy weight, gentle on his elbows, knees, hips, and joints.