Strikingly aristocratic, Bernese Mountain dogs are one of the most attractive of the Swiss working dogs. Their coats are soft and silky with a thick under-lay, and are always jet black with a white muzzle and blaze, white chest, white paws and white tail tips. A rich chestnut or tan colour separates the black and white on the legs and cheeks. They are strong, sturdy dogs, with adult females standing at between 58 to 66cm and males at 64 to 70cm. Both sexes weigh between 40 to 44kg.
The Bernese Mountain dog breed (or 'Berner') breed can be traced back 2,000 years when the Romans invaded Switzerland, then known as Helvetia, with their cattle drovers and guard dogs. The Roman mastiff-type dogs were probably crossed with flock-guarding dogs who could withstand the severe weather in the Alps and also served to soften their temperaments. Berner Sennenhunds where then used as cart-pullers to transport woven goods or dairy products from village to village.
Bernese Mountain dogs are good-natured dogs who love to be included in all aspects of family life, making wonderful companions. They are affectionate, patient and especially good with children, protecting them if necessary. They need to be with people and be given affection. They will bark to advise the arrival of visitors but will soon settle down again. Provided they have been introduced to cats and other household animals when young, they will always accept them.
The health issue of most concern to the Bernese Mountain dog breed are certain types of particularly aggressive cancers that they are particularly prone to, and as such they often have a short life-span. As with many large breeds, they can also suffer hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.
As puppies, exercise should be restricted to allow the bones and joints to form properly. After they are a year old, they can be allowed off the lead for free-running exercise. As adults, the Bernese Mountain Dog needs about an hour's daily exercise.
Giant-breed dogs, as well as having giant appetites, benefit from a different balance of minerals and vitamins, supporting different joint and cartilage needs. The Bernese is also prone to bloating and stomach problems; try feeding smaller, more frequent meals to help minimise the risk.
Daily grooming is recommended to keep the Bernese Mountain breed tangle-free and to reduce the amount of shedding. The hair between the pads should be trimmed regularly.