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February 15, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Bernese Mountain Dog

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Purebred Star Blog Series

Known for their distinct tri-colored coat, large size, and friendly personality, the Bernese Mountain Dog makes an EXCELLENT family member!

Switzerland is the origin of this giant and much LOVED breed! This gentle giant is known for their hard working farm skills in the Swiss Alps, providing herding, drafting, pulling carts, guarding, and much more. Often referred as a "Berner," this purebred has an abundance of wonderful qualities. They made their way to the United States in the late 1920's, and were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937.

The Bernese is one of four Sennenhunds breeds from Switzerland, also known as the Swiss Mountain Dogs:

  • Berner Sennenhund/Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Entlebucher Sennenhund/Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund/Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Appenzeller Sennenhund/Appenzeller

They have many similarities including coloring, working skills, and temperament. The Bernese is the one that remains the most popular of the four.

Don't Let Their Size Fool You - Gentle with All!

The Berner is truly known in America for their gentle personality, especially around children. Although they are large in size, some reaching up to 105 pounds, they don't "push their weight" around in a negative way. Although children should be taught early on to respect and be gentle with all animals, an adult Berner that has been properly socialized can tolerate the rambunctious play of children.

Small children will delight in being pulled around in a sled or cart by a Bernese. Due to their drafting skills, the Bernese will relish doing this job. Training will be important to ensure that the Berner and children are safe at all times.

They are great with other animals too, and will even tolerate a little yappy dog! They are a wonderful breed to have on a farm, suburbs, or even in the city.

No Couch Potato Here

Being a working breed, their overall energy level is moderate. They require a walk once or twice a day for about 45 minutes. A fenced in-yard is ideal, and the best option for the Bernese Mountain Dog. They enjoy romping around and exploring, a safe and clean back yard offers this to the Berner. A visit to the local park will give a Berner an opportunity to explore and exercise if a fenced in-yard is not an option.

The Bernese enjoys hiking, and will be happy to carry a backpack for their human. Just make sure your Berner has no Hip Dysplasia or arthritis, which can make bearing weight extremely painful.

If you live in a small condo or apartment, you might want to rethink about being a pet-parent to a Berner, this isn't a compact size dog. They will take up plenty of living space, and have no issues sprawling their large size all about.

Therapy Dog in the Making

The Bernese Mountain Dog makes a wonderful Therapy Dog. Because of their gentle soul, calm demeanor, and easy-going spirit, the Berner will look forward to visits at the children's hospital or nursing home. They will seek out attention during their visits, enjoying being pet and loved.

They are a tall dog, averaging about 23 to 28 inches in height, making it easy for people in wheelchairs or bed-bound to pet a Bernese without having to bend over.

This is a great way to give a Berner a "job" if you do not live on a farm.

Heavy Duty Grooming

Bernese Mountain Dogs are heavy shedders with their long, wavy, weather resistant coat especially during the shedding seasons. If an allergy sufferer lives within the household, the Berner is not the breed to consider. Daily brushings are a must. Giving a Bernese a bath is not an easy task. Consider taking them to a professional groomers to get cleaned. Their coat is thick and can take hours to dry properly. A professional groomer offers the tools to get the job done in a timely fashion.

Heat is Not Their Friend

The Bernese is a winter season dog through and through! Their thick, long coat should never be shaved. Warm and humid climates are not the place to have a Berner live. Special care to keep them cool in the summer months should be provided.

Although the Bernese enjoys the outdoor lifestyle, just like any dog, they thrive in an environment of being with their humans, and should never be considered an outside dog only. They only prefer to be outside when their humans are with them.

Cancer is a Concern

Average lifespan for a Bernese Mountain Dog is about 6-8 years compared to a few years ago when it use to be 10-12. Unfortunately, this decrease is contributed to cancer being the number one reason why many Berner's have a short lifespan. Research is being done within the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America to prevent and stop this horrible disease.

Hip Dysplasia, arthritis, bloat, eye disorders, thyroid disorder, and von Willebrand's disease are common health concerns along with cancer amongst the breed.

Adopt First

As you begin looking for a Bernese Mountain Dog, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!


Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe

Dog Breed -Bernese Mountain

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