Is the Bergamasco the right breed?
Bergamascos need daily exercise and to be challenged mentally. A Bergamasco is part of the family and will want to be with you. This is not the dog to place in the backyard to occasionally play with. They must be part of the family. The family of a Bergamasco must have the time and energy to commit to companionship, grooming, training, socialization, and exercise both physical and mental.
They are a herding dog and they need to have a job. Bergamascos lived closely with their shepherds and flock. They consider themselves equals with their family. Bergamascos are independent thinkers. They are very intelligent and have been making their own decisions in their natural environment. The Bergamasco is obedient if and when they choose. You must give them a good reason or motivation to perform a task. They can be successful in many sports including obedience. You must have patience and learn to work with your dog when training or they can shut down and nothing will be accomplished. You cannot be a total push over or they will take full advantage. Firm but gentle training works best. Do not try to force or intimidate them into doing a task. Mutual respect is required. Discover what motivates them to work on your time. Use positive reinforcement. I have one that will sell his soul for even a stale biscuit.
Bergamascos do bark! They bark to communicate and/or to warn you something is not right such as a stranger nearby, a falling leaf, UPS truck, school bus, etc. They have protective instinct especially for their home.
Do you have the time and ability for grooming: bathing & drying, coat care, nail trims, debris removal? The coat may be somewhat less time consuming than another long haired breed but still requires work grooming and regular maintenance after the flocks form. Bergamascos can also form undesirable mats that need to be removed especially on the head region. Bathing is not that difficult. You would bathe the same as any other dog making sure the coat is completely rinsed. The hard part is ringing out the flocks on a mature coat and drying. The coat must be dried properly so it does not get a sour musty smell. Just like leaving clothes in the wash machine overnight. The coat does not naturally have an odor. It is not considered fur but hair. The hair in the ears can become matted and if not taken care of can become infected as well as between the pads and sanitary areas.
If you think none of these characteristics would be challenging for you and your family then this may be the breed for you. Bergamascos are full of personality. They are loyal and adore their families. They bring such joy into your life.
Failure to socialize a puppy can allow their natural reserve to become fear. A fearful puppy can become phobic or aggressive. Exposure to as much as possible during the first year including training classes is extremely important. They must be comfortable visiting friends, going out to parks and stores, riding in a vehicle, attending classes, walking down the sidewalk, playing at the beach, etc. Any situation you want to have your Bergamasco in as an adult must be done as a puppy. If you plan to groom your dog such as brushing, bathing, drying you must start this right away. Do NOT put off socialization, believing you can do it later. Later will be too late!
Socialization has to be completed both inside and outside of your home. Dogs have different reactions in new places then they would at their home. Everyone loves puppies! Have people visit and take your puppy for visits and adventures. Have friends and family play and take your puppy for walks without you. Great places to visit with your puppy are ball games, farmer’s markets, farm stores, etc. Have people interact with your puppy at these places.
Socialization must be ongoing until at least 2 years of age and really throughout life. Socialization can also help in controlling dominant behavior. The Bergamasco will learn to look to his family for instruction in new places and respect their judgment.
Classes combine important socializing opportunities with training. While you can train your dog at home to sit, down, stay, and come, will they do it in new places with an audience? Will they know that in public, they have to trust your judgment? Will they accept other dogs in close quarters, without aggression or fear? Classes teach and expose you and your dog to all these conditions. Training in the home, even with a trainer, won't provide valuable experience and situations that a class can provide.
Look for classes that are reward based. Bergamascos work well with a combination of praise, rewards, and gentle corrections if needed. Your puppy may be clingy with you at first. This is normal and they will adapt with a little time. Bergamascos can be reserved with strangers.