Let's talk Bernese Mountain Dogs

Sweet, gentle, and hugely affectionate, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a fantastic all-around dog for any person who wants to welcome a canine into their life.How to make such a sweeping statement? Just look at their list of prized characteristics:  Extremely docile, with an intense need to bond   and hugely protective to boot. Bred in the Swiss Mountains as a herding dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog delights in being outside and assisting on any task that needs doing. This wonderful companion dog is also first-rate in aiding visually impaired persons and those with a disability.

Official name: Bernese Mountain Dog

Other names: Bernese, Bernese Cattle Dog, Berner

Origins: Switzerland

Bernese Mountain Dog sitting with mouth open in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

 High

 Warm weather? Very low
 Grooming needs  Medium  Cold weather? Very high
 Shedding level  Very high  Suited to apartment living?  Low
 Barking tendencies  High  Can stay alone?* Very low
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)*  High  Family pet?* Very high
 Compatibility with other pets  Very high    

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.
Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.

However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 

 

 

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Illustration of black, beige and white Bernese Mountain Dog
Male
64 - 70 cm Height
36 - 52 kg Weight
Female
58 - 66 cm Height
31 - 43 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 8 months
 Adult age 8 months to 5 years
 Mature age  7 years to 10 years
 Senior age  From 10 years

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Get to know the Bernese Mountain Dog

All you need to know about the breed

This very powerful breed may be a force physically but when it comes to their temperament, the Bernese Mountain Dogis a gentle giant. Their pleasant face mirrors the highlydocile disposition found within. The breed is extremely attached to their owners -repeat, extremely attached -and although can initially be standoff-ish with strangers, does warm up quickly. Justlook at those large and tender eyes! One thing is for sure:  cuddling is neveroptional. With a history as a working dog on farms in the Swiss Alps, the Bernese Mountain Dogis very content when occupied. Don’t be shy about handing off the housework:  this sturdy dog can handle most any rugged chore humans will give them, from hauling carts full of debris to dragging heavy items. What a great working partner! Their enjoyment of domestic life means puttering about the yard suits them just fine. A large size -the males can weigh up to 52 kilograms -means lounging around the house is welcome too.

The hardy Bernese Mountain Dogbreed does best when in cold settings, and is not the dog to have in a southern or tropical locale. Their thick Teddy Bear-like coat is their hallmark, with its colouring of black on the body accented by a white chest and rust markings.A signature to the breed, as is their consistently contented face. 

Bernese Mountain Dog standing in field

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2 facts about Bernese Mountain Dogs

1. Don’t mistake girth for aggression

The Bernese Mountain Dog has astrapping build but also a hugely docile temperament. This is a dog bred to haul carts on farms and for droving -the practice of walking livestock over long distances. Bernese Mountain Dogsare in reality incredibly good-natured.

2. Keep them mobile

As with other large breeds, the Bernese Mountain Dog can experience arthritis as a result of their larger limbs. Joint supplements can relieve the physical distress and keep the breed healthy. Hip dysplasia can also be a problem since they are so prone to work and play. Daily walks should help with mobility. A good vet will arm you with tips.

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History of the breed

The Bernese Mountain Dog was originally bred for use on farms and on the vast pastures found in the Canton of Bern in the Swiss Alps. Home to the country’s dairy region, thus large herds of cattle, a dog with broad muscular limbs needed to be developed for use in herding livestock. The strong breed became one used as guard dogs in the region as well, protecting cattle from natural predators. The Bernese Mountain Dogis known to be able to pull many times his own weight. The dog’s official name followed suit as the Bernese Mountain Dog gained in prominence as, you guessed it, a mountain dog.

With the onset of industrialisation came the breed’s decline toward the late 1800s, kicking admirers into motion to preserve the cherished breed. Professor Albert Heim led the way, founding the Swiss Breed Club in 1907. The first known Bernese landed in the United States in 1926 and the American Kennel Club registered the first dog 11 years later.

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s large size may be due to their descent from larger Mastiff breeds brought into Switzerland by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. They were crossed with flock guard dogs found in the region, resulting in the dog we know today, a hardy one perfectly suited for mountain climes.

Close-up of Bernese Mountain Dog in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Bernese Mountain Dog

1. Ears

Ears gently rounded at tips, medium-size set high on head

2. Head

Attractive flowing hair, either straight or slightly wavy

3. Body

Well-proportioned, stocky body, firm chest, strong hindquarters, large paws

4. Fur

Tricolourshiny coat most recognisable attribute

5. Tail

Bushy tail, remains straight down or slightly raised when excited

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Bernese Mountain Dog
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On the cautious side

The Bernese Mountain Dog can still have a very protective streak, which could be somewhat of a drawback when socialising. The breed is ceaselessly loyal to their owners -or to one person in particular -and very kind to both people and pets alike but can be wary with those new to them. Make no mistake:  Having them as a pet is nothing short of wonderful, as they’re renowned for their even-keeled temperament. Puppy training for your Bernese Mountain Dog should emphasise secure surroundings and the gradual introduction of newcomers.

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Monitor certain illnesses

Health problems for Bernese Mountain Dogs are to be noted, one of which is van Willebrand’s Disease, a failure to clot the blood normally. Statistically, over 50% of adult Bernese Mountain Dogs can also develop cancer, which makes the Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan a somewhat shorter one than fans of this lovely breed would like. From puppyhood, make sure to visit the veterinarian on a regular basis in order to rule out any irregularities. 

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At times a sensitive stomach

Bernese Mountain Dogs are big animals, which means there’s a lot to love. But one trait that can plague larger breeds is a tendency toward bloat, or a condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), an at-times serious condition that is known to require surgery. When a dog bloats, their stomach can turn on itself and fill with gas. Although sudden, the condition is very medically treatable, and one of the best ways to prevent it is to adhere to proper feeding. Mealtime should be routine and calm. Watch for any odd behaviour from your Bernese Mountain Dog, such as swelling, restlessness, or sudden signs of discomfort. Regular vet visits will also help to keep the condition -including any vomiting, retching, anxious behaviour, ptyalism, or lethargy -at bay.

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Caring for your Bernese Mountain Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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Grooming the Bernese Mountain Dog is a pleasure, given the pleasant demeanor of this breed and their resplendent long coat. The Bernese Mountain Dog breed has a longer outer coat and wooly undercoat, which sheds fairly normally. Brushing a few times a week is enough, and need only be done daily during twice-yearly shedding periods in the spring and fall. Dogs that walk on hard surfaces (such as tarmac or pavement) usually wear their nails down naturally however it’s important to keep their nails trimmed to minimise problems larger breeds can potentially have with balance.

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The highly obedient Bernese Mountain Dog is a breedthat learns quickly. Very bonded to their master, this is a dog that’s all too content to (almost) satisfy your every whim. The Bernese Mountain Dogwas bred as a working dog so carrying out orders is second-nature. Given their incredibly affectionate manner, they can feel vulnerable if owners raise their voice.  Bernese Mountain Dog puppy trainingshould happen early and consistently for best results.

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Adult Bernese Mountain Dogs need a minimum of 30 minutes exercise each day. The breed has a large, strong body that necessitates regular movement. They also revel in doing a good job and get real enjoyment in being in the open air. All of this makes it easy for the Bernese to jump into any task, especially those that require strength like pulling carts and herding large flock.

All about Bernese Mountain Dogs

One would be hard-pressed to find a better-natured breed than the Bernese Mountain Dog. They are fantastic in a family setting, with a calm, placid nature that, once trained, is especially great for being around children. The breed is patient and friendly -almost needy, one could say -and very very devoted to their owner. The Bernese Mountain Dog breed does not do well being alone and can be cautious with strangers. Go slow with training and the breed will thrive.

Unfortunately, a rather short one. Shorter lifespans can be the norm for large breeds and for pure breeds, who also tend to have more issues with bones, joints, and blood. A Bernese Mountain Dog average lifespan is estimated at 6 to 10 years, and sometimes can exceed even that. Many breeders are working to change the outcome of this beloved breed.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/