Grooming your Bernese is important for both the physical and health benefits provided. This activity allows owner and dog to spend quality time together. A new puppy needs to be taught how to accept all aspects of grooming as a part of their early training. Grooming requires patience, gentle hands and lots of praise. Treats given are great as a positive reinforcement.
Grooming Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog
Show dogs are generally shown in fully coat with very little trimming. The ears and feet may be trimmed to keep them neat. However, a family pet may be clipped. It is possible that if you have your dog clipped the texture of the coat may change and become more difficult to manage.
What you need to do
The basic grooming procedure should provide care for the coat, ears, teeth and nails.
Ears : Make it a part of your grooming to check and clean your dog’s ears. You can use a damp cloth or a baby wipe to clean the outer ear. You should never poke anything smaller than you little finger into the dog’s ear, so cotton buds are out. It is important to keep the dog’s ears dry as moisture can quickly lead to problems. You can purchase ear cleaning products from the pet store or your vet. It is always a good idea to have a chat with your vet before putting solutions into the ear canal.
Nails: If you walk your dog on paved surfaces you will generally find that the nails stay nice and short. If you notice the nails growing you will need to clip them. You can use nail clippers on a puppy, but as the nails becomes hard you will need to use canine clippers or have the vet clip them. This is always made easier if you get your puppy used to having its feet touched and handled. The frequency of cutting will depend on the speed of growth. Near the base and inside the dog’s nail is tender, pink tissue called the quick. When a nail becomes long the quick will also be longer.
You need to be careful to avoid cutting the quick as it is painful and will result in bleeding. Once you get the nails to a better length you will find the quick will recede, although this may take a while. It is a good idea to keep the nails short so that this doesn’t happen. If you do cut the quick you can apply styptic powder or drawing the nail across a softened bar of soap. Some people use a grinder to trim the nails as it has the advantage of automatically cauterizing the quick if you grind too far. However, it is noisy and needs to be introduced carefully. Most important is the regular handling of the feet of your puppy.
Coat: Bernese have long coats; a long topcoat and an undercoat. The male will usually shed once a year, generally as it is getting warmer, whilst the female will shed twice a year before they are in season and also after a litter. The shedding is the change of the old coat for a new one. If the dog sheds its coat more than once or twice a year it may be caused by poor nutrition, too much grooming or bathing too often. It may also be a physical problem in which case you should seek veterinarian advice. Bernese shed a lot of coat but frequent brushing will help reduce the amount of dog hair on left on your floor.
To keep your dog’s coat healthy it needs to be brushed regularly. The brushing will assist in keeping the coat clean. Bathing will only be needed when your dog has an odour. Bathing too often is as bad as bathing too infrequently; both cause problems. Use a shampoo, which is formulated for dogs, and check that your dog doesn’t have a reaction to the shampoo. You will need to decide how you will have your dog bathed, but if you want to have the dog wash person come, ensure you are patient with your puppy for the first few times until they are comfortable with this situation. Most importantly, make it a fun event. You may put a dry tissue or cotton ball into the dog’s ear as it is being washed or keep the water away from the ears. Be sure the shampoo has been thoroughly rinsed out of the coat or you may find that the residue may irritate the skin causing hot spots, which turn into oozy, and irritating sores on the skin. This may also occur if you don’t thoroughly dry your dog.
If you find your dog has an unpleasant odour you may find some of these oozing sores. If you find your dog has a recurring skin problem you should discuss this issue with your vet.
Show dogs are dried with a forced-air dog dryer that blows the water out of the coat. They are different from the human hair drier which uses heat. If a human hair drier is used to dry a dog’s coat you could burn their skin. Once again, if you expect your puppy to be able to cope with a drier, you will need to introduce it gradually in a reassuring and patient manner.
Grooming tools used to brush the coat of your Bernese are a rake comb and a slicker brush.
There are numerous other tools, which may assist you in keeping the coat clean and attractive, and you should ask your puppy’s breeder for advice about what they use. Whatever you use should be introduced carefully. If it takes a long time to groom your puppy you should allow them to have a break. When selecting grooming tools it is important to make sure the length of the teeth are reaching through the coat. You will do no good if you only brush the surface of the fur. When brushing the coat, brush with the lie of the hair. Begin at the head, brush behind the ears where the fur is silky soft and prone to matt. Then brush the body of the dog. The under coat should be brushed carefully. The longer hairs on the front legs are better combed than brushed, but the long hairs on the hind legs need to brushed and combed carefully too as knots do easily occur in these places. Finally, the tail should be brushed. You may like to put a bit of conditioning spray in the tail to make this a more pleasurable experience.
Trimming the fur on the bottom of the foot can assist with traction on a slippery floor and also less dirt will be carried inside.This fur growing between the pads can be trimmed so that it is flush with the pads. You can also trim the fur so that the shape of the foot is neat. You may also like to trim the long streamers, which grow on the ears to give a neater appearance and accentuate the triangular shape of the ear. Just cut small amounts so that you don’t overdo the trimming.
Teeth: You should get your puppy used to the gentle rubbing of both teeth and gums. You can purchase dog tooth paste and tooth brushes. This is different to what humans use. It is important to keep teeth clean so you may begin to introduce bones into your puppy’s diet. The chewing of bones helps keep the teeth clean. Be careful what types of bones you give your puppy. It is a good idea to speak to your vet about what types of bones are safe for your dog.
Finally: It is important to touch your puppy whilst you are grooming as you will notice any sores, mats in their coat, lumps or sore spots on the dog’s body. This means you can treat problems early and prevent them becoming a major issue. If you find a lump, which wasn’t there before, your vet should check it. You will also find that your puppy will enjoy the massage and your blood pressure will be lowered.
We hope you and your dog will enjoy the grooming and that it will become part of your weekly routine.