About The Breed

The Bernese Mountain Dog is an easy dog to fall in love with. While they are excellent companions and a great dog for families who are willing to give them the time and attention they deserve, they are not complimentary to every lifestyle.

It is important to remember that the Bernese Mountain Dog does not take very kindly to solitary confinement and thrives from regular human interaction. Considering that the Berner likes nothing more than to sit at your feet or in your lap, it is important to recognise whether you can invest in this time. Remember a dog is a long-term commitment.

Do not rush into this very important decision

If you have the time to commit and a lifestyle to suit, a fully fenced yard and at least ten years of love and affection to give your canine companion, then perhaps a Bernese is for you.

Appearance

Bernese Mountain Dogs are an attention grabbing breed.  They are a large, sturdy working dog with distinctive black, tan and white markings and a long double coat. They will generally have a glossy black coat and a white blaze, white chest, feet and tail tip.  Rich russet brown eyebrows, cheeks, legs and patches on either side of the chest further add to the beauty of the breed.

When out walking with a Bernese you will often be stopped by many people asking about the breed and admiring them.  There can be a great deal of variation in the height of the Bernese Mountain Dog but males generally stand between 64 – 70 cm at the shoulder while females tend to be slightly smaller at 58 – 66 cm at the shoulder. Bitches are distinctly more feminine in appearance with a less commanding demeanour. Dogs have a more masculine appearance with their more imposing size, bulkier body, broader head and greater coat development over the chest area. Bernese are a slow maturing breed.

The Bernese will need regular grooming.  How frequently will vary from dog to dog but on average plan on once a week.  Males and desexed females will shed their coat once a year and entire females will drop their coat twice a year.  Some Bernese will also need their ears cleaned regularly with an ear cleaner.

Temperament

While the Bernese Mountain dog is typically confident, outgoing and often ready and willing to climb into anyone’s lap, some Bernese are more wary and aloof with strangers and other dogs. They should never express aggressive behaviour, but are considered very good watchdogs as they usually bark to announce visitors arriving and will warn you of unusual happenings around or near your property.

Despite their giant size Bernese are instinctively gentle with children although they can inadvertently knock very small children over with one big swing of their tails.  Puppies and young dogs, however, are often quite boisterous during their adolescent stage and for this reason they are often not recommended for families with children under the age of 10 years.

Like most dogs, Bernese will not tolerate being left alone in the backyard and will be happiest when they are by your side and with the family.  One of their favourite places is under your feet while you watch TV, and pretty much any place you are is where they will want to be.  Confining Bernese to spaces with little or no stimulation is a recipe for bad behaviour and destructiveness.  If starved of attention a Bernese is likely to become a very shy and miserable problem dog.

It is most important to socialise your puppy well as getting them used to all types of environments and situations is vital to their development.

There is a lot to think about and consider when deciding whether the Bernese Mountain Dog is the right breed for you.  It helps to see as many dogs as possible and meet as many breeders as you can.  There are many variations within the breed and you may find you prefer some to others.  It pays to do as much research as you can and find out as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision and find the right breeder with whom you can build a rapport.

Compatibility with other pets

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a wonderful reputation in this regard.

Average Lifespan

This is usually noted as 7+ years but can be extremely varied.  Some may live up to 10-12 years but the majority will live anywhere from 7 to 10 years.  The Swiss saying of “Three years a puppy, three years a good dog, three years an old dog and the rest is a gift” is very apt for the Bernese Mountain Dog.

Health Issues

Bernese, like all large breeds, are vulnerable to orthopaedic problems, some being hip and elbow dysplasia, another being osteochondritis dissencans.  There can be many contributing factors to these problems such as growth rate, genetics and environment.  For more on these conditions click here.

To minimise the chances of your dog developing any of these issues it is recommended that you follow a sensible diet and exercise program.  It is important to remember that a Bernese puppy will grow at a phenomenal rate and that whilst they are in their fast growing stage, taking your puppy for long walks, allowing them to climb up and down stairs repeatedly, jump in and out of cars or playing roughly with dogs bigger than they are can result in long term damage to the puppy’s joints.  Gentle exercise is good for a puppy but be careful not to overdo it.

Another potential problem that large breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs included, are susceptible to is gastric torsion or bloat.  This occurs when the stomach rapidly builds up gas and/ or fluid (bloat).  This swelling may progress to the point where the stomach twists (gastric torsion) and this is life threatening to the dog requiring immediate surgery.

Cancer is another issue that affects this beautiful breed, the primary type being canine histiocytosis.    For more detailed information on histiocytic diseases in Bernese follow this link.