Bernese Mountain Dog

For families seeking a large dog and an affable, affectionate companion, the Bernese Mountain Dog may be the perfect pet. This dog, hailing from the Bern, Switzerland region, is known for its friendly personality. People are quick to notice the big dog with the striking tri-color coat and expressive, gentle temperament.

Once used to pull carts full of goods and to watch after family and livestock, Berners share traits with many working dogs. They enjoy an active lifestyle and a job and excel in obedience, tracking, and herding competitions. There are even canine carting competitions, which of course suit the breed perfectly. Though they do require exercise for both mental and physical health and are active dogs, they are not intensely high-energy. Their general nature is quite calm and with the proper amount of activity, they can be quiet companions, especially indoors. They live happily alongside other pets and children and provide a good balance between watchfulness, playmate, and calm pet. When training a Berner, restraint is important. They are sensitive dogs and their gentle nature should be nurtured with equally gentle training methods. Keep in mind that Berners have long coats, shed, and will require some amount of grooming. Berners will bring dog hair into your life along with their kind companionship and gentle affection.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Bernese Mountain Dog breed is also commonly known by the names Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog ,Berner Sennen.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 7 - 8 years

Breed group: Working Dogs (AKC), Working Dogs (KC)

Size: Extra large

Male Female
Height 25 - 28 in 23 - 26 in
Weight 84 - 119 lbs 73 - 99 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Black, White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Very heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Medium

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Average

Intelligence / Trainability: High

Exercise needs: Average

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: Very high

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Very sensitive

Good for novice owners: Not really

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: High

Barking: Frequent

General health: Poor

Cost to keep: High

History

Bernese Mountain Dogs are descended from Molosser dogs, an ancient breed that is the foundation for many mastiff-type dogs, including the Berner. Berner history can be traced back to the four Swiss Sennenhund breeds: Appenzeller Sennenhund, Entlebucher Sennenhund, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Berner Sennenhund. They were developed as crosses between farm dogs from the Swiss Alps and the Molosser dogs that the Romans brought with them when they invaded the Alps in the first century B.C. They were important parts of early Swiss farming, used for pulling carts, watching over the livestock, and providing companionship.

By 1888, Swiss agriculture was shrinking and there was little need for the sturdy mountain dogs like the Berner. In 1899, however, the Swiss became interested in preserving their native breeds and founded a dog club called Berna. Members included breeders of a variety of purebred dogs.

In 1936, two British breeders began importing Berners, and the first litter of Berner pups was born in England. Also in 1936, the Glen Shadow kennel in Louisiana imported a female and a male Berner from Switzerland. By early 1937, the AKC had accepted Berners into the Working Class. In 1968, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was founded with few members but grew quite quickly.

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America became a member club of the AKC in 1981. In 1990, the AKC adopted its current Bernese Mountain Dog standard.

Appearance

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking dog. They are sturdy, balanced, intelligent, and agile.
Typical characteristics are:


  • A broad, medium-sized head with a gentle, animated expression, medium-sized ears, and dark brown eyes.

  • A sturdy, well-balanced body. Females are decidedly more feminine in appearance.

  • Their bushy tail is carried low.

  • The coat thick, moderately long and slightly wavy or straight.

  • Colors: Tri-colored. The base color is jet black. The markings are rich rust and clear white.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent and willing to learn, but training requires patience. Berners are slow to mature, both physically and mentally, so 'puppyhood' lasts longer than in other breeds. In addition, they can be quite sensitive and do not respond well to harsh corrections - they will have hurt feelings. These dogs require a steady, consistent hand and an understanding trainer. Because of these traits, a Bernese Mountian Dog may not be appropriate for a first-time owner.

As with all intelligent breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Because they were originally bred as herding/working dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs require a fair amount of exercise. 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise twice per day is enough to keep your Berner healthy and happy. They also enjoy mental stimulation like games and activities. Despite being high-energy and requiring exercise, they are not generally excitable.

Berners are slow to mature physically. Because of this, they are susceptible to certain bone disorders. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.

Independence

Berners are affectionate dogs who become attached to their human family members. They are happiest if they can spend all of their time alongside their family. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own.

Protective

Bernese Mountain Dogs are friendly and outgoing towards both new people and animals. They are not particularly protective.

Living Conditions

Because of their large size and exercise requirements, Berners do not adapt well to apartment living. They do best with a large space to run, play, and explore. They will need a secure fence if off-leash.

Children and Other Pets

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally good with children, but because they are large dogs, care should be taken with small kids. They could lean on and push children, which could result in knocking over a toddler or child. Socialization and proper training are important for any dog. Special consideration should be taken with young children (under the age of 6):


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

Berners are generally good with other animals and pets. Special care should be taken when introducing a new puppy to your other pets. It needs to be done slowly and very careful to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that it is a calm, positive experience for the puppy.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is between 7 - 8 years. Like all breeds, the Bernese Mountain Dog is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Bernese Mountain Dog is prone to these diseases:
  • Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD) (hereditary)
  • Elbow Dysplasia (hereditary)
  • Panosteitis (hereditary)
  • Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) (hereditary)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»

Grooming

Berners are fairly high maintenance when it comes to grooming. They shed moderately all year and heavily in the spring and fall. Brushing several times a week helps reduce the amount of hair around the house and keeps the coat clean and tangle-free. They don’t really need a bath too often, once every one to three months should suffice. When you bathe them, make sure to use a dog-specific shampoo that maintains the skin's natural PH balance.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Some dogs wear their nails down on their own with exercise, but many do not. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Feeding

Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, active dogs, but require a moderate diet. 3-5 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Berners are prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).

Related Breeds