Bernese Mountain Dog

One of the world’s most renowned family pets is the Bernese Mountain Dog. Find out everything you need to know about this breed below!

bernese mountain dog outside a house

Height: Male 25-27.5 inches, female 23-26 inches
Bernese Mountain Dog Weight: Male 36-52 kilos, female 32-43 kilos
Lifespan: 7-10 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the pros and cons of the Bernese Mountain Dog at a glance below:

Pros:

  • Ideal for first-time and senior owners
  • Drafting dog used to pull carts
  • Excellent family dog, very child-friendly
  • Ideal watchdog and service dog

Cons:

  • Prone to separation anxiety
  • High grooming needs, sheds heavily
  • Shorter lifespan compared with other breeds
  • Not suitable for apartment living

bernese mountain dog running on snow

Overview

The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the most well-known breeds across the world. The breed is a popular farm dog and is one of four Sennehunds (Swiss Mountain Dogs).

The list also includes the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and the Appenzeller Mountain Dog. The Berner is the most popular of the four.

Berner’s are prized for their gentle temperament and good nature. Their tri-coloured coat is black and white with tan markings.

Out of the Sennehund members, the Berner is the only one to have long fur. This unfortunately reduces their tolerance to hot weather.

This breed is prone to weight gain so food intake will need to be watched and exercise maintained. This breed will typically reach its adult weight and height by the age of 8-12 months.

Yet mentally, they take longer to mature. Expect puppy behaviour until the ages of 2-3 years old.

Unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a short lifespan.

In recent years, their expectancy has increased to a decade, but it isn’t common for them to live longer than this.

Prospective owners should also be aware of the health issues this breed faces. Cancers such as Malignant Histiocytosis and Lymphosarcoma are more predisposed to the Berner.

One of the reasons the Bernedoodle was developed, was to try and increase the lifespan of the BMD.

These canines are popular worldwide and have been a hit amongst celebrities. Some names include Hilary Duff, Courtney Cox, Mark Harmon, and Ben Roethlisberger.

They’ve also been featured in movies Gone to the Wind, Instant Family, and Good Boy.

bernese mountain dog standing on tree stump

History

Hailing from the Swiss Alps is the Bernese Mountain Dog. This breed gets its name from the Canton of Berne an area West of Switzerland, popular for agriculture.

It is believed they have been in existence over the last 2,000 years. Due to their rural working lives in the Swiss Alps, records haven’t been kept on the development of the BMD.

The Sennehund breeds are believed to have been created through local farming dogs and Ancient Roman Mastiffs.

The four breeds were used by different regions for different purposes. The Bernese Mountain Dog was used to pull carts, herd and protect livestock, and guard property.

However, by 1888 the number of farms reduced and so did breed numbers.

In 1899, efforts were made to preserve Swiss native dogs. The dog club Berna Members was established for breeders and by 1902 the Swiss Kennel Club officially recognized the breed.

After World War I the BMD was exported across the world. They arrived in Holland first, followed by the USA in 1926 and the UK in 1935.

Berners are deeply intelligent and their dedication to their owners has proved very real in the past.

In 2013, Bella dragged owner Chris Laroque from a house fire in Canada. Nico in 2015, saved two people from drowning in a rip current in California.

Oakley also saved his owner from a house fire in Vermont in 2014.

Today, this breed is still used as an active working dog, although they have become more popular as family companions.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are also paraded at dog shows and sporting events. Over the last ten years, the AKC has allowed the breed to participate in herding trials.

Personality

Gentle, loyal, devoted, affectionate, and loving, the Bernese Mountain Dog really is a pleasure to be around. Aggression is not linked to the Berner, a major reason for their popularity with families.

First-time owners are suited to this breed as long as they understand the commitment they will be making.

bernese mountain dog in the woods

If danger lurks, the Bernese Mountain Dog will instantly protect their family. This breed will only attack in the case of an emergency.

The term Gentle Giant perfectly suits this breed. They are sociable dogs that are typically happy and cheerful.

Given the correct training and socialization, the Berner will be a well-behaved and good-natured pet.

Recommended: The Weimaraner is a multi-purpose gun-dog originating from Germany in the 19th century.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good with Strangers?

Yes, this breed is described as placid when it comes to strangers. Socialized Berner’s are relatively confident and provided the stranger doesn’t pose a threat, they’ll be friendly.

Berner’s will instinctively bark at the knock of the door but should settle down rather quickly.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good with Children?

Yes, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a fantastic companion for children. The Bernese Mountain Dog size can be a worry when toddlers are round, but they will never intentionally harm a child.

The breed is docile and tolerant. The type to have a child climbing all over them whilst they lay there. They’re one of the most popular family dogs across the world.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Ok with Other Dogs?

Yes, this sociable canine gets along well with other dogs and animals. Despite their size, they won’t be dominant towards others, although the chances are higher for adolescent intact males.

They can live with other dogs, cats, and smaller animals but it is recommended they are introduced as early as possible.

Exercise

The BMD will need up to one hour of exercise each day. Sometimes they can be a little lazy in their older years but it’s important to get them out and about.

Especially since they’re prone to weight gain! Bernese Mountain Dog puppies could do with longer, but avoid damaging their growing joints through vigorous play. Especially between the ages of 2-8 months.

These canines love the great outdoors although they source huge comfort being home with their families.

Mental stimulation will also need to be factored into this working breed’s daily routine.

In the warmer months, walks should take place in the early mornings or late afternoons as the BMD is prone to heat exhaustion.

puppy bernese mountain dog in natural scenery

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Health

Check out the breed-related health conditions of the Bernese Mountain Dog below:

  • Hip Dysplasia- Abnormal development of the hip joint will cause pain, swelling, and inflammation. Can affect one or both joints and arthritis will eventually form.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus- Food and gasses become trapped in the stomach as it twists. The condition is common in large, deep-chested breeds and immediate veterinary attention will be needed.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy- This condition isn’t painful but over time will cause paralysis towards the lower end of the spine.
  • Malignant Histiocytosis- An aggressive form of cancer mostly seen in middle-aged dogs.
  • Lymphosarcoma- This cancer affects the lymphoid tissues seen in places like the spleen, liver, and lymph nodes. It is the third most common cancer in dogs.
  • Hot Spots- Inflamed skin that is red, damp, and smelly. This condition is also known as acute moist dermatitis.
  • Cruciate Disease- One or both of the ligaments becomes damaged. This will cause pain as the knee will now wobble. Limping is the first noticeable symptom.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy- A degenerative disease affecting the photoreceptor cells in the eye. Over time the photoreceptor cells deteriorate, leading to blindness.
  • Systemic Hyistiocytosis- This disease is commonly seen in young BMDs. It causes lumps on the skin but thankfully the condition is hardly fatal but it is progressive.

Intelligence & Training

Intelligent and eager to please, the BMD can easily pick up on commands given the right training. A session should be no longer than 15 minutes.

This happy-go-lucky dog will not take well to harsh tones and training methods, so always use positive reinforcement.

As they’re prone to weight gain, cut down on food rewards and replace them with toys or affection.

bernese mountain dog playing on snow

Early socialization, training, and exercise will help nurture the BMD’s prized personality.

A lack of training could lead to unruly boisterous behaviour and with a dog that size, it’s best avoided!

Whilst first-time owners can be suitable for the breed, some may prefer a professional trainer’s help.

Lay down the ground rules immediately upon the arrival of the Bernese Mountain puppy. Bad behaviours should be corrected within two seconds.

This way, it is easier for the puppy to understand what they have done wrong. Chewing is a natural puppy urge so always leave their toys around.

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Grooming

If you’ve ever asked yourself do Bernese Mountain Dogs shed? The answer is yes!

Their double coat sheds copious amounts throughout the year, particularly during the Spring and Autumn seasons.

Overall, their grooming needs are high but their amazing temperament means they won’t have any problems visiting the groomers.

Brush through the coat thoroughly twice a week. This can be increased during the shedding seasons.

Pin, bristle, and slicker brushes are the best tools to use on this coat.

bernese mountain dog standing in autumn forest

BMDs will need bathing 3-6 times a year and should be blow-dried to prevent debris sticking to wet fur.

Their long furry ears are prone to infection and must be cleaned weekly.

The moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria, especially in the summer! Nails will need to be trimmed every 10-14 days.

Teeth will need to be brushed 3 times a week although vets recommend this is done daily.

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