Truly thinking of giving up

Discussion in 'Bernese Mountain Dog Training Forum' started by Megscott73, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. Megscott73

    Megscott73 New Member

    So I am kind of reaching my wits end with this girl-I actually found myself browsing at shock collars and doggie boot camps online today. We had an in home trainer and did everything she said, but she is still not behaving (our trainer and our breeder used the term "very independent for a berner"). Heidi is 9 months old, about 90 lbs, strong as an ox, and thinks she's the alpha no matter what I do. She pulls so hard on her leash during walks that she pulled me down once (and I certainly can't ask anyone else to walk her when we go away in January). She doesn't come when called and counter surfs. When she wants attention (doesn't need to go out or need food or water) she will come over to us while we are sitting and insist on trying to climb into our lap and smacking us with her giant paws OR she will chew or "bug-check" (tiny little surface bites that really pinch) our feet, legs, shoes, hands, clothing, or whatever she can reach. When we tell her off, leave it, or no, she growls and barks at us and then goes right back to doing it. Or she will just stand there and bark and bark and bark until we yell at her and put her outside. She has also started annoying night time behavior : we can't let her sleep upstairs with us because she always poops on our bedroom carpet even though she never goes anywhere else in the house. When she's not tired, she will cry and eventually bark at the bottom of the stairs. I have checked to make sure she doesn't need to go out or need water. She only wants to play, but it's at around midnight!! She is not an aggressive dog (she doesn't try to hurt us) but she is definitely trying to challenge me as to who is boss and it seems she sometimes thinks I'm her chew toy. And let me add that this attention seeking behavior is CONSTANT Except when she is sleeping. I really don't know what to do.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
  2. FHesser

    FHesser New Member

    Don't know what to advise you. We also have a Heidi, 9 months old, and did have to use a shock collar on her to get her attention when she ran away and wouldn't come back when called. It took two different zaps at about a month apart to get her attention. Haven't had to use it since. Otherwise she has been very well behaved. I've heard you have to make sure you're the alpha with these dogs early on and we made sure we did. Every once in awhile when she was a little younger she got her time clock messed up and wanted to play when we were ready for bed. But now when we turn out the lights, she's ready to turn in. Good luck .
  3. 2berners

    2berners Guest

    First of all, I would start by getting rid of the notion of "dominance" being the issue in your situation. The dominance theory has been widely disproved in the science of canine behavior. Although there are still some trainers out there that believe in the dominance theory, in fact, dogs are not trying to take over the world or our homes. Having this "alpha" notion in our heads really affects the relationship that we have with our dog as everything revolves around some sort of perceived power struggle. What most people think is "dominance" is really just natural dog behavior combined with lack of training or consistency in training. So, instead of looking at your relationship as who is the "alpha", look at is as a relationship of cooperation - good things happen when your dog makes the right choice.

    As for pulling - not a dominance thing, rather its just a lack of manners (why wouldn't a dog want to pull - humans are slow and there are so many good things to see and smell). Your dog does not understand what she should be doing. I would suggest getting a no pull harness (there are several types and the leash clips on the front). This will give you some control until she learns what is expected. You need to reward (cookies, play) when your dog is walking nicely next to you. You also need to practice this around your home to start. If your dog won't walk nicely on a leashin the house or yard there is no way you can expect her to walk nice away from home (this is where the no pull harness comes in).
    As for the recalls - this is something that should be worked on every day. You need to make it rewarding to come to you. Start with saying her name and rewarding when she responds (looking at you gets a cookie). Gradually move to more exciting places like the yard - call only when you know she will repond or she will learn it is okay to ignore you. Keep her on a long line if needed - don't reel her in but keep her from moving away and then reward when she figured out that she should look at you/come to you. Be exciting - call her and play a game of tug. Call her and run away letting her chase you. Call her and the let her go play again. Recalls take a lot of work with some dogs so you need to make yourself more exciting than whatever is "out there ".

    As for the needy behavior - how much exercise and mental stimulation is she getting? Probably not enough of either. Mental stimulation is very important in this breed - they were bred to be working dogs and many need some sort of outlet for that. Feed her meals in a Kong or other food dispensing toy. Teach her tricks. Play scent games (hide her meals around the house and yard and let her search them out - start easy at first). She is begging for your attention most likely out of boredom - my guess is that she is a super smart dog and needs something more.
    At her age she probably need 1/2 - 1 hour of off leash running a day. Leash walks typically do not tire out young, active dogs. Doggie daycare is a great way to tire them out too.

    I recommend taking a positive reinforcement based obedience class. Bernese repond much better to positive reinforcement than they do to harsher methods (they tend to get headstrong quick when you try to force them to do anything). A R+ class will teach you how to make learning and training fun for your dog.

    Good luck.
  4. Megscott73

    Megscott73 New Member

    Thanks for the info. I felt terrible even looking at shock collars, but I found one that also has a beep and vibrate setting so I would only resort to an actual zap if absolutely necessary. Right now, she is asleep at my feet and so cute, but I know this means that she'll be raring to go at midnight. Ugh.
  5. Megscott73

    Megscott73 New Member

    2berners- thanks for taking the time to give me so much info. I will try all of the tips you gave. As far as the neediness, I think you're right that she's bored. I am a stay at home mom so I'm here all day and I'm so busy that I don't always have time to really play with her. We do have an acre of fully fenced yard for her to run around, but I think she needs more play. So I will keep that in mind and try to hold off on other methods. I just booked her a day at daycare on Friday, because she's always good when she comes home from that. I just feel like she's developing bad habits and want to stop it before it gets worse. And she's SOOO mouthy with her slobberiness all the time - I need to find a way to keep her from putting her mouth on any and all parts of me in her reach - it's infuriating! Lol
  6. 2berners

    2berners Guest

    Just remember that in time with consistent training, all this will pass :) If nighttime seems to be a big issue for you, I would work on a bit of training (a great time to teach tricks) right before bed time. If you spend 15 minutes doing some brain work with her at bedtime, she hopefully will be content to settle down for the night. I would save play for during the day, as don't want to get her riled up at bed time.
    When she is being mouthy, keep a toy handy and put that in her mouth. Or just walk away. She gets no attention for mouthing (even negative attention is still attention) - ignoring often helps this behaviour go away. Just be prepared for an extinction burst - this is when the behaviour gets worse when you start ignoring - she may try even harder to get your attention because it worked before - be patient and you will see results.

    Really look at getting a food dispensing toy (Buster cube, Kong Wobbler or the Bob-a-lot are favourites here) and feeding her meals out of these. It will take her longer to eat but she will enjoy the challenge of trying to get the food out. Anything you can do to engage her brain.

    You have a smart, young energetic girl and with time and patience, I'm sure she will grow up to be the perfect dog.
  7. mkheidel

    mkheidel New Member

    We're in the same boat... Our Berner boy is 7 months old, almost 80 lbs and tends to throw his weight around. Gives my wife whiplash if he decides to lunge on walks. We've started to make him run through his different obedience routines when he's getting crazy to help him focus... repeating "sit" "lie down" "sit" "lie down." That works pretty well. The feet/sock nibbling thing is a total pain... not really painful as much as it is annoying. I wish I knew more about what that behavior meant. Hopefully he'll grow out of it eventually? Let us know what works.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2013
  8. FHesser

    FHesser New Member

    Another puppy

    We got a lab puppy a couple of months ago to buddy up with Heidi, our now 10 month old thing we ever did for BOTH of them. They play together so much, they wear each other out and sleep well at night. Heidi, the Bernese, although spayed, really took on the motherly role and grew up overnight herself. She is now the patient parent. We started them both in obedience classes....Heidi is now working beautifully at heel, even when out in public mostly, and sits, lies down, comes and stays almost perfectly in class. I'm going to continue with her in obedience to finish her off. Sandy, the lab puppy is smarter, but much wilder in comparison. I was going to work with Heidi in search and rescue, but she doesn't seem that interested in tracking, so think I'll switch that training to the lab. Heidi just wants to be a pet and a love, and that's fine!
  9. BernerMax

    BernerMax New Member

    She sounds like a great dog actually, strong, playful could be hardworking with some one willing to work with her.
    Sounds like a lot of dog.

    SO.... my suggestions are.... training and excercise.
    (like the other OP suggested)

    And if you dont have the time and energy, invest in some one who can-- ie hire a Walker, invest in a good trainer to come work with you at your house...
    in my area there are alot of really good dog walkers (I walked my own dogs in the area for 16 years and can tell who has good control of their dog packs, who really gives the dogs a good walk experience, is positive, and well bonded with their dogs, who does refresher trainings with the dogs while on the walk etc....)... and a good dog walker can be a Godsend.

    And if this helps, she will get better - she is a teenager, our Berner was driving us nuts (the chewing jumping, testing the fence line, the barking)... and after his neuter and some maturation (it took til about 18 months) he really has settled down, now he is just a love...
  10. Happy Boy

    Happy Boy New Member

    Hi, I read your post a few days ago, but didn't have time to post a reply. Happy Boy is now 12 months old. He is not quite as big as your girl. He is about 80-85 pounds, but strong as an ox!

    Here is what we did, and still do, for some of those problems.

    1. Happy Boy wears a prong training collar during the day, not at night ( I know I will get some heat for this, but this is what we do.). We have cut a leash in half, so it is about 2.5 feet long. He wears his "good boy leash" attached to the collar - even in the house. He just simply drags it around. Since it is short, it doesn't really get in the way. We had the leash on for several months and thought he was doing okay and took it off. Big mistake! He took up the habit of counter surfing - big time! The leash went back on. When he started nosing the counter, he got a tug on the leash and a leave it command. Within two days, he stopped counter surfing. We are slowly putting our stuff back out on the counter!

    2. The trainer informs us, that we are acting as if it is our job to "please" Happy Boy. Our life was revolving around his needs. Happy Boy was not learning to live within our lifestyle - we were creating a new lifestyle to suit him!! Since Happy Boy is a working dog, he needs to "work" and "please" us. We give him "work" several times per day.

    3. Happy Boys work includes the following:

    Go with us to the mailbox every day to get the mail.

    Go on a walk every morning - 30 min.

    Bring in the trash cans with us.

    Go to the fast food drive up with us.

    Go get on his bed when told (Kong bed)- if he has at least some body part on it, it counts!.

    He plays "fetch" most afternoon - about 4-5 fetches either in the hallway or outside.

    We do recall/come every single day. (use a clicker/treat, if you need to.) If he does not come, I go get him. -try the treats, if you need to.

    "brain toys" - food dispensing toys usually once per week.

    TV time - At night he has to lay down while we watch TV. He can have toys or a bone. He knows what "TV time" means. We do this for at least 15-30 minutes each night, sometime longer. He goes to sleep in his crate at 9:30pm without any problem.

    Interestingly, he does well watching me clean the house, vacuum, etc. I have to keep an eye on him, but it tires us both out.

    3. Walking: I walk him nearly everyday in the morning for about 30 minutes. This tires him out for a good bit of the morning. We have been working on walking for about 7 months now. If Heidi pulls, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. It can be very frustrating, but after a while they learn they cannot go forward if they pull. Try to never reinforce the pulling forward. If I am too tired to correct poor walking, then I don't take Happy Boy that day. He now can walk nearly a mile at my side without pulling, if it is the usual route.

    4. If I am tired and out of patience, Happy Boy goes into his crate. Sometimes is is just overtired and needs a two hour nap!

    It will get better with time.

    Happy Boy's Mama
  11. cupidsrose

    cupidsrose New Member

    hello everybody

    hello everyone:)
  12. Nathan Lyke

    Nathan Lyke New Member

    If you really tired about to give up while giving training to your dog, it is better for you to leave all the tensions of your dog and you saw her to vatenary doctor to show her, if she is having any physical problem. One more idea I will give is you just buy another dog.
  13. Danielle

    Danielle New Member

    A tired dog is a well behaved dog. It sounds like your dog is desperate for attention and needs stimulation and exercise.

    Look for Off Leash parks close to you and take your dog out daily. Forest walks off-leash are also a good solution, but you can only let your dog off leash once you are 100% sure the dog will come back when called. Leash walks around the block, even if they are an hour long are not enough exercise for a large breed dog.

    Most Berners are very smart, teach her unique tricks and do regular obedience training regularly to keep her stimulated.

    Toys, bones, and feeding puzzles will help to keep your dog busy when you cant give her attention.

    Don't give up and don't use harsh training methods like shock collars, positive reinforcement works best!

Share This Page