Bernese Mountain Dog
Breed Group: Working
Temperament and Behavior
The Bernese Mountain Dog, or Berner as he is sometimes called, like his Greater Swiss Mountain Dog cousin, makes an excellent family dog with few caveats. Well socialized dogs love family and strangers alike. Their gentle nature gives them an exceptional tolerance for children of any age. Happy to take part in family activities, they love to play with youngsters, especially pulling them in a cart or sled, they’ll go for a hike, or curl up at your feet. But Berners are truly are “people” dogs. Deprive them of human contact and they develop bad habits. Males can exert dominance in adolescence but most get along with any other animal from cats to rabbits. Some feel females are more likely to become attached to one person. Berners are fairly easy keepers for a large dog. Inside, they are low key; outside they are as active as an average dog. They need a bit more than an average amount of exercise, but not so much as to make their needs difficult to meet, especially for an active family. They bark a little more than average but that makes them an above average watchdog. They make an average guard dog; just their size alone can discourage a potential intruder.
Physical CharacteristicsThe Bernese Mountain Dog is a large dog. Males usually range in height from 25 to 28 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 120 pounds. Females are about 2 inches shorter and 15 or 20 pounds lighter, although some dogs are larger. They have a thick, medium-length, tri-color coat that needs brushing twice a week; more often during their twice yearly heavy seasonal shed. Otherwise, they tend to mat, especially behind the ears and around their neck. Their coat protects them well from cold weather. In fact, they can be kenneled outside year round in temperate to cold climates. But with their heavy mostly black coats, they do poorly in heat and should be protected from it.
Trainer's NotesBernese Mountain Dogs require a moderate amount of socialization mainly to reduce their most common personality problem, skittishness, rather than letting it grow into shyness. This can be with strangers, with people in general, or with people in a certain group, men with beards for example. They respond very well to obedience training as long as the trainer remembers that, even though large, he is a sweet dog that needs to be handled with praise, encouragement, and treats. Reasonably bright, they bore with repetitious drills. Break up their routines with mini play sessions. They do well with first-time dog owners.
Bernese Mountain Dog
HealthAlmost 30% of Bernese Mountain Dogs have Elbow Dysplasia with just over half that many suffering from Hip Dysplasia. OCD and Cancer are also significant concerns, with histiocytosis (which occurs most frequently in the Bernese Mountain Dog and is responsible for about 25% of their tumors) together with mast cell tumors being the most frequently seen cancers. Their lifespan is typically 8 to 10 years.
PopularityThey are currently ranked 47th in popularity by the American Kennel Club with about 3,500 dogs registered a year. But this only tells part of the story. The Bernese Mountain Dog has recently become popular enough to lure people who care more about making money than the quality of the puppies they produce into breeding them. Care is needed when choosing a pup.
Breed HistoryThe Bernese Mountain Dog is the best known of the group of dogs known as the “Swiss mountain dogs”. One can only take the best guess as to the early history of the breed. Some experts believe their basis lays in crosses between local flock-guarding dogs and Roman Mastiffs made when the Romans invaded Switzerland. But late in the second half of the 19th century, the breed was close to extinction. It was at this time Professor Albert Heim found the dogs, whose range had shrunk to the area around the lower Alps. Through Heim’s efforts, this breed was re-established throughout Switzerland and Europe. The first Bernese Mountain Dogs came to America in 1926 with official American Kennel Club recognition coming in 1937.
Additional InformationFrançois Mitterrand, David Carradine, Goldie Hawn, and Robert Redford are all notable people who have owned Bernese Mountain Dogs. The National (US) Breed Club is The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America.