We chose to bring a Bernedoodle home because they are loveable, friendly, and goofy. Thanks to their poodle parent, they are also very smart. However, just because a dog is intelligent does not mean that it is easy to train. In fact, Bernedoodles might be too smart for their own good as they can be quite stubborn.
That said, they are certainly trainable. The key is the same as for any dog: repetition and consistency.
The Five Basic Commands to Teach Your Bernedoodle
While there is an endless number of commands you can teach your Bernedoodle, it is crucial to establish the basic five as soon as possible:
- Come when called
- Loose-leash walking
These commands are essential because, in an emergency such as a car speeding down the road straight at your pooch, they could save their life.
To start off on the right foot (and paw!) with your pup, he’ll need to know what you expect from him. This will make him feel secure in his ability to meet the goals laid out for him going forward.
Read This Before You Start Training Your Bernedoodle
There are many different training styles, but we, like most professional trainers, strongly recommend positive reinforcement. This involves encouraging behavior you want to see instead of punishing the behavior you do not want to see.
Unless you correct a dog within one to two seconds of a behavior you do not like, they will not know what they are being punished for or why you are yelling at them. This leads to confusion about what you want from them. Focusing on training them what you do want is more fun for you and your pooch.
You Can Use Any Reinforcement Your Dog Likes
We train our Bernedoodle using either her kibble or, for new tricks, high-value treats we know she loves, such as freeze-dried liver. You can reinforce them with lots of praise, pets, and cuddles. You can tell your Bernedoodle that they are a good dog in an excited voice. However, generally speaking, dogs are very food-motivated, which is the easiest way to get them excited about the training process.
You Can Start Training Immediately
If your Bernedoodle was old enough to come home, then they are old enough to train. Generally, you can start training them at about eight weeks old. At first, keep your training sessions short so that they do not get bored or distracted. We recommend five to ten minutes. End them on a positive note by going through something your dog already knows and giving them plenty of praise.
How to Teach a Bernedoodle to Come When Called
Begin this training in a quiet, indoor area where your Bernedoodle is not going to be distracted. Sit down with your puppy and say their name. Every time you say their name give them a treat and praise. They do not have to do anything at this stage – you are simply associating their name with getting rewarded.
Next, put a treat near you on the floor. When your Bernedoodle finishes it, say their name again and when your pooch looks up at you, give them another treat. Do this a few times and then start moving the treat further away so that they have to turn around when you call their name.
Now toss a treat on the floor and step away quickly while calling their name. Your Bernedoodle should run after you – and they should find it fun! Make sure that when they catch you, you are giving them praise, treats, and other positive reinforcements. The key to all Bernedoodle training is to make sure it is fun. If your pooch gets discouraged or anxious, stop for the day and start again tomorrow.
You can continue building on the above steps until they come to you from a further and further distance, then start trying in other locations. Never call your dog in order to punish them, as this will teach them that you are unpredictable and make them unsure if they will be praised or punished when they come to you. Even if your dog is up to no good, they should be rewarded if they come to you when called.
How to Teach a Bernedoodle Loose-Leash Walking
Unless you are training your Bernedoodle for competition, the goal with loose-leash walking is to teach them to walk with you without pulling. You should be able to hold the leash loosely without worrying that they will tug on it.
First, you need to decide what word you will use to indicate to your dog that they need to walk more politely. You can use “forward,” “heel,” “let’s go,” or whatever you would like. The key is that you are consistent every time. You should also be consistent about which side of you they walk on. Otherwise, you will be dealing with a zig-zagging dog.
Before you take your Bernedoodle on a walk, make sure they are comfortable with a leash. Try just putting their leash on them and then giving them a treat. Once they are okay with the leash going on, stand next to them with the leash in a loose loop. Give your pooch a few treats for standing or sitting next to the leg you want them to learn to walk next to.
Take a single step forward and give your Bernedoodle a treat when they catch up. Keep giving them treats near your knee or hip (depending on your dog’s height) as you continue walking. If your dog runs ahead of you, turn in the opposite direction, call them, and then reward them when they get in place.
As your dog begins to learn that they will get a treat for walking politely next to you, gradually lengthen the amount of time between treats. Eventually, your dog will look forward to walking next to you when on their leash. Just give them lots of time to sniff around and enjoy themselves, but when their time is up, give them the cue you decided on in a happy voice and reward them when they start walking with you.
How to Teach a Bernedoodle to Sit
We had great success teaching our Bernedoodle to sit by using the luring technique. We started by getting down in front of her with a treat. We put the treat right on her nose and slowly moved the treat directly upward. She naturally sat back as she lifted her head. The second her butt hit the ground, she got a treat.
We repeated this until she did it five times in a row without jumping for the treat. We then repeated the process but without food in our hands. Once she sat, she got a reward, but she no longer needed the visual cue of the treat to know what to do.
We only started using the word “sit” after she had the process down pat. Why? Because telling your dog what you want them to do before they know how to do it just confuses them. Imagine if someone was teaching you to run, but before they told you what to do, they just kept saying, “run!” You would eventually learn how to run based on their description, but at that point, the word would be meaningless because you had heard it in connection many times when you were not running.
While other techniques can help teach your Bernedoodle to sit, it is best to avoid trying to physically put your pup into a sitting position. Beyond confusing, it can upset some dogs. Worse, it is not effective.
How to Teach a Bernedoodle Down
If you have mastered the lure method for teaching “sit,” then teaching your Bernedoodle “down” will be a breeze. When they are in a sit position, hold the treat in front of their nose and slowly bring it down to the floor. When your dog’s elbows touch the ground, give them a treat.
As you did with luring, after the dog gets the command with a treat, do it with an empty hand and then treat the dog when they lie down. Once again, once your dog reliably goes down when you use the hand signal, then you can begin to say “down” while you are showing them to go down.
How to Teach a Bernedoodle to Stay
When you teach your Bernedoodle the “stay” command, they will stay sitting until you give them the command that they can get up. This is called the release word. Remember that staying in place is a duration behavior – you want to teach your dog to stay until you give them the release word such as “OK,” or “get up.”
To begin, stand with your puppy when they are in a sit command. Throw a treat on the floor and say the release word every time the puppy steps toward the treat. Do this a few times, then say the release word first and toss the treat after your pooch has started to move. This will eventually train the dog that your release cue means they should move their feet.
Once your dog knows their release cue and how to sit on command, put them in a sit. Face the dog and give it a treat. Wait a moment, give them another treat if they stay in a sit, and then use the release word. Keep doing this while gradually increasing the amount of time you wait before giving them a treat.
Do not worry when your dog gets up before you have given the release cue. This only means that they are not ready to sit for long. Just go back one step and move up to more time as they improve.
After your Bernedoodle knows how to stay in a sit, you will begin to add distance to the command. You will put them in a sit. Tell them, “stay,” and then step back one step. If the dog stays, step back up to them, give them a treat, and then use your release word.
Keep doing this and adding steps a little at a time. The goal in the beginning is to make sure it is easy enough that your dog can be successful. Practice in various ways, such as facing the dog, walking away, and others.
This is the basic command that can take the longest for your dog to learn. Do not become discouraged. Do not expect too much too soon. Remember that if your dog does not follow your commands, it is not because they are trying to be stubborn – they likely do not know what is expected of them yet. Keep with it, stay patient, and they will eventually learn what to do.
Training Your Bernedoodle for Sports or Competitions
Because Bernedoodles are not pure-bred dogs, they cannot compete in many dog competitions such as conformation. However, their playful nature and incredible intelligence make them perfect choices for many sports and specialty competitions.
You can try a few options to see which one works best for your dog. These do require extensive training that is well beyond the basic commands trained above. After looking over the basics of the options, we outline, if you find that you want more information, there are many resources that can help you train your Bernedoodle for sport or competition.
Bernedoodle Agility Training
Caning agility is a competitive dog sport that involves obstacle courses. You train your dog to jump, go through tunnels, and successfully navigate a course in a specific order. At each step of the course, the handler directs the dog on what to do.
For a Bernedoodle to be successful in this sport, they must have excellent communication with their handler. This is a good choice for a high-energy Bernedoodle who needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.
Bernedoodle Disc Dog Training
Flying discs, generally better known by the trademarked brand “Frisbee,” are used in disc dog competitions. This involves a handler throwing a disc a specific distance and direction and the dog catching it. Accuracy is required by the handler in their throws, and speed and agility are required by the dog, which earns points based on which of several zones the disc is caught in.
Lure Course Training for Bernedoodles
Lure coursing is essentially a fast-paced game of chase. While dogs were once trained to chase live animals such as rabbits and foxes, they are now trained to chase an artificial lure. In some cases, obstacles are involved, but the winner is always the dog that completes the catch in the least amount of time. This is a good choice for a Bernedoodle with a high prey drive.
Working Bernedoodles: How to Prepare a Bernedoodle to Be a Therapy Dog
Because they are a relatively new breed, Bernedoodles are not tried and tested working dogs in many capacities. For example, there are few examples of Bernedoodles being used for search and rescue. They do not make good guard dogs due to their generally easy-going temperament. That said, there is one job that Bernedoodles can excel at: therapy dogs.
A therapy dog can be of any breed, though some breeds are more likely to be good at the job. The following characteristics are necessary for a therapy dog:
- Openness to interaction with strangers at any time
- Lack of guarding behavior
- Never jumping or pawing at people
- No food or toy aggression
- Not sensitive to being roughly or clumsily petted
- Walks on leash without pulling
- Calm and docile disposition in all situations
- Ability to tolerate strange sights and smells
- Not startled by unsteady or sudden movements
Bernedoodles often naturally exhibit many of the above characteristics and can generally be taught others. While they are not eligible to be tested as a therapy dog until they are one year old, you can get started training them much earlier.
Everything a Bernedoodle Therapy Dog Needs to Be Trained For
To be an officially licensed therapy dog, a Bernedoodle needs to pass ten assessments. These are the skills you will need to train them for:
- Supervised separation for short periods with no anxiety.
- Walking through crowds without reacting negatively or becoming distracted.
- Sitting quietly and patiently around other canines.
- Following basic behavioral commands.
- Easily allowing others to check their ears and feet.
- Walking on a loose leash.
- Remaining calm when approached by a stranger.
- Sitting quietly and calmly while a stranger pets it.
- Focusing on a single task with distractions around.
- Responding immediately to vocal commands.
Depending on the particular program in which you want to get your dog certified, there might be other requirements, but you should count on definitely needing to pass the above ten criteria.