That’s composed of atoms… I think I’ll eat it!

All puppies are oral creatures. If it moves… if it looks interesting… if it’s molecular in structure… they will put it in their mouth. This is true of Berner puppies x10, and while it’s cute and funny, it’s also a real cause of concern for a new puppy owner.

Shortly after we brought Sherman home we met the owner of a young Bernedoodle. We agreed to get the two together for a play date in a week or so, after they returned from an out of town family visit. Only a few days later I received a shocking private message on Instagram. While the family was gone, their sister was caring for the puppy. The pup had found (and eaten) an unknown quantity of epilepsy pills. The puppy was not taken in for emergency care, and he passed away during the night.

You just don’t know until you’ve had adequate time to observe your dog whether you have a “swallower” on your hands. Again, nearly every puppy is going to have that oral fixation… I suppose there are always exceptions. But within the scope of oral normalcy there are chewers/spitters, swallowers, gulpers, and shredders. I may be missing some categories. But it does take some time and careful supervision to figure out what you have.

I have two chewer/spitters right now, though last month my sweet little Zuzu quietly removed and swallowed a rabbit fur ball (the size of a golf ball) off my winter boots. Still, both Sherman and Zuzu tend to chew only things that are given to them, cardboard boxes being their favorites, and then spit them out. Sherman has never destroyed an inappropriate item (he’s taken down a few dog toys) and Zuzu has only totaled one high heel. Even outdoors, there’s very little consumption of things they find in the grass. Except poop. Poop is, apparently, the filet mignon of the dog kingdom.

Why don’t my dog’s shred or gulp? I’m not sure, though I have been careful to put and keep them on a routine, if I can hearken back to my favorite dog behaviorists, the monks of New Skete. The monks explain in their book “Let Dogs Be Dogs” that dogs crave structure and routine. You and I may despise what we call the boredom of routine, but dogs thrive on it. In fact, the lack of routine can cause dogs to experience anxiety, and guess what anxiety leads to? You’ve got it… destructiveness.

So I think some of our success has come from the fact that we work from home. We feed breakfast every day at 7, dinner every day at 5. Immediately after breakfast the dogs get an hour of chew time, followed by an adventure/walk/hike. They sleep the rest of the day followed by one more play time/walk at the end of the day. When they come off this routine… well, that varies by dog, and perhaps by age.

Zuzu is fine with coming off her routine. She loves being outdoors, doesn’t mind the cold, and doesn’t really hate being separated from her humans for a few hours. We are hoping to show her, and these are all qualities that will serve her well in the show world. Sherman, on the other hand, is our extrovert. He hates hates hates being separated from his family and is anxious when he’s asked to spend time in an unfamiliar place unless I’m right by his side. He’s a therapy dog… the perfect job for an extrovert who wants to be with his person all the time.

That oral fixation though… it doesn’t go away. It may be about teething when they are young, but it’s a real need for older dogs as well. I’m not going to lie, chewing hour is a nice relief for me every day because they are busy and quiet. I can get things done. But it’s also an important element in the routine that keeps our dogs relaxed. We use a lot of bully sticks and raw meaty bones to facilitate clean teeth. They also enjoy Nylabones. And shoes, dang it.

Sherm Box
Sherman can’t resist a good box.
Zuzu petals
Zuzu’s petals! She ate these, so we had to do some quick research. No worries…. gulp!
The bully stick has long been a Sherman favorite!
A plastic bag… a meaty bone. It’s all the same to Zuzu. Fortunately, she’s a chewer/spitter!

Published by: When Life Goes to the Dogs

It was my youngest daughter who introduced me to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That first boy, Hero, set in motion all kinds of crazy love. And now, at the end of the day, I often find myself asking... what do these dogs have that is so special? I'm raising three Berners now, navigating the world of social media for dogs, holistic health and raw feeding. Sherman has become a therapy dog; Zuzu may soon follow in his footsteps. Madi, as I like to say, is still cooking. I guess we all need something to put our hands to that makes us feel like we've made a difference in this world. Believe it or not, these dogs help me do just that.

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