Everything You Need to Know About the Bernese Mountain Dog

Posted by TF Oren

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The Bernese Mountain Dog is a gentle giant. Frequently a great family dog, this breed is very friendly and is eager to please. A great addition to an active household, this breed needs about 30 minutes of exercise a day and is always excited for a new adventure.

One of four varieties of Swiss mountain dogs, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a smart, hardy dog that was originally bred to work on alpine farms in a variety of capacities, including watchdog, herder, and draft animal.

Bernese Mountain Dog History

Ancestors of the Bernese Mountain Dog were brought to Europe upwards of two thousand years ago by Roman invaders. However, the breed, as we know it today, originated in the early 1900s in the Canton (state) of Bern, Switzerland.

The Bernese Mountain Dog first arrived in the United States in 1926, and was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937. It has since become a favorite among dog owners thanks to its easygoing personality, family suitability, and love of all things outdoors. Today it is America's 31st most popular dog breed.

Breed Characteristics

Nicknamed "Berners" by enthusiasts, Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their good-natured, mellow temperaments. They generally make wonderful family dogs, and with proper socialization, do well with strangers and other pets. While they get along well with everyone, it's not uncommon for a Berner to become especially attached to one human companion.

True to their lineage, Berners are fundamentally outdoor dogs, but do fine in household settings provided they receive enough daily exercise; the American Kennel Club recommends a minimum of 30 minutes.

They did originate as farm dogs! So remember that the Berner is more of a working dog than many of the AKC breeds you're considering.

Potential Health Issues

Many first-time pet owners should also be aware of the health issues before bringing home a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. These issues include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, as well as other orthopedic problems. Eye diseases or defects that can affect the Berner are progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, entropion, and ectropion. Berners can develop a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease.

Gastric Torsion or Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a condition this breed is prone too so it's a good idea to talk with the breeder or breed rescue group about this condition when doing research on health problems that can occur.

Caring for the Bernese Mountain Dog

Vetstreet.com tells us how to care for their silky coats,

"Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick, moderately long double coat that can be straight or slightly wavy. It shouldn't come as a surprise that this coat sheds heavily, but frequent brushing will help to keep loose hair under control. The best tools for grooming a Berner's coat are a stainless steel pin brush, a slicker brush, and a stainless steel comb with fine and coarse teeth." So don't be intimidated by their thick coats!

The Bernese Mountain dog is eager to please and learns quickly. Berners benefit greatly from positive training methods and basic socialization and obedience training beginning between 4-6 months of age. In short, for an owner who is willing to put in the time, a Bernese Mountain Dog will make an outstanding addition to any active household.

Whether you contact a Bernese Mountain Dog breed group, breed club or AKC breeder, you should also talk to them about the average lifespan, expected activity level, and energy level they should expect.

Hover over the image for more information.

General Appearance

This is a solid, well-built dog that is both sturdy and agile, making it well adapted to the outdoor, farm life for which it was bred.  Males stand 25-27.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 80-120 pounds, while females stand 23-26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 75-100 pounds. Males and females have distinctly masculine and feminine appearances, respectively.

Coat

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a tri-colored coat of black, rust, and white, or black, tan, and white, and is the only variety of Swiss mountain dog with a long, silky coat. The coat is either straight or slightly wavy.

Body

The Bernese has a strong, medium-length neck and level topline. Despite its square appearance, the breed is slightly longer than it is tall. The back is broad and sturdy. It is a deep-chested dog with flat, muscular shoulders and well-muscled thighs. The tail is bushy and carried low.

Head

The eyes are dark brown and oval-shaped. Ears are medium-sized and triangular with slightly rounded tips, set high on the head, which is broad and flat on top. The Bernese Mountain Dog has a straight muzzle with a black nose and a dry mouth. The expression is alert but gentle.

Temperament

The Bernese Mountain Dog is strong and alert, with a docile, good-natured temperament, but can be reserved around strangers.

Health

The average lifespan of a Bernese Mountain dog is 7-8 years. The breed is prone to cancer, bloat, and musculoskeletal issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia. As with any pet, proper veterinary care, regular exercise, and a quality diet are crucial to maintaining good health.

Do you have a Bernese Mountain Dog? Show us in the comments below!

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Everything You Need to Know About the Bernese Mountain Dog