Whilst dogs have been bred away from being predators like their wolf ancestors, most of them still retain the instinctive ability and want to hunt – due to breeding, the prey drive manifests in many different ways in different dog breeds. Prey drive includes a few different behaviours including searching, stalking, chasing, biting to grab or biting to kill. Obviously not all dogs have such a strong prey drive, but it’s good to be aware of the specific behaviours as all dogs are individuals and temperaments can vary.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are very confident, but gentle dogs by nature and although it is common for them to be using as working dogs in herding, they do not have a high prey drive. However, this does not mean that when something may catch their attention that they won’t chase it because, well, they likely would. They are very sociable and playful dogs that much prefer to get on with other animals that they come across. It is very well-known that these loving dogs adore playing and entertaining their owners. They absolutely thrive off being in a home environment and are known for their ‘gentle giant’ character especially when it comes to children.
As long as you socialise your pup from a young age in many different settings, with other animals and people, this will help them in growing into a well-balanced and sociable dog. Due to the Bernese Mountain Dog being very sensitive by nature, early socialisation helps them to become a more confident dog. They are a very intelligent dog and are always eager to please making them pretty easy to train, but the training needs to start early in puppyhood because it can be very difficult to handle such a large adult dog.
Understanding a dog’s natural instincts helps you, as an owner, to be able to better understand your dogs’ behaviours and to find the best ways to train them.
Berners, like I have already mentioned, are known for being devoted to their family and are very sociable dogs when socialised well making them a great family pet as they love to spend time with their owners. Being a people-orientated dog with a high pack drive means that they are easy to train due to them being very eager to please their owner and enjoy all the attention they get given during training. As always, you should be aware of the difference between a dog playing and a dog pushing the boundaries to see how far they can go, specifically with a breed of such a large size like the impressive Berner.
These impressive dogs need to be well stimulated both physically and mentally in order for them to be well-balanced dogs and to prevent them from developing destructive or unwanted behaviours. They are a breed that was bred to work in the fields herding for long hours each day and boredom needs to be prevented. Even though they were first bred to work, they are actually very relaxed characters meaning that you may just need to take them for shorter walks more often than one big, long walk.
When looking into the prey drive of a dog it’s important to understand what this really is in comparison to what is perceived as aggression.
It’s important to understand the difference between prey drive and aggression as they can very easily look like they are one in the same. A dog’s aggression is driven by very strong emotions like fear whereas their prey drive is instinctive. Aggressive dogs will want to increase the distance between themselves and the object of their aggression, but a dog’s prey drive will draw them closer to the target. So why does this really matter? Well – as a dog’s prey drive is not driven by emotions, it is most often easier to manage than emotion-based aggression.
An extremely strong prey drive can be particularly problematic if you dog wants to chase absolutely anything that it sees – going for walks could become a nightmare for you as an owner. So, they need to be properly trained and corrected in order to prevent your dog from ignoring your every call. Most of a dog’s prey drive behaviours are harmless, but can cause problems for you as an owner, being unable to go for a walk with your canine companion and to be constantly worrying that they are going to take off.
It’s super important to look into the specifics of a dog breed before bringing them into your home to make sure that you and your pup will be a good match. Plus, it’s good to be aware of the different behaviours that your breed of interest may show more than another breed would.