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Bernese Mountain Dog – Everything You Need to Know

Bernese Mountain Dogs, popularly known as Berner, is a highly versatile working breed from the farmlands of Switzerland. They are the only ones with long hair among the four types of Swiss Mountain Dogs. Berners were developed to pull carts, herd cattle, and be ideal watchdogs and loyal companions. They are large and sturdy with a calm and friendly disposition. These breeds can make for loving and faithful companions and are good around children of all ages and other pets. Berner is relatively energetic and playful but not exhausting, and he can be an excellent guard dog but not aggressive. They are imposing but not threatening, and they keep an aloof dignity with outsiders.

Berner is not suitable for people who live in apartments or those who don’t have a large, fenced backyard to roam and play in. They need to live with their human family rather than be relegated to an outdoor kennel. They’re also well-suited to obedience, tracking, herding, conformation, and carting competitions.

Berners often have a short life span despite their beauty and ideal temperament. In addition, the breed has a small gene pool, which has resulted in countless health difficulties related to inbreeding. Unfortunately, as studies find out about this crisis, many canines with health problems are being bred with little or no regard for the breed’s effect as a whole. Therefore, those considering a Bernese Mountain Dog must be very careful not to support irresponsible breeding practices.

Bernese Mountain Dog Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Excellent family petsHeavy shedder
Energetic but not exhaustingSome slobber and drool a lot
Loyal and devotedRelatively short life span due to hereditary disorders

Bernese Mountain Dog Basic Information

  • Name: Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Origin: Switzerland
  • Group: Working dog
  • Size: Large
  • Height: 25 – 27.5 inches (male); 23 – 26 inches (female)
  • Weight: 80 – 115 pounds (male); 70 – 95 pounds (female)
  • Coat: Thick, medium-length double coat
  • Color: Black, rust, tan, and white or black, and white
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Walking, tracking, hiking, playing fetch, companion dogs, conformation, obedience, herding, watchdogs, guard dog, and carting competitions.
  • Barking Level: Medium
  • Shedding Level: Medium
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 1-10 puppies
  • Other Names: Berner Sennenhund, Berner
  • Original Pastime: Hunting, tracking scents
  • Life Span: 7 – 10 years

History of Bernese Mountain Dog

We can trace the foundation stock for the Bernese Mountain Dogs back to 2000 years when the Romans invaded Switzerland, formerly known as Helvetia, being used as guard dogs and cattle drovers. The well-known of the Sennehunde, or Swiss Mountain Dogs, the Berner is characterized by being the only one to have a silky, long coat. The other three varieties are the Entlebucher mountain dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain dog, and the Appenzeller Mountain dog. Experts believe this breed’s history outlined the Roman invasion of Switzerland when the Roman mastiffs were crossed with native flock-guarding canines. This cross produced a strong dog that could withstand the Alpine weather and serve as a draft dog, drover, herder, flock guard, and general farm dog. The Berners were then used as cart-pullers to transport villages’ dairy products or woven goods. 

Despite their utility, attempts were made to consciously perpetuate them as a breed. By the late 1800s, these breeds were in threat of being lost. Fortunately, a professor named Albert Heim initiated an analysis of Swiss dogs directed to identifying the Bernese Mountain Dog as one of the existent types. With the help of Dr. Heim’s efforts, Berners was promoted throughout Switzerland and Europe. They changed the name to Bernese Mountain Dog, with the breed widespread.

  • The first Bernese Mountain Dog came to America in 1926.
  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1937.

Bernese Mountain Dog Highlights

  • The Bernese is one of the four varieties of Swiss Mountain Dogs; the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, the Appenzeller Mountain Dog, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
  • The Bernese are known in their native land as Berner Sennenhund.
  • They get bored when left alone for extended times and engage in activities like howling, digging, and trying to escape.
  • Berners have various health issues due to their small genetic foundation and possibly due to other reasons yet undiscovered. Bernese Mountain Dog’s life span is comparatively short, about six to eight years, though, in recent years, the life expectancy has gone up to about ten years. This may be due to more reliable breeding and regard for genetic conditions.
  • Berners shed profusely, mainly in the spring and fall seasons. If shedding affects you crazy, this may not be the suitable breed for you.
  • Although they are very gentle with kids, Berners occasionally and accidentally can knock over a small child or toddler.
  • To get a healthy Berner dog, avoid buying a puppy from an unreliable breeder, pet store, or puppy mill.

Bernese Mountain Dog Personality

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large-sized, strong, agile, and hardy dog, enough to do the driving and draft work they used in the mountainous regions of their origin. Male Berner Dog stands 25 to 28 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 80 to 115 pounds, whereas females stand 23 to 26 inches tall and weigh 70 to 95 pounds. Though appearing square in shape, they are slightly longer than tall with a welcoming spirit, tricolored long and silky coat, expressive dark brown eyes, and come in various colors, including black, rust, tan, white, and white or black.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh
Family-friendlyHigh
Kid-friendlyHigh
Dog-friendlyMedium
Stranger-friendlyMedium 

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingLow
Good for new ownersLow
Sensitivity levelMedium – high
Tolerates being aloneLow 
Cold toleranceHigh
Heat toleranceLow

Bernese Mountain Dog Physical Features

Head: The head is relatively complete, long, and broad. Though appearing square in shape, they are slightly longer than tall with a welcoming spirit and expressive dark brown eyes.

Neck: The neck is muscular, strong, and medium length. 

Topline: The topline is firm and level with a deep and muscular chest.

Body: The body is compact or medium. The chest is profound and broad; the shoulders are muscular and not heavy; the ribs are flat. 

Tail: The tail is bushy and resembles an erected sickle, active and curled forward.

Forequarters: The shoulders are moderately flat-lying, laid back, strong and straight legs, and well-muscled. 

Hindquarters: The thighs are strong, muscular, and broad. The stifles are relatively tapered and bent smoothly into the hocks. 

Feet: Feet are firm and compact and turn neither in nor out. 

Coat: They have a thick (moderately long, slightly wavy or straight), medium-length double coat.

Color: Berner is tri-colored with white and rust markings. Rust appears over both eyes, cheeks, chest, on all four legs, and under the tail. Additionally, there is a muzzle band and white blaze. 

Gait: The natural working gait is a slow trot, but the stride seems even and effortless with a leveled back with no wasted action. The rear and front legs get closer on each side to form a straight line toward a centerline beneath the body.

Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament

Berners can be excellent family dogs with proper training and early socialization. In addition, they are generally good with children and other pets. They typically do not exhibit aggression and are gentle and even-tempered dogs. However, they may become protective if they feel the situation warrants it. 

Berner is an ancient dog with fearless traits, highly enthusiastic dispositions, and appreciable bravery. If you buy them, ensure you have sufficient time and energy to keep them engaged. They are people-pleasing breeds with a tad of stubborn traits that can change with proper, firm, and continuous training. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Training

You are raising a strong breed, so it’s best to seek advice and take responsibility from a professional trainer if you struggle during training Berner dogs. We highly recommend positive training techniques for guarding pups like Berner. However, punishment-based activity can result in aggressive or fearful reactions and make them more viable to bite without alert. The pet parent should train Bernese dogs slowly with one command at a time. They will also require an ample backyard to run, roam, and expend energy. Therefore, positive reinforcement such as rewards and praises are highly advised in training Bernese Mountain Dogs. Check these effective ways in which you can effectively train your Berner dog:  

  • Employ the clicker training technique  
  • Train indoors without distractions  
  • Leash training  
  • Crate training  
  • Potty training   
  • Housebreaking  
  • Obedience training  
  • Firm and Consistent Training  
  • Positive Training Method   

Trainability Overview

Easy to trainMedium to high
IntelligenceMedium to high
Prey driveHigh
Mouthiness tendenciesHigh
Barking and Howling tendenciesMedium to high
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium

Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise Needs

Bernese Mountain Dogs are active and energetic breeds who need the vigorous exercise of at least 30 minutes daily; split into three times keeps Berner a sturdy dog in top condition. Walking two times a day with ample space to run and play keeps them healthy and happy. In addition, Berners participate and excel in other dog sports, including herding, obedience, agility, rally, and tracking.

You can meet your Berner’s daily exercise needs by:    

  • Fetching   
  • Chasing   
  • Playing with puzzle toys   
  • Playing tug of war   
  • Schutzhund   
  • Frisbee   
  • Herding trials   
  • Flyball   
  • Agility training   
  • Hiking   
  • Dog park   

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelMedium to high
Exercise needsMedium
IntensityMedium
PlayfulnessMedium to high

Bernese Mountain Dog Grooming

Bernese Mountain Dog has a dense double coat, a longer outer coat, and a wooly undercoat. They shed moderately every year and heavily during fall and spring. It will help if you brush their coat once or twice a week to reduce the amount of hair around the house and maintain their coat tangle-free and clean. Every three months or so, periodic bathing will keep their neat appearance. 

Brush their teeth weekly, twice, or thrice to remove tartar buildup and prevent gum disease and bad breath. Trim their nails monthly once to prevent painful tears, and you should check their ears weekly for redness or odor that can indicate an infection. Finally, many Berner dogs drool very little, but those with loose jaws can drool quite a bit. So, if you own a drooler, keep a cleanup cloth on hand to control the drool from embedding in their fur.

Grooming Overview

Easy to groomMedium
Drooling tendenciesMedium to high 
Amount of sheddingMedium to high

Bernese Mountain Dog Health

Berners have relatively short life spans compared to many other dog breeds, which is something to consider before deciding to bring one home. Also, like many purebreds, the Berner dog is inclined to some hereditary disorders. So, it’s essential to schedule routine health check-ups and visits to the vet.

Health Overview

General healthLow to medium
Weight gain tendenciesMedium to high
SizeLarge

Bloat: Dogs with narrow and deep chests are more prone to develop this potentially deadly disease.  

Causes:  

  • Exercise vigorously after eating 
  • Eating rapidly   
  • Drink large volumes of water after eating  
  • If they are fed more than one large meal every day  

Symptoms:  

  • Restlessness  
  • Depression  
  • Lethargy  
  • Weakness  
  • Excessive salivation  
  • Retching without vomit  
  • A distended abdomen  

Elbow Dysplasia: A progressive condition in Berners causing developmental elbow malformation. Puppies with this condition exhibit pain and forelimb lameness. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: PRA is a degenerative eye condition that causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eyes. It can be detected earlier. A very later stage is blindness. Canines with this disease can survive for several years since they have other senses to compensate.

Cancer: This fatal condition can be healed by surgical removal of tumors and chemotherapy.  

Joint Dysplasia: A structural disorder in the elbow joints due to cartilage damage, inflammation, or disrupted anconeal is Elbow dysplasia.  

Hip dysplasia: A hereditary disorder in which the thighbone fails to fit into the hip joint. One or both their legs may become lame or painful. X-ray is the best way to diagnose the problem. It is not advisable to breed dogs with hip dysplasia.

Causes:  

  • Wrong exercises  
  • Excessive weight gain  
  • Injuries  

Symptoms:  

  • Reluctance to rise, jump, run or climb  
  • Enlarging shoulders  
  • Pain  
  • Stiffness  
  • Reduced activity and movements  
  • Reducing thigh muscle mass  
  • Grating in the joint during movement  
  • Lameness in the hind limbs  

Von Willebrand’s disease: A genetic blood dysfunction clashes with its clot capability. The main symptom is severe bleeding after surgery or injury.

Bernese Mountain Dog Diet and Nutrition

Active breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs require high-quality dog food and the right amount of nourishment. Hence, you can feed them a well-balanced protein diet for proper growth and body maintenance. However, every dog’s diet depends on age, size, metabolism, and activity level. Berners love to eat and are inclined to obesity. Also, nothing makes them more comfortable than a treat now and then. So, it would be better if you kept them healthy and in shape with the nourishing and right amount of meals and frequently provided them with clean and fresh water.

Bernese Mountain Dog Living condition

Berner dogs are not recommended for apartment life and are relatively inactive indoors. They will do best with a large, fenced backyard. Also, Berners are sensitive to the heat because of their thick coats and would much rather be in cold temperatures.

Did you know?

  • Berners are powerful and can pull up to 10 times their weight, or nearly 1,000 pounds.
  • Due to their small rust-color markings above the eyes, Berners are sometimes known as vieräugler (“four eyes”) canines.
  • Berner’s white-tipped tail enables them to track it through the woods while hunting.
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs have played roles on many big production screens, including Cats & Dogs, Shiloh, and John Wick.

Bernese Mountain Dog Recognition

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CCR = Canadian Canine Registry
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club
  • Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, Inc.

Adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to Your Family

The cost of a Bernese Mountain Dog ranges from $2000 to $3000, not including miscellaneous costs.

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