but I heard this breed makes a great family pet …

Here comes a bounding blur of a fur ball. Running right at me, apparently not even looking for obstacles to avoid, like knee caps. Tongue flying, legs trying to keep up with the momentum, and I just can’t help but smile. As my friend Cat B. says, and I have quoted her so often over the years, when a dog is playing, their whole body smiles!

This particular fur ball was a sixteen week old Bernese Mountain Dog. Her owners weren’t smiling, in fact they were on the verge of tears, and their stress was palpable. They had been told that BMD’s make great family pets, so on that recommendation alone, without further research into dog ownership, they got a puppy. A puppy for their three young children and busy household.

Any time there is a write up on a breed, whether it’s in a breed book, a dog magazine or on a breeders website, it acts the same as a dating service. They touch on what the adult mature dog should be like, and try to promote the positive attributes.

Tri color with thick luscious coat. Built for work but enjoys laying around the house on hot summer days. Easy going and social, with a sense of humor. Weighing in between 75-100 pounds, not giant but substantial and eye catching. Enjoys walks, romps with friends, dog sports and farm work. Great family dog.

What these write ups forget to mention is the puppy thru adolescent thru young adult stages. And the very real fact that once you get a puppy, that is supposed to be a great family dog, it takes roughly 3-4+ years to reach maturity. As Sheldon would say, BAZINGA!

When this particular family asked me if there was something wrong with their puppy, I said no, I would snatch her up in a heart beat. This puppy was so cute, charming, and appropriate for her age. She was social but not in your face, playful with playmates, good balance, had nice settle, not too mouthy just puppy stuff, and wanted to engage and work (yay!). Lovely on all levels, but not a mature dog, she was a puppy! And puppies make puppy choices, which aren’t always wise or well thought out.

Pre schoolers and puppies are just about the same on the wise choice scale. If you wouldn’t leave a pre schooler in charge of your home while you go shopping for the day, chances are you shouldn’t do it with a puppy either.

The problem, and where the source of the stress was coming from, is that this family was never prepared for the first 3-4 years of this dogs life. They some how were expecting the adult description of this breed to apply to a young puppy, and had not considered the enormous amount of time, structure, and management a puppy takes.

To all of our potential puppy homes I share our puppy tips first, just to make sure they are aware of the work ahead of them, if they want to grow a well balanced family dog.

This is not uncommon at all, this happens all of the time, literally all of the time, no matter what the breed of puppy is. Well meaning families, trying to make a good choice, but didn’t quite get all of the information. Working with a trainer before getting a puppy is, in my opinion, a good thing. I’ve found that it can take a great deal of the stress away, and helps with having a support system.

So, here is to the bounding little fur balls, may your families understand this important stage in your life, and rise to the occasion. Growing a puppy takes time, patience, guidance, and love.

Nancy

11 thoughts on “but I heard this breed makes a great family pet …

  1. When we lived in Mammoth, the house behind us owned 3 BMD and 1 black lab. The owners tied them during the day to a cable so they could run back and forth in the yard. One day, I took my two Bichon’s out for a walk, we were half way down the road away from the neighbors yard, when we heard a big BONG! Bamm, the dogs finally snapped the cable and they were lopping towards us. The male Bichon jumped up in my arms, the female took off running. The BMD and Lab passed me in hot pursuit of my little Katie girl, she looked back and decided to turn and face them. She quickly started running under and inbetween their legs, they were bumping heads and completely confused looking for the small 10 lb rat under them. She darted out the side and down to the pool. She was agile and ran right on the edge of the pool…..ha…..the BMD followed, not even thinking and landed in the pool………and SUNK to the bottom. When I looked into the water, their eyes were huge, crying out HELP ME. The manager and I grabbed the safety poles and scooped them towards the shallow end of the pool to safety. These stupid dogs got out of the water and grabbed the steaks that were on the BBQ and kept on running. Unleashed and FREE to roam!

  2. What a great movie clip the above story would make. I’m still chuckling.
    I love the photo of the child holding the brown & white puppy . That pup looks just like Sam did a few months ago, my husband’s now 7 month old Aussie. You are so accurate to compare puppies to toddlers! I have been trying to talk Bill into taking a class from you. He did take the 1st puppy class at Petsmart so Sam did get the very basics but needs so very much more. I will always be grateful for all you taught Heidi & me and look forward to future classes. Also am anxious to see your new digs! The photos look great!

  3. Hey Nancy, Maybe coming on a Mon. night walk could be an easy way for Bill to start. Do we need to sign up in advance or may we just show up tonight @ 11th & College?

  4. Makes perfect sense to me. The same actually applies to rescues. When someone acquires a puppy they need to realize that the puppy doesn’t *know* anything, yet.

    The same applies to rescues. I quip, “If someone gave me a rescue that was housebroken, didn’t chew and had good dog manners, I’d fall over in a dead faint.” I always assume that any new dog hasn’t learned much, yet. Puppies, even more so.

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