Bernese Mountain Dog
- Dog suitable for owners with some experience
- Some training required
- Enjoys gentle walks
- Enjoys walking an hour a day
- Giant dog
- Heavy drool
- Requires grooming daily
- Non Hypoallergenic breed
- Quiet dog
- Guard dog. Barks and alerts
- Great with other pets
- Great family dog
Bernese Mountain Dog Key Facts:
Lifespan: 6 – 10 years
Weight: 40 – 44kg
Height: 58 – 70cm
Colours: The Bernese Mountain dog is always tricoloured with a jet-black coat, 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.
Kennel Club Group: Working
Exercise needs: 3/5
Easy to train: 4/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 3/5
Energy level: 4/5
Grooming needs: 4/5
History and Origins
The origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog can be traced back 2,000 years when the Romans invaded Switzerland with their cattle drovers and guard dogs. The Roman mastiff-type dogs were probably crossed with the region’s flock-guarding dogs who were of a size and coat-type to withstand the severe weather in the Alps, and which also served to soften their temperaments. These dogs worked for hundreds of years in this area - often being referred to as the Farmer’s Dog, the Butcher’s Dog or even the Cheesery Dog as along with being flock guards, they were used as cart-pullers to transport goods to markets, as most villagers were too poor to own horses.
It took until the latter half of the 19th century for the breed to become of interest to breeders and canine enthusiasts who then worked to standardise and protect the breed - with varying degrees of success. The first breed club in England wasn’t set up until 1971.
Bernese Mountain dogs are good-natured pets 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 are social and need to be with people and given affection. They will generally 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 live with them happily.
The Bernese Mountain Dog will suit a home-loving owner who has space for this gentle giant, likes grooming and enjoys an affectionate but not particularly active companion and doesn’t mind some canine drool.
Health and Common Issues
The health issue of most concern to the Bernese Mountain dog breed are the certain types of particularly aggressive cancers that they are 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), therefore hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is 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.
A large country estate will do nicely! These are giant dogs who take up a lot of room and whose tails are on coffee-table height. While they don’t need a lot of exercise, they do enjoy being able to wander around outdoors so a good-sized garden will be appreciated.
Nutrition and Feeding
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.
Grooming Bernese Mountain Dogs
Daily grooming is recommended to keep the Bernese Mountain dog tangle-free and to reduce the amount of shedding. The hair between the pads should be trimmed regularly.
Training Bernese Mountain Dogs
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a fairly easy-going dog who while a giant, doesn’t need too much training to ensure they are easy to live with. Any large breed however needs some basic training in order to be a safe and reliable member of canine society, so they should be taught all the basics including walking on a lead and a reliable recall.
Best Family Dog Breeds
The Bernese Mountain Dog makes an ideal family dog as they love everyone. They may just be too big for smaller children and as they aren’t very portable, they’re not good for families who are always out and about as they doesn’t like being left alone.
While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.
Did You Know?
- One of their previous jobs was as a farmer’s hand as many of the local farmers couldn’t afford horses, so they would use their strong dogs to pull carts of produce to market
- Their name refers to where they were bred: ‘Bern Canton’ – a region in central Switzerland
- Bernese Mountain Dogs are extremely strong and can pull up to 10 times their own weight
- They possess goofball personalities and can be a bit slower to mature than other dogs, so they retain their puppylike attitudes well into adulthood
- Interestingly, many owners of the Bernese Mountain Dog claim that they can understand laughter and when they do something that makes their owner laugh, they’ll likely repeat it!