Working Your Berner
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a working breed, and draft (pulling a cart) if a part of their heritage. Being an all around farm dog, they would haul many things in their carts, but are most noted for taking milk cans to the dairy.
Draft is not just your dog pulling a cart around; a well trained draft dog knows how to move their cart on various surfaces, up and down hills, and adjust their speed along the way. Turning the cart as directed and not colliding with obstacles is also a large part of their job. Finally, they must manage their load and be a true teammate to their handler.
Some Berners take quickly to draft, others are a bit slower. Our club often holds clinics on how to start your dog in draft, but partnering with an experienced draft handler is another way to help train your dog in this sport. If you’re not sure if drafting is for you or your dog, attending our annual draft trial is a great way to see the breed work with various carts, and at various levels of skill and experience. It’s also a great time to meet other members who are actively drafting! Whether you want to draft for competition or pleasure, we invite you to check it out.
Many people’s first reaction to thinking about competing in agility with a Bernese Mountain Dog is that the two don’t mix. The immediate images that come to mind when thinking about the word “agile” and the physical traits of a Berner (e.g., sturdy bone, full body, deep and capacious chest) is that they don’t seem to line up. However, the Bernese breed standard also does say, “agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which he was used.”
While the AKC views the sport of agility as being open to every breed of dog, not every dog is suitable for agility work. This applies to Bernese. Berners can do agility successfully, although there is little denying that upper- level titles are very difficult for the largest boned Berners to achieve. Most Berners, in fact, turn out to be very good at agility. Their intelligence, confidence, and willingness to please are traits that are important to successful agility training. Many of the handlers showing Berners in agility are surprised at the speed and agility that their own dogs ultimately prove to have. Part of the allure of agility is that faster dogs normally take a longer path between obstacles. This creates a more even playing field between various breeds than people think. This is especially true as the levels get higher and the courses get tighter, for the time differences between breeds tend to get smaller.
All dogs need to have good manners! This is especially true for a large breed dog, such as the Bernese. A well-trained dog is a better pet, much easier to live with, more pleasant to take places, and more likely to be a welcome guest. As more legislation is passed in this country to control dogs and their ownership, it is imperative that our dogs be trained. The main reason we have a dog is for companionship. Bernese need a job to do.
Obedience training helps the owner to gain control, teach manners, create a very special bond, prevent boredom, help satisfy his/her Berner’s need to be with and please his owner, as well as gives the dog a task to accomplish. Obedience training can become an enjoyable sport for both owner and Berner, whether the goal is having a well-behaved pet or earning titles.