Breed Bernese Mountain Dog

BreedsAbout the Breed: Bernese Mountain Dog

This large, sturdy, dependable working dog will help you with farm chores during the day, and happily snuggle up to relax in the evening.

History

The Bernese Mountain Dog was bred in Bern, Switzerland—a vast agricultural region vital to dairy production. Berners were used for droving cattle, guarding farms, and serving as gentle companions. They are able to pull many times their own weight as drafting dogs, with their broad and muscular hindquarters.

The breed’s American history began in 1926, when a Kansas farmer imported a pair of Berners as all-around farm dogs.

Personality

This is a wonderful breed, but it is also a large dog with some serious health issues.

Though easy to get along with, Berners do require training in order to be a well-mannered adult. All require being an integral part of a loving, affectionate family that is willing to provide a fenced yard and go to training classes.

Most Bernese are turned over to rescue because they lack training and are out of control (including dogs who have become aggressive towards strangers), or because they are suffering from ill health.

We virtually never have dogs to place that are under 2 years old, and typically have only 2-4 dogs a year in need of re-homing.

Did we mention the hair?

Best with:

  • Devoted owners who will not be deceived by the Berner’s easygoing nature.
  • People who want a close and constant relationship with their dog—Berners are very dependent on their people.
  • People willing to provide early and consistent training, along with clear guidelines about acceptable behavior. Due to their sensitive nature and soft temperament, positive training methods are a must for this breed.
  • Homes with a securely fenced yard.

Not for:

  • People who have a problem with dog hair in EVERYTHING.
  • Petite, younger, or disabled people that could be damaged by a large, affectionate, leaning dog with big paws.
  • Homes with decorative accessories located at swishing-tail level.
  • People who like to throw balls and play fetch with their dogs: Berners don’t generally get the point of this game.
  • Families who want a dog for their children to grow up with: a Berner’s short life span makes this difficult.
  • People who expect their dog to participate in an active lifestyle—including running, hiking, etc.—Berners are too laid back for this much activity.
  • People who expect their dog to be outside–Berners are indoor dogs.
  • People unable to manage veterinary expenses for health issues.
  • People who don’t want to go to training classes.

Pros:

Very affectionate with their families. Want to be with them wherever they are. Not generally vocal. Like to train and work in reasonable amounts but also enjoy down time.

Cons:

Lots of hair! Very dependent on their people. Short life span. Serious health issues (bone problems and cancer at a young age are (common). The aloof nature of the breed can easily lead to aggression problems with strangers or over protectiveness of owners when dogs are not properly socialized and trained. These dogs generally do not think that every strange human is their friend.

They can be destructive when left at home without proper exercise.

They are a smart breed who will not be ignored.

Characteristics

Size:

Males: 24-27 inches, 90-110 pounds. Females 23-26 inches, 70-90 pounds.

Color:

Tricolor-black ground color with rust and white markings.

Energy Level:

Moderate to low.

Life expectancy:

On average, 7 to 9 years.

Children:

Good with children when trained and socialized well. Due to their size we generally will not place adult dogs in a home with young children unless the dog was raised and well introduced to children in their previous home. In addition, puppies are not recommended for families with children under six, due to the BMD’s size (around 40 lbs. by 4 months) and activity level (that madly wagging tail at face level hurts and can easily knock a toddler down).

Other animals:

Good with other animals when trained and socialized well.

Abilities:

Berners were bred as an all-purpose farm dog, so they do not specialize in any one task and do moderately well in different jobs.

Shedding/Grooming:

Bernese Mountain Dogs shed a lot. They not only “blow” their coats seasonally, the amount of hair left on a daily basis is still high—fine, soft and ‘fly away.’ Daily brushing is recommended, weekly brushing is a must. If you do not like hair in your food (and everywhere else), you should not own this breed.

Health:

Known inherited diseases include hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, immune-related illnesses, and PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy).