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FREE EXERCISE IN A FENCED IN YARD is best for a puppies proper bone growth. Walks on lead are fun and good training; however, a young dog should not be forced to walk distance as this will lead to joint damage. A walk around a city block is enough for a Bernese under one year of age, along with free play in a fenced in yard.
When I walk a dog we are a team, working together. A good team is built on mutual respect. I am the alpha so he needs to pick up his cues from me, not visa versa. Walks are more that physical exercise, they are also mental stimulation and this is very important for a working dog. They need their brain exercised as much as their physical being. When out on a walk, you are asking your dog to focus on you and where you are physically at all times. This is because you are calling the shots, not him. You are the leader, he is the follower. By doing this, your dog will be much calmer after walks. Itís fine if your dog walks slightly ahead of you, next to you or slightly behind you. As long as he frequently checks where you are, you are working together.
Collars should be light weight and NEVER LEFT ON when the pup is alone. Collars can easily catch and strangle a dog at any age. Light weight nylon collars or light chain collars are my choice in lead training. Use a light weight leather or nylon leash. I do not recommend retractable leads at any age you have no control over your dog and they quickly learn they can get away from you. Remember, you are walking as a team!
When teaching loose leash walking keep the focus on you. You may have to be silly or excitable, and bring a full pocket of kibble and treats. Tell your pup WITH ME and start walking. When he goes away from you stop walking. When he comes to the end of his leash, he will realize you arenít WITH HIM and will turn and look at you/return to you. Immediately say YES to mark the good behavior and give him a treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Once he starts getting the hang of it, treat him every other time, but always say YES to mark the behavior you want. Over time you can eliminate the treat and just mark the behavior with YES.
Another technique is to start walking saying WITH ME, when he goes off in a different direction or pulls you, do an abrupt 180 and walk the opposite direction quickly. Heíll catch up wondering what the heck youíre doing. Good! Say YES, treat him and be on your way. Every time he goes off course, or pulls you, do an abrupt 180, repeat, repeat, repeat. You wonít get too far in the first week or two but thatís fine. By 6 months that adorable little puppy will weigh 60-70# and you need to get him to walk politely NOW. If you are in need of exercise, do your walk later when the pup is in his crate.
A walk for any Bernese Mtn Dog puppy under one year of age is no further than the distance of a city block. After one year of age they are able to walk further, gradually building up to a couple of miles. Due to the rapid growth of a Bernese puppy, the growth plates have a difficult time keeping up and permanent injury can and will occur if you over exercise. Injuries can affect hips, elbows, shoulders and so forth. The best exercise for a pup is free play in a fenced yard.
EXERCISE and JOINTS
A Bernese Mountain Dog is not a running partner, nor are they a skijoring partner, especially as a pup. This is something that requires conditioning and training to avoid injury, just as it does with humans. It also requires the growth of the dog to be complete. Once the dog is mature, after two years of age, you can start conditioning. The same holds true in the snow as it does on the street. Do not expect a puppy under one year of age to keep up with you x-country skiing. You WILL blow out his growth plates and do permanent damage if you go distance. You may also cause the pup to suffer from ACL injury if you allow the pup to romp in deep snow. Bernese are not ďUncle BillísĒ Labrador. This is a very unique breed, and they are not built like other breeds. Their growth is not like other breeds. Each breed has itís own unique health precautions regardless of what you read or hear from your uncle! Consider this, each joint repair or replacement costs you $3000 roughly, and costs the dog a life time of pain. This is not something you want to mess with!
Bernese puppies should NEVER he allowed to roughhouse with older dogs, as permanent injury to growing bones, joints, muscles and ligaments may occur. If you send your puppy to doggy daycare, insist that the pup be put in with puppies or dogs smaller than he is. Once the pup is 6 months, they can NOT be put in with other larger pups and dogs or you will have injuries. You will need to talk to your day care director to make sure that this will not occur. Plan an unexpected visit to the doggy daycare to make sure they are following your instruction. Remember YOU are the one that will have to pay the surgeon to repair the joint.
Although we all love to snuggle with our pup, jumping off a sofa or bed will also affect your pups growth plates and joints, really! Beds are high. When the pup jumps off of a bed, the elbows and shoulders take the full force of the movement and weight of the dog, repeatedly. If you have wood floors, this makes it worse.
This also applies to jumping out of an SUV, again the elbows and shoulders take the impact. In an SUV, consider flipping a seat back so the pup/dog can step out as opposed to jumping out. With young pups, I scoop them up and set them on the ground until they become too heavy for me. I do the same for getting a dog off a grooming table. I do not allow dogs on my bed period.