National Service Dog Month on September, 2023: Bernese Mountain Dogs?
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September, 2023 is National Service Dog Month 2023. TX Service Dog Registry. Emotional Support & Service Dogs. World Largest Service Dog Registry.
I own 5 Bernese Mtn Dogs... I was at the Bernese Mtn Dog National Specialty in Oregon last month where I was able to meet and see hundreds more.
My first experience with a Bernese was training one as a Mobility Assistance Service Dog for someone else. That culminated my 2 year search for a dog to train as a Mobility Assistance Service Dog for myself. I liked the steadyness and the work ethic combined with their relatively sedentary (once they get past puppy) demeanor when they are not working. That was nearly 7 years ago and I'd been been talking to Bernese breeders for about 2 years prior to that. My oldest Bernese is nearly 6. What I did not expect was to fall in love with the breed as my primary breed (37 years of ownership) is Samoyeds - who have a very different outlook on life.
Things unexpected that I learned about Bernese:
They shed - As a Samoyed breeder I figured I had that covered. I was wrong. They shed CONSTANTLY (the Sams don't and only do it seasonally) and then... they blow coat. Black hair on floors looks yucky. White fur on floors is kinda cottony fluff.
They don't drool - Breeders told me that didn't - but I didn't believe them because everyone else said they did. They don't. I can honestly say my WORST drooler is a Sam who only sometimes drools if there is food. My Berners just don't drool.
They are heat intolerant in the extreme. - Samoyeds = heavy coat- take care with heat. Bernese = BLACK heavy coat - take care when it gets sunny out (sunny and 60 degrees = overheating) or gets warm OR humid. I carry a spray bottle of water around with me if my dog is working and it is sunny - whatever the temperature.
Bernese are FAST! - Seriously. You wouldn't think they could move that much mass that quickly but they do. However they do not corner well so watch out for your knees.
Bernese like to be close to you - Usually on your feet. *I* found this trait VERY helpful in teaching my dogs to block my knees when I'm having issues. However, its not as fun when its warm out.
Bernese like to play dumb - "huh? no, I don't get what you want" when its simply a matter of "I don't want to do that so I'm going to pretend I don't understand" as you open the door and tell them to go outside.
Bernese have a sense of humor - goosing. ALL of mine have learned not to do it to me (ok, lil miss monica still does it occassionally to get my attention) but they will do it to other people. One of the biggest hurdles we've had with training Lou as a Service Dog is his propensity when in a crowd to find a girl in a skirt and lift it with his big cold wet nose. He likes the reaction... smiles and wags his tail while doing a happy dance with his feet.
Digging - Samoyeds dig holes. Bernese dig trenches. If I needed some serious excavating done I'd simply move a dog pen to the area and insert a Bernese.
Food consumption - as pups they are bottomless pits. They have to grow 100 lbs or so in less than a year. As adults they don't eat anywhere near what you'd expect for a dog of this size.
So it sounds like a lot of strange negative traits on top of the awful health issues (which you can try to get around by buying from a responsible breeder).
The good points:
Loyal. They love THEIR people. They have to be well socialized to like any other people - otherwise they look upon them with distrust - basic farm dog temperament.
Watch dog. They love THEIR people - and will bark like the gates of hell have opened if someone new approaches the property. Fearsome sounding and menacing. However, they are most likely to simply watch someone rob your house.
Adoration. They believe you are god. Scowl at them and they believe God is angry. Leave them for 5 minutes and come back and they believe God has returned - then they use their tail to sweep off the coffee table (we don't HAVE a coffee table anymore because the idiot humans couldn't learn not to put spillables on it).
Overall, they are pretty easy to live with - provided you do a lot of training with them when they are young.
Edit: I show my Bernese as well as working them. I've been showing Samoyeds for over 20 years. I've also been training people to train their dogs for over 10 years... I like to think I have a relatively unbiased opinion on the breed. As with any breed they have their pros and cons. For my uses and purposes their pros work for me and their cons I can work around (except maybe the goosing thing ... LOL).
Harrassed by neighbor over my approved service dog, need legal advice?
First, psychiatric service dogs ARE service dogs - not emotional support animals - and ARE covered under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). There is no legal registry required by federal law that makes one a "real" service dog. And small "lap dogs" can be service dogs, regardless of some peoples prejudice against them.
And first, before you read further, make sure it IS a service dog. Most therapists, mental health professionals and Dr's don't have a clue what the qualifications are to have a service dog. A doctors note can't get you a SD if you're unqualified. So first, lets review the law:
Service dog (SD): You must be disabled to have one. Must be specifically trained to perform a task, that the handler cannot perform themselves, that mitigates their disability. Is permitted to accompany the handler into no pets businesses, facilities and generally anywhere the public can go.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA): You must be disabled to have one. Does NOT have to be specifically trained to perform any task. Provides comfort, companionship and support through it's mere presence. Is not afforded public access. Only given special consideration in no pets housing and flying in cabin in a plane.
Disabled is by ADA standards - NOT your Dr's opinion. The disability must substantially effect a major life activity in every day life. For Psychiatric service dogs, the psychiatric disability would have to be very severe to make daily living a struggle, even with medication. According to the ADA and NIMH (National Institute of Metal Health:
"It is not enough to have a mental illness to qualify as a person with a disability under the ADA. According to the NIMH, 26.2% of adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in any given year, but only 6% are severely mentally ill. So more than three quarters of those with a diagnosed mental illness are not disabled by that illness and would not qualify to use a service animal even if they would benefit from one."
Service dogs and ESA's must behave and cannot be a nuisance. They cannot bark excessively. Service dogs are supposed to accompany their handler wherever they go, so barking while left alone isn't usually an issue. For ESA's it can be and needs to be immediately corrected. Obviously they can walk - if she can hear a 7lb dog through the ceiling, that just says how shoddy the construction is. Saying that, it seems like the neighbor wanted a dog, got turned down and is now Pissed you got one and is hell bent on making sure you can't have one either.
ESA or Service Dog, the management already approved it's presence there. It's their responsibility to explain to your neighbor that you have a right to have the dog.
Although I'm not a lawyer, I investigate fake service dogs and file charges against people who have them, and this is what I would do.
A: Set up a webcam camera on your computer and record your dog while your gone. Watch the tape later and see if it's actually barking. If it's not, save the files for future proof if the courts get involved. If it does, do whatever is necessary to stop the behavior. Citronella bark collars work and they make shock collars for small dogs.
B: Send a registered letter to the apartment manager and owner, stating your neighbor is unjustifiably harassing you. State you have a federal right to have your service dog and it was approved by them in advance. Inform them that you have proof that the dog isn't barking. State that you feel the neighbor is jealous that you have a dog and instead of just agreeing with her, they need to back up your federal right to have the dog. Let them know that the harassment is aggravating your disability. State that if it doesn't stop IMMEDIATELY you will be forced to file an injunction against harassment against her - something you do not want to do. Tell them you will also file a discrimination complaint with the housing authority and the Attorney General's office against then if it doesn't stop IMMEDIATELY.
C. If it doesn't stop IMMEDIATELY, file an injunction against harassment against the neighbor. Demand the police arrest her if she breaks it.
E. Start writing down every and all problems you have with the neighbor, even if they're not serous enough to have broken the injunction against harassment. Send it by registered letter to the management every two weeks. Tell them it's just to inform them of the harassment you are receiving.
F. Just in case things don't improve, start looking for a new apartment. In the end, it may be better for your mental health to just move.
How do I verify a diabetic service dog?
A CGC certificate is a good thing to have, but it isn't near enough to make a dog a service dog. It typically takes about 8 weeks to go through a CGC course, but 18 to 24 months to complete all that a service dog needs to know. So it's a bit difference.
Remember that a CGC test or course only covers the things a pet dog needs to know to get along in the world of man. A service dog needs to know much more than a pet. For example, a CGC dog has to hold a stay for 15 minutes, but a service dog needs to be able to hold it for at least 4 hours. A CGC dog has to walk nicely on a loose leash, but a service dog has to heel properly. A CGC dog has to be polite meeting new people, but a service dog has to ignore people even when they call to him or offer him food. There's no restriction on a CGC dog to eat things that fall under the table, but a service dog mustn't even consider it.
There is no formal test or certification program for service animals in the U.S., but there is a legal standard.
If you want to make your dog a service dog, first you have to qualify as disabled. There are many people with diabetes that are not disabled by that diabetes. In fact most people with diabetes are not disabled by it. So you'd want to have some medical documentation in your records that you are not only diabetic, but that testing doesn't work for you because of the type of diabetes you have. Some people are that brittle, but most are not.
Then you have to train the dog to do something that you cannot do because of your disability. You should be prepared to prove the dog is able to do what you say. There's a group in my state that claims to train diabetic alert dogs and they are being sued by our state's attorney general because several of their dogs were tested and didn't alert reliably or at all.
You should keep a training journal that outlines all the training you do. What classes you take, what exercises you work on each day during training, what he learns, what needs practice, how you'll change the next session based on what happened with the last one, etc.
Here's a listing of the basic skills all service dog should share, from the Delta Society's National Service Dog Center, to give you an idea of the scope of things your dog will need to learn.
Then you spend a minimum of six months and 120 hours on public access training (and that really is a minimum).