Now, remember, THIS is a puppy who was late to learn bite inhibition so she bit EVERYTHING... And she had attachment issues, so she didn't like to be touched... Berner puppies are cute for a reason — so they survive to adulthood! Even well-bred, well-raised Berner puppies are often just so darn cute you want to hug them to pieces and ALL they want to do is BITE you... into bite-sized pieces! And THIS puppy had an extra dose of that due to a rough start... So this is part warning — a rescue puppy IS cute, but is NOT easy — and an encouragement — a rescue puppy CAN be put back on the road to good dog-dom.
What?! I'm just thinking how that toy basket would taste... I haven't started actually chewing it YET!
With my buddy Teddy — TUG with a stick! The best game...
So, we were just considering getting a puppy…then Anya called us just before 4th of July weekend and said there was a puppy that needed an immediate foster home. OK! At 3 months old, Lucy had already been through the mill, so to speak. She was bred by puppy brokers in Kansas, shipped to a “holding facility”, and then put up for sale in a pet store. She was purchased by a young couple who had no experience raising a puppy. Lucy had giardia, coccidia, worms and yeast in her ears. Lucy was intensely jumpy, mouthy and a serious biter. Although the couple tried to love her, Lucy was not connecting emotionally. With regret and relief they enlisted Berner, Inc. to find her a new home.
Lucy was a typical puppy mill “product.” Separated from her mother and litter too soon, she had not learned the bite inhibition her canine family would teach her. The weeks she spent in quarantine and in a cage at pet the store deprived her of the human contact and socialization all puppies need to develop normally as companions. Lucy’s first month with us was tough. House-training was a challenge—she had frequent diarrhea. The biggest challenge was teaching Lucy bite inhibition. Her need to lead with her mouth was much more intense than in a normal puppy. Lucy knew no boundaries. She grabbed at hands, feet, and faces. She tore at clothing and flew at anything that moved. She chewed everything she could get her mouth on, even stainless steel appliances!
But Lucy is a bright girl. She quickly learned “watch me” and “uh-uh” cues, and then more cues to control her mouthing and jumping. We did lots of “soft mouth” training with toys, treats and puppy chews. Soon Lucy was doing world-class “sits” and “downs” instead of charging at us mouth-first. Helping in Lucy’s bite-inhibition training was our 18-month-old rescued Berner, Teddy (left above). Teddy showed Lucy what she had missed from her siblings—how hard to bite and when to stop. Of course, we humans made sure that Teddy didn’t get too carried away with “teaching” the puppy! Soon the two were chomping on toys and chews together instead of mouthing each other every time.
It was over a month before Lucy clicked with us emotionally. She hadn’t liked to be touched, and would grab us when we tried to handle her. Then one day, I went into a room where she was lying down--she “smiled” and wagged her tail like a lariat. I knelt down and rubbed her under the chin, and she flopped on her back and began to “purr” as I rubbed her chest. From that moment I knew for sure that Lucy would go from “foster puppy” to ”our puppy.” Before we met her, Lucy’s “critical period” of socialization had suffered some major deficits. But with intensive training--and sometimes intense fatigue and frustration!--we restored the social skills Lucy had missed as a pet-store puppy. She has become a happy, well-behaved and healthy family member. We love Lucy and we know Lucy loves us!
BERNER Inc. Bernese Education & Rescue, Northeast Region
Bernese Education and Rescue – Northeast Region is a non-profit organization, staffed by a group of volunteers, working to provide medical care and placement in adoptive homes for BMDs who have been surrendered to shelters, pounds or to us. We also endeavor to educate the public on responsible acquisition, care and training of BMDs in the hope that we can thus reduce the number of Bernese Mountain Dogs who are relinquished to rescue or to shelters.