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 6 - Operation Terra

6 months old Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy
Bruno at 6 months old

Imagine a tiny alien landed in your garden and he’s staying with you. He can morph to look like any creature so he’s always incognito. Mr. Tiny Alien doesn't know anything about Earth and you want to show him as many things as possible, so he can tell what’s normal and what’s out of the ordinary. So what would you show him, how would you get him used to the things around you? With the noise of the vacuum cleaner? Of the garbage truck? Where would you go for walks together? How would you introduce him to your neighbors, family, and friends? How would you introduce him to your friends’ pets? And what would you tell him about the strangers strolling in the park or on the boulevard?

This is Operation Terra and it also works for your puppy. It's the secret program that opens all doors for him. So what is this program? Well, it's the name I want to use instead of socialization. I mean, think about it, your puppy comes on Earth and lands in your care. So it’s your mission to introduce him to the world around him. A well-socialized dog is welcome anywhere.

What does Operation Terra mean for a Bernese Mountain Dog? This breed needs intensive socialization. So, first of all, it means you're offering him tons of positive experiences with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes and with their pets. How do you do that? Every day you introduce him to at least 4 new people. Four new people every day until he's at least 18 months old.

Where do you get 4 new people every day? Well just by walking on a pedestrian street in the center of a town, certainly at least four people would just die to pet him. Then you can also find people in a park, a coffee shop, a terrace, the post office, a farmer’s market, a flea market, the zoo, the hairdresser’s, an outdoor show or concert.

Maybe you're saying, But wait, I can't let the puppy walk in public before he finishes the first set of vaccines. So we can’t go anywhere. It's true he should first finish his vaccines before touching public ground. But you don't need to let him walk, you can hold him in your arms or transport him in a buggy or stroller. Problem solved.

I said earlier the experiences must be positive. How do you make sure they're positive? Every new person pets him, speaks to him in the Ga Ga Gu Gu dialect, and gives him two or three Yummy-wows. If I were a puppy, I’d been very impressed with someone who’d do that for me.

For positive experiences with other dogs, it's best you go to the puppy school. A positive canine education school of course. At first, you only participate in puppy groups. When he finishes his first set of vaccines, you can participate in mixed groups too. This way he gets used with dogs of all colors, ages, sizes, and coats.

Operation Terra also means you offer him positive experiences with his surroundings. You get him used to sounds, smells, types of surfaces and objects he can encounter during his life.

Let's get into detail, using The White List. What's The White List? you ask. It's the list with people, animals, objects, and activities with which you offer him positive experiences. You use the Ga Ga Gu Gu dialect, petting and Yummy-wows to enchant him each time you present him an item on the list. So let's start:

  • Women: short, tall, redheads, brunettes, blonds, different ethnicities, body types
  • Men wearing a mustache or a beard or both or none, tall, short, different hair colors, races and body types
  • Children of different ages, laughing, jumping, running, crying and generally being children
  • People with hats, glasses, canes, using an umbrella, wearing a uniform, wearing a hoodie, an overcoat
  • Cats, dogs of all kinds, horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, rabbits, hens, ducks, parrots, ferrets
  • Different surface textures, grass, concrete, rocks, earth, plastic, metal, wood
  • High surfaces, unstable surfaces, dry, wet, slippery, straight, inclined, suspended
  • Bicycles, skates, skateboards, cars, buses, trains, planes, boats, garbage trucks
  • Fireworks
  • The noise and appearance of the vacuum cleaner, broom, washing machine, drying machine, food processor and other electrical appliances
  • Wearing a harness, leash, muzzle
  • Car trips, plane, train, boat, kayak, and ship trips
  • Walks at different times of the day, including sunset, sunrise and when it's dark
  • Human activities: singing, dancing, running, clapping, yoga
  • Canine activities: dogs doing agility, dogs playing, dogs barking
Bernese Mountain Dog looking at cat fascinated, and black dog looking into the camera
Bruno is fascinated by Dina, the cat

The Big Deal

Let's go on and see what's the deal with The Big Deal and the vet trips. So you imagine you're your puppy. You find yourself in this place that smells like thousands of dogs, cats, and synthetic perfume. All of it mixed with a strong chemical smell. All you can see are knees in uniforms. Somebody urges you to climb on the examination table. Okay. Now you see the face of the stranger and all of a sudden a flashlight in your left eye. Then in your right eye. Then you see the face of the stranger again, she's now looking in your ears. Next she pulls your face and sticks her fingers in your mouth. But wait, she's not done yet. She examines your belly, ribs, knees, toes and the private parts. And as if it wasn't enough, she pokes you with a needle. Heeeey! What’s this, an alien abduction? No, just a routine exam and the annual vaccines.

What kind of experience do you want your puppy to have with vet trips? I think the answer is obvious, Big deal! So how do you do that? Well, through practice. You get your puppy used to being handled, starting from the moment he’s a baby.

Exercise: The Vet Check-up Simulation

  1. Choose a moment of the day when the puppy’s tired, so after playing, walking or other physical exercises
  2. Prop the ramp up a table or another high surface
  3. Encourage the puppy to climb on the table
  4. Examine all his body parts, including toes, teeth, gums, and ears
  5. Pretend you’re giving him a vaccine shot, with a pen — gently
  6. Pretend you trim his claws with the pen that clicks
  7. Brush his teeth a specially formulated toothpaste for dogs
  8. Brush his coat
  9. Reward him for letting you handle each part of his body, using Yummies and sometimes Yummy-wows

While you're examining him, it's best you have a light conversation with a friend. If there's no one around, you can pretend to talk to somebody. Or you can use the phone. Why? Because this way, the examination becomes a mundane, ordinary thing. Mom speaks in plastic box to herself... This a little boring... me sleep... Hey, no touch my toes, mom! Oh, what’s that? A Yummy?! And a Yummy- wow?! Look mom, me has toes on back legs too.

Troubleshooting

What if he can’t stop moving? It means he’s not tired enough. So you go outside and play some more, or walk for a few minutes, then you try again.

Exercise: teach your dog to accept a harness

Alright, next you introduce him to the harness and leash. First the harness.

  1. Make sure to have a few Yummies and Yummy-wows at hand
  2. Show him the harness, praise him and give him a treat. Hide the harness behind your back for two to three seconds
  3. Show him the harness again. Praise him and give him 3 treats through the main loop of the harness, so he has to put his head through it in order to reach the treats. Hide the harness again behind your back for two to three seconds
  4. Repeat the 3rd step until the puppy puts his head through the main loop of the harness on his own, before even seeing the treat
  5. Show him the harness. Wait for him to stick his head in it. Praise and reward him while he’s still wearing the harness around his neck. Again, hide the harness behind your back for two to three seconds
  6. Repeat step 5 until he accepts having the harness around his neck for 5 seconds before you praise and reward him
  7. Show him the harness. Wait for him to stick his head in it. Completely attach the harness. Praise and reward him. Detach the harness and hide it behind your back for two to three seconds
  8. Repeat step 7 until the puppy’s comfortable wearing the harness for an entire minute

Repeat this exercise every day until you can get directly to step 8. Hide the harness the rest of the time, so he doesn't think it's a chew toy.

Exercise: teach your dog to accept a leash

Now that he's comfortable wearing the harness, you can attach the leash. On the front clip, at least in the beginning. How do you present him the leash? Just like the harness.

You show him the leash, you praise him, reward him, you hide the leash behind your back for two to three seconds.

Then again, you show him the leash, praise him, reward him, hide the leash behind your back for two to three seconds.

Next, you bring the leash closer to the harness, and again you praise him, reward him and hide it behind your back.

Each time, you bring the leash closer and closer to the harness, until you can attach it.

Next, you keep attaching and detaching it until you can leave it on for 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute.

Troubleshooting

  • What if one of the steps isn’t as easy as you’d hoped? That’s okay. All you need to do is go back to the previous step for a few repetitions. Then try the next step again.
  • If he tries to chew on the harness or the leash hide it behind your back for two to three seconds. And when you present it to him again, keep it higher so he can't reach it, then praise and reward him. You can move to the next step when he understands the harness is not a chew toy

The muzzle

Let's move on and talk about the mandatory gadget for dogs that use public transportation. The muzzle. Oh no you didn’t! You didn't just say muzzle! I did, I did say muzzle. Let me explain.

Your puppy has never seen a muzzle. So he has no opinion about it. Which means you have the opportunity to help him have a good feeling about it.

If you present him the muzzle the way you've presented him the harness, the leash or a toy, he'll give it the same emotional value he gives to the harness, the leash or the toy.

It’s important to teach him the muzzle as early as possible. He’ll have this skill under his belt — or should I say, his harness — ready to use for situations when it’s mandatory. It’s best to have the tools and not need them, then to need them and not have them.

Okay, so how do you teach him the muzzle?

Exercise: teach your dog to accept a muzzle

  1. Make sure to have a few Yummies and Yummy-wows at hand
  2. Show him the muzzle, praise him and give him a treat. Hide the muzzle behind your back for two to three seconds
  3. Show him the muzzle again. Praise him and give him 3 treats through the holes of the muzzle, so he has to put his snout in it in order to eat the treats. Hide the muzzle again behind your back for two to three seconds
  4. Repeat the 3rd step until the puppy puts his snout in the muzzle on his own, before even seeing the treat
  5. Show him the muzzle. Wait for him to put his snout in it. Praise and reward him through the holes of the muzzle, while his snout is still in it. Again, hide the muzzle behind your back for two to three seconds
  6. Repeat step 5 until he accepts leaving his snout in the muzzle for 5 seconds before you praise and reward him
  7. Show him the muzzle. Wait for him to put his snout in it. Completely attach the muzzle. Praise and reward him. Detach the muzzle and hide it behind your back for two to three seconds
  8. Repeat step 7 until the puppy’s comfortable wearing the muzzle for an entire minute

Repeat this exercise every day until you can get directly to step 8. Then you can repeat it once a week or once every two weeks to maintain progress.

Troubleshooting

As usual, if you encounter an obstacle, first breathe. Then get back to the previous step for a few repetitions. Then try the next step again.

Maintaining your dog's socialization

Now your puppy’s well on his way to airtight socialization. But how do you maintain this socialization when he's a grown-up? Well, you use The Copy and Paste Method.

Which means you do the same things as when you socialized him in the beginning. The only difference is when he's a grown-up, you can afford to do some of the exercises less often.

For example, you can do The Vet Check-up Simulation only once a week or once every two weeks. And maybe you don't give him a reward each time you walk by the garbage truck.

Other activities remain in the daily repertoire. For example:

  • Brushing his coat and teeth, for obvious reasons
  • The walks
  • Praising or praising and rewarding each time you meet other people and their pets

You also continue once or twice a week or more often:

  • Doggy school, or a canine club — mixed groups — for your dog's entire life
  • Group walks
  • Supervised play in a fenced area, with a group of about five dogs, his best friends
5 year old Bernese Mountain Dog at doggy school
Bruno at doggy school (he's 5 years old in this picture)

How to choose a good puppy school

And since we’re talking about doggy school, let's see how to choose a good school for your puppy. First, do your homework, search the Internet, ask questions on the phone, get recommendations. Then go watch a class as a spectator. Here's what we want to see:

  • Kind, positive training methods
  • Dog equipment: leashes, harnesses, two clip harnesses and maybe flat collars
  • Maybe some clickers
  • Rewards
  • Praise
  • Petting
  • Play and dog games
  • Natural shadow in the summer and fresh water, our Berner loves the shade and drinks a lot

Tadaaaaa! And this is how you maintain the socialization for your fur ball.