The First Eight Weeks – The Life and Times of Bouncing, Biting, Baby Berners
By Mary-Ann Bowman, Ph.D.
The puppies' incredible growth continues into the sixth week, and it is in this week that one can begin to see some of the puppies' structure, although a good evaluation of structure needs to wait until at least next week. Temperament is also becoming more and more apparent during this week, as the breeder can observe how the puppies are interacting with each other, people and their environment.
Fig. 9: Playing with Toys
A puppy's personality does not just arrive – it evolves (see Fig. 9: Playing with Toys). And so the wild puppy of today is tomorrow's sweetheart, and vice versa. A good breeder will be looking at the puppy over time. Although s/he does not have a crystal ball, the breeder is still the best one to make decisions about which puppy will fit best in which home; selecting a puppy based on an hour or two with them is like thinking you know Paris from a few photographs. Puppies now play a lot with their mom and they spare her nothing! Watching mothers and puppies has taught me that mothers RARELY get upset with a puppy – and if they do, they simply get up and walk away. Tolerance – not dominance – is what you see in a mother with her puppies, and this is true even when they get bigger.
Fig. 10: Pulling Hair
Puppies at this age are so playful! They scamper off with toys, happily being chased by siblings. They wrestle, bark, play tug and, in all ways, are just very cute, fluffy, miniature Bernese Mountain Dogs (well, unless they are not Bernese Mountain Dogs!). It is a good thing they are so darn cute, because they are now seriously dangerous. Puppies in the sixth week have better mouth-eye coordination and can now grab hair or other dangling parts, clothing, etc. (see Fig. 10: Pulling Hair). They bite hard and often, and so their incredible cuteness – like babies of all species – is a form of protection for them!
Puppies in the sixth week can be 100% accurate in their potty area if the breeder has made that effort. In a recent litter, we used a fleece as a potty area and the rest of the puppy pen was bare floor. The puppies never soiled on the bare floor, and reliably went to the potty zone to do their business. This makes having cute fleece beds a bit problematic, but the puppies were easily housetrained when they went to their new homes!