Bernese Mountain Dogs generally have a friendly and affectionate personality and are surprisingly gentle for their size.
Other Names: Bernese Cattle Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Berner
Country Of Origin: Switzerland
Dog Group: Working
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Moderate
Lifespan: 7-8 years
Temperament: Intelligent, faithful, affectionate
Good For the First-Time Owner: Yes
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Yes
Good With Strangers: No
Good For Apartments: No
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: No
Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the large breed of working dogs that originates in Switzerland, where it’s long been used not just for herding cattle, but also pulling carts.
Berners are strong, intelligent dogs that can look intimidating but are generally very well-natured.
Their size and temperament make Bernese Mountain Dogs a great choice to have around children, and they love being included in family activities.
Berners are quite slow to mature, so can retain their puppy-like temperament up until three years of age.
However, this makes them the right choice for playing with children.
Color: Tricolor (black, white, and rust)
Height: Males – 25-27.5 inches, Females – 23-26 inches
Weight: Males – 80-120lbs, Females – 75-100lbs
Personality and Temperament:
Bernese Mountain Dogs absolutely love human attention and enjoy playing, so make a good choice for having around children.
Their easy-going personality makes them a great choice of companion pet for almost anyone.
As mentioned, Bernese Mountain Dogs are an excellent choice as a family pet and are great around children.
Their size makes them much more durable, and their playful nature makes them ideal for keeping children company.
Berners need plenty of mental stimulation, which regular playtime can give them. If you’re looking for a good family pet, then you could do much worse than a Bernese Mountain Dog.
Due to their role as working dogs, Berners can learn a wide range of complex commands and will pick up basic obedience training quickly.
While this does make them a good choice for training at home, it’s beneficial to take them to obedience classes as this gives them a good opportunity to socialize with other dogs at a young age.
And this can be useful because Berners take a long time to mature.
Bernese Mountain Dogs much prefer to be outside, as this is what they were bred for.
This, along with their size, means they’re not a good choice for keeping in an apartment, as this is definitely not the right environment for the dog. They thrive in a home with plenty of lands to play on.
Although Berners need plenty of exercises, they don’t have brilliant stamina, meaning dogs will probably benefit more from several shorter walks than one long one.
Whichever way you choose to do it, a Bernese Mountain Dog should be exercised for at least an hour every day, along with plenty of playtime for mental stimulation.
A Berner that doesn’t get enough exercise can become destructive and barky.
Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred for use in the Swiss Alps, meaning they’re much better adapted to cold weather than hot.
However, they can tolerate temperate summers, but their coat is quite thick, so owners should be cautious about exercise needs in the summer.
Overall, the breed will do best in climates that are similar to those in Switzerland, ideally with cold winters and mild summers.
Berners are absolutely fine to be kept around other dogs, and there should be few problems keeping them around other pets.
The breed is very patient, which can be helpful around other animals, but owners should be wary about keeping them around small pets.
Although Berners aren’t known for their prey instinct, their size means that even if they’re just playing, they could accidentally do some serious damage to a small animal.
The breed is often a popular choice as a guard dog, meaning Bernese Mountain Dogs can be very cautious around strangers.
This is just their natural guarding instinct, so it might be difficult to train this behavior out, but it’s much less likely to be a problem if the dog’s owners are around.
Proper socialization from a young age will be the best method of minimizing this problem.
Bernese Mountain Dogs actually make a good choice for first-time owners because they’re generally easy to look after, and are quite low maintenance.
However, new owners should be aware that Berners need a confident owner who can keep them in check during their long maturation.
Similarly, first-time owners aren’t always willing to provide the dog with the exercise it needs, but these are generally small points for an otherwise low maintenance breed.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick and dense double-layered coat that sheds moderately all year round but is particularly bad during seasonal changes.
A Berner will shed the most in early spring and late fall when it changes to its summer and winter coat.
Due to this level of shedding, Bernese Mountain Dogs obviously aren’t hypoallergenic.
To control how much a Bernese Mountain Dog sheds, weekly grooming with either a slicker brush or razor comb is necessary.
Brushing should be thorough enough to reach the undercoat, as this will produce the loosest hair.
Owners will find that brushing needs to be increased to every day during shedding season.
Bathing should be done at maximum once a month, as the breed benefits from having their coat cleaned, but too often can lead to skin conditions.
After bathing is a good time to brush because it’ll help catch loose hairs. As with all breeds, their nails should be trimmed regularly, and their teeth brushed several times a week.
Although Berners aren’t prone to ear problems, be sure to clean them every few weeks.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a much shorter lifespan than other breeds, which is partly due to their size as this can impact their bone development and mobility.
However, the main reason Bernese Mountain Dogs have such a short lifespan is that the breed is very prone to neoplasia or cancer.
Worth Reading: Life expectancy and causes of death in Bernese mountain dogs in Switzerland
The frequency of cancer in the breed has brought the average lifespan down by several years.
Berners also have a wide range of problems related to bone and muscle development, again due to their size.
They’re prone to arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, and ligament issues. While none of these necessarily present at birth, breeders should have some information about how susceptible the dog will be to these conditions.
Many common conditions for Bernese Mountain Dogs come on later in life and are often a challenge to manage.
While they might not be fatal in their own right, mobility problems obviously present a range of issues, particularly for large dogs.
Owners are recommended to get the dog checked regularly and to consider the responsibility of all these health conditions before committing to adoption of a Berner.
Bernese Mountain Dog a.k.a. Berner Sennenhund is one of 4 breeds that fall under the Sennenhund group, which are Swiss working dogs. Others are:
- Appenzeller Sennenhund
- Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund
- Entlebucher Sennenhund
The breed was regularly used for a range of working roles, including livestock herding and cart drafting.
This led to them being very large and stocky when compared to other herding dogs.
Berners were first shown in Berne in the early 20th century, although they were already recognized as a breed before this.
However, in earlier days, they were sometimes also known as Durrbachund, named for the small town of Durrbach where the breed was particularly popular.
The breed standard for the Bernese Mountain Dog was written in 1907, which is when they were officially separated from the other Sennenhund breeds.
Berners were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937 and were put in the Working Group.
Over the last 50 years or so the Bernese Mountain Dog has grown in popularity in the USA, and was ranked as the 32nd most popular dog in the country in 2015.
Similarly, Berners are one of the most popular breeds of dog in Germany and Switzerland, but also find great popularity across the rest of Europe.
Bernese Mountain Dogs Facts & Figures:
Did You Know?
- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a Bernese Mountain Dog. Its name is Hercules.
- A Berner by the name of Izzy managed to survive the 2017 California Wild Fires and was found coming out of the woods wagging her tail. She was soon reunited with her family.
- Two restaurants in Plymouth, Michigan are named after a Berner called Stella. The restaurants are “Stella’s Trackside” and “Stella’s Black Dog Tavern.” Stella also has a book.
- President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, has 2 Berners, called Brod and Sioda.
- A Bernese Mountain Dog named Sasha managed to survive a fall off a cliff after following a goat. She waited three days on a shelf of ice for rescue.
- Bernese Mountain Dogs feature in the 2012 TV series, The New Normal. Their names are Smelly and Harvey Milkbone.