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 3 - Transferring Agent Berner

3 months old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
Bruno at 3 months old. Ah, the times when we could still hold our puppy in our arms... 😄

I was digging with Fred and Bruno one sunny spring afternoon, we were planting tulips in the garden. Bruno was about five months old at the time. After a while, I said, I'm taking a break, and I removed my gloves. It was a pair of thin vinyl gloves, and as soon as I put them on the picket fence, Bruno took them in his teeth and ran away. His stopped about 10 feet further, he looked at me and grinned.

Brunooo, here puppy...Give those gloves to mooommaaaa! I sang, taking half a step forward and bending at the waist, one hand stretched out. Then, Yikes! he swallowed them whole. This is how I learned Berners can tell when something’s fishy from ten miles away. So we put the dog in the car and headed directly to the vet.

When the vet said, We might have to open him up, my face turned green. I could've prevented all of this, I could've put the gloves in a closed pocket, or on a high surface. I could’ve taught Bruno to willingly give what's in his mouth, but I didn't know that trick at the time.

Wheeeew ! What a guilt tornado ! Let's take a break from that story for a moment. I guess by now you may be already wondering how to teach your puppy to willingly give you what’s in his mouth? Well, we talk about Take it, Leave it, Give it in Part 3: Mission The Molar. But in the meantime remember this:

The human hand makes everything better. Always.

This means whenever you take something away from your puppy, you give him instead something even better, and he knows it because you’ve practiced it so many times. It’s as if you're eating a sandwich you made last night, and the bread is now soggy because of the salad. Then somebody comes and snatches it from your hand. Would you be upset if instead, they gave you a pizza freshly baked in a wood-fired oven?

I'm happy to report the vet didn't have to operate Bruno. We never found those gloves, even though for days we inspected the logs (meaning poop in delicate speak hehehe) Bruno planted in the garden. It remains a mystery to this day.

Now let's go back to prevention methods. Although you two are best friends, it doesn't hurt to hide some things from your puppy. It's actually recommended. So here's a list I invite you to enrich. Add to it whatever object that’s unfriendly to dog stomachs:

Now, like Bruno, your dog might enjoy gardening. Digging holes, trenches and scouring for treasures. How do you make sure you both enjoy the garden? First, you supervise him even when he's in the garden. Forever? No, only until he learns the rules of the house and the garden. Second, you show him the garden map and you explain, Mister Dog, you dig in this corner and I dig in the other corners, are we clear?

And now let's translate that. You choose a spot in the garden and you designate it Doggyland. You go by yourself, dig a 5-inch hole and bury a chew toy, half filled with Good-food, half with Yummy-wow. You then bring the puppy with you and start to dig in the spot. Your puppy will want to help and he’ll start digging too. Then, Wooow, a treasure! The puppy uncovers the stuffed chew toy. What are the chances he'll try digging again in the same spot? 100% Because you never know when you hit gold again.

Repeat the procedure daily to make sure he keeps digging in the same spot in the garden. You sometimes fill the toy with Good-food, sometimes with Good-food and a little Yummy or Yummy-wow.

What if he still starts to dig your roses? No problemo. Each time you catch him in the act, you interrupt him with a kissy noise. When he looks at you, you send him to Doggyland or you escort him there yourself. And this is how you apply the redirection rule. Wait, what? Which rule? This rule:

When you catch your dog doing a shenanigan, you interrupt and redirect him. As many times it as it takes.

Ask yourself, What do I want him to do instead? then tell him.

The new activity must satisfy the need that triggered the shenanigan.

Now let's move on to Time T0 and The Long Party. We’re talking about the moment you've been waiting for like the shoppers in front of an electronics store on Black Friday. The moment your puppy comes home. Allow him that day to get used to his new home.

Day 2, The Long Party begins. Now’s the time to invite all your family and friends to meet him. Obviously not all at the same time, that's why it’s called The Long Party, not The Big Party. Call them, send them emails, send them messages on Whatsapp, Messenger, telegrams, smoke signals. Whoever wants to be on the VIP list of your puppy, now’s the time.

It would be awesome if you could invite at home 3 to 4 new people every day to hold him in their arms, to play with him, to pet him and to give him treats. The petting should include all his body parts, so don’t forget his ears, teeth, paws — especially the paws — and the tail.

All this cuddling should involve a lot of gentleness and Yummy-wows, because we want him to like other people.

It's important for him not to have any Thou shall not pass areas, so you can groom him and so the vet can do the routine examinations and vaccines. For example, the hair on Bruno’s tail is 8 inches long, and the hair around his butt is 7 inches long. He sits exactly on that hair, filling it with dust, twigs, leaves and other unidentified objects. So he has to allow you to brush that hair too.

Let's go back to T0, the moment he enters the house for the first time, because this could be a close encounter of the 5th kind. What does this mean? Let me explain. Do you already have a fluffy creature at home? Another dog, a cat, a rabbit, a parrot, a hamster, a ferret? Let's say you already have a cat.

What's the strategy for introducing them to each other? Well, you open the door and you come inside with the puppy. The cat comes to greet you. The puppy sees the cat. The cat sees the puppy. A close encounter of the 5th kind. This is when Yummy-wows starts to rain from the sky, both for the puppy and the cat. What do you think your puppy will say? Wooow! Is this heaven? How about the cat? Hey, what’s with the kid? I don’t know, but I like him. Ever since he came, it rains goodies.

I wish I could say we did this with Dina, the cat who was staying with us while Fred’s sister was out of the country. But we didn’t know better at the time, so they never quite became friends. The cat always ran from Bruno and Bruno always wanted to sniff the cat. Later I gave this advice to one of my sisters when she got her puppy. She already had Fluff, a ten-year-old cat with a tiger-like coat. It rained sausages that day. And I’m happy to report the two fluffy creatures get along like twins, they play together, they eat together. Yeah, this ten-year-old cat plays again! And that’s how you mediate close encounters of the 5th kind using Yummy-wows.

2 months old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy meets cat and new dog sister for the first time
Bruno meets Lila and Dina

Okay, let's move on to another subject, of high importance starting with day 1. The two P0 Methods that go together like yin and yang, to declare your floor an Officially Dry Area. So what’s this about? Well, it's about liquids. Liquids originating from your puppy’s bladder, to be exact. At 8 weeks, his bladder can hold about an hour of pee. Then it empties itself, whether the puppy wants it or not. At this young age, he has no control over it. As he grows, the bladder grows and he gains more and more control over it. But in the meantime, you need a way to keep it from emptying on your floor. And I've got for you not just one, but two ways, The P0 Methods.

But before, let me give you a few tips so it's easier to foresee when he needs to empty his bladder. You don't need a crystal ball, because you can be 99% certain it will happen:

Now let's get to The P0 Methods. The first P0 method is The Playpen Method. We talked about the playpen in Chapter 1 - The Arsenal. So you install the playpen in the living room or where the family spends most of the time at home. You install it on its length: the bed, the water, and the filled chew toys at one end, and the puppy pad at the other end.

Here are the steps for The Playpen Method:

  1. Play with the puppy, walk together for a few minutes, teach him words and exercises, in other words, make sure he's tired
  2. Put the puppy in the playpen
  3. Does the puppy fall asleep in the next five minutes? If not, you repeat steps 1 and 2. Otherwise, you move on to the next step
  4. When he wakes up, take him outside to his toilet. You only pick him up when he's calm. This is how he learns he gets attention and all the good things when he behaves
  5. As soon as he uses the right toilet, Aaaaah! the skies open, light envelops him and angels sing. Praise him with all the enthusiasm you’re capable of, dance La Cucaracha — make sure you don’t scare him, we only want him to understand you’re happy — , give him a Yummy-wow, pet him and tell him how proud he made you
  6. Repeat all the steps every hour or so. What? Every hour? Yes, you read that right. Of course you increase the time with age, but in the beginning, it's probably gonna be every hour. We just want to make sure he gets all the support he needs to learn potty training in the shortest of time. This way, we are only limited by his bladder’s natural development. At least he knows what to do when he does have control over his bladder.

Now that you know The Playpen Method, let's move on to the second P0 Method: The Umbilical Cord Method. You can use both methods at the same time because they complete each other.

When should you use The Umbilical Cord Method? When you don't want to leave the puppy in his playpen, but you also can't keep your eyes on him 100%. With this method, you can do something else while keeping half an eye on your puppy. For example, you can read, work on the computer, watch a movie or prepare dinner. He wants to participate in everything you do anyway.

So you put his harness and leash on. You attach the leash on your belt or pants loop. Tadaaaa! That's The Umbilical Cord Method. You do whatever you have to do, keeping half an eye on the puppy and making sure not to step on his paws. If you see he’s preparing to empty his bladder or to go doo doo, you run outside with him as if you were in the last 50 feet of a marathon and there’s someone waving a giant million dollar check at the finish line. How do you know the puppy’s preparing to go? Restlessness, sniffing and running in circles.

Now imagine you're reading Gone With The Wind and you’re at the page where Rhett’s asking Scarlett to marry him. You’re shocked at his indecent proposal, knowing Frank’s body is still in the parlor. Like Scarlett, you’re breathless as Rhett kneels down and makes his declaration, telling her how he always loved her, ever since he saw her throwing the vase at...What’s that? The sound of liquid leaking on the floor. Don't wait for the puppy to finish! At that precise moment, tell him, Outside! and immediately take him outside. If he squeezes even one little drop outside, praise him and give him a Yummy-wow.

If on the other hand, you were too absorbed in the book and you didn't see him emptying his bladder, all that's left to do is to clean it up. That's all. Don't talk about it with your puppy, don't show him his deeds, nada. It doesn’t help. He clearly noticed that whenever he relieves his bladder on the floor or on the puppy pad, he gets nothing out of it. He wants to use the right toilet too. Because that's when he gets praise, treats and a lot of love.

So this is The Little Accidents Procedure. And you can use it for any perceived mischief your dog might do. If you catch him in the act, you immediately remind him what the correct answer is. Remember The Interrupt and Redirect Rule?

Alright let's go on and talk about The Good Night Operation, namely what to do about sleeping at night. Now you have a baby dog who just changed family and he still needs a mommy close by all the time. Just a few days ago your puppy was sleeping huddled with his mom, brothers, and sisters.

So, at least in the beginning, you move the playpen around. At night, in your bedroom close to your bed. In the morning, back in the living room. It's only normal you offer him more support while he's a baby, so when he becomes an adult dog, he’s confident and balanced like Vrikshasana, the tree pose. On top of this, you actually get to sleep if he’s with you in the bedroom.

What if the puppy’s not allowed in the bedroom? He spends the night alone in the living room. When he starts to cry, you leave your bed’s warmth and coziness and you go comfort him. I think we agree, by the time you get to the living room you're already wide awake. When he calms down you go back to your bed, hoping it’s kept at least some of the warmth. Just when you’re about to fall asleep, your puppy’s crying again. Puppies usually wake up a few times per night, partly because of their tiny bladder and partly because they get scared. So you’ll be leaving your bed quite a lot. Good night? More like heavy metal, if you ask me.

Now imagine a different scenario. You turn off the nightlight and you fall asleep. The puppy also falls asleep next to your bed. After about an hour you hear him whining. Half asleep, without even turning on the lights, you slide your arm from under the blankets and you comfort him. In a few moments, he calms down and falls back asleep. And so do you. Aweee, what an angel!

Maybe you're saying, Okay, okay, I'd like to let him sleep in my room, but I'm afraid it will spoil him. Ever heard of separation anxiety? First of all, I want to say, I hear you. But don't be afraid, on the contrary, sleeping close to you helps him feel like baby Jesus in the crib. That's exactly what he needs at this age. He's too young to face the loneliness and darkness for so many hours. Sleeping with his mom is natural, she lets her puppies sleep with her until they’re adolescents.

So this doesn't have to be permanent, you can teach him to sleep in another room later. And here’s a method. When you decide he's old enough to sleep by himself, you can start installing the playpen a little further every night. One inch today, one inch tomorrow, until he’s finally in the living room.

Hallelujah! Congratulations, you've finished Chapter 3: Transferring Agent Berner. Now you know what to expect when transferring your puppy from his old family to his new family, your family.