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If you’re looking for a big, lovable dog as your next furry companion, look no further than the Bernese mountain dog. Bred to be big and beautiful, these long-haired pooches make for loyal companions with their generally calm disposition, obedient nature, and sturdy genetics. When trained properly, Bernese mountain dogs are known for being sweet, loving, friendly gentle giants.1
Thinking of adopting a Bernese mountain dog for yourself? Read on to learn more about their behaviors, origin, and personality to ensure they are the perfect pet for your household.
- History & Origin of Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Physical Attributes of the Bernese Mountain Dog
- Behavioral Characteristics of Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Bernese Mountain Dog Health Risks
- Caring For Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Final Notes
History & Origin of Bernese Mountain Dogs
As the name suggests, the Bernese mountain dog originates over 2,000 years ago from the Canton of Bern in the agricultural area of Switzerland.2 Historically, these friendly giants were great watchdogs and companions on the farm with their people-orientated personalities and peaceful natures as well as their sturdy build making them strong enough to pull carts and drive cows on short trips to pasture.2 These dogs are one of four mountain breeds.
Physical Attributes of the Bernese Mountain Dog
These striking dogs typically have a beautiful, silky, tri-colored coat of black, white, and rust with distinctive markings and dark eyes.3 The Bernese mountain dog has long, thick hair which results in very high amounts of shedding.1 Consistent grooming and maintenance of your dog’s coat can help to manage the shedding, but it is likely that you will still find some dog hair throughout your home and on your belongings. Therefore, those with allergies to dog hair should consider looking into alternatives, like hypoallergenic breeds.
This breed is also predisposed to drooling - you may find yourself having to wipe their face every once in a while.1 This also means you may find little pools of drool in your home or on your clothes when they excitedly greet you. Those with a more relaxed attitude to slobber may not find this an issue but those who are more finicky about their home may want to keep this characteristic in mind before adopting.
The Bernese mountain dog is large in size, with males typically growing between 25 to 27 ½ inches and females growing between 23 to 26 inches at full size.1
Dog weight tends to vary and is largely based on their diet and the amount of exercise they get, but Bernese mountain dogs can range from between 70 - 115 pounds. If you are adopting a Bernese mountain dog as a puppy, consult our guide to gain a better understanding of how big your puppy will be.
The Bernese mountain dog breed has an average lifespan of seven to eight years, although it is important to get information from your breeder or rescue about any pre-existing diseases that may exist in the dog’s bloodline.
Behavioral Characteristics of Bernese Mountain Dogs
Active by nature, this bundle of fur relishes time spent outdoors whether it’s long walks, hikes, camping or backpacking. Their thick coats make them equipped for cold weather activities and rolling around in the snow, great for anyone who lives in an environment where colder temperatures are more frequent.2
The Bernese mountain dog often has a peaceful temperament and is therefore especially gentle with children, making them often a great option for any families with younger kids.3 Loyal with a need to please their owners, these gentle giants love their families unconditionally and enjoy sleeping inside with their owners - making them a great option to consider for a therapy dog.3 Easy going with a love for humans, these friendly fur balls welcome newcomers to your home with a wagging tail.
Obedient and generally one of the easier breeds to train, Bernese mountain dogs also regularly compete in dog shows - their love for activity and versatile natures meaning they excel in rally, agility, tracking, herding, carting, scent work, and more.2
These muscular powerhouses can also be a challenge to new dog owners or elderly people as they may find dealing with their large size difficult. Because of their large size, the Bernese mountain dog will thrive in an environment with large open spaces for them to run around in - they do not appreciate being cooped up, but at the same time they do not appreciate being left alone for long periods, including night time.
Due to their history as watchdogs, the Bernese mountain dog may also have a deep, loud bark that may sound intimidating to strangers.4 However, there are ways to train your dog and limit their barking. Their strong instincts can also lead them to chase prey such as cats and squirrels.
Bernese Mountain Dog Health Risks
Most breeds have pre-existing diseases within their bloodline and it is important you ask the breeder or rescue about this before adoption.5 Some common issues that Bernese mountain dog breeds are predisposed to includes food allergies.5 There may be hereditary components in the Bernese mountain dogs sensitive digestive system which can sometimes also be as severe as inflammatory bowel disease.
Perhaps the most commonly spoken of health issue with the Bernese mountain dog is hip dysplasia.5 This results from an unstable hip socket which can subsequently cause degenerative arthritic changes as a result from instability.5 Hip dysplasia can vary from each specific dog - sometimes even in severe cases your dog will not show any signs of discomfort, joint pain or gait problems.5 Unfortunately, hip dysplasia can be completely debilitating and can affect dogs from up to 6 months onwards, although symptoms in puppies is rare.5 This disease tends to increase as dogs age.5
Careful breeders will ensure that the breeded dogs have less occurrences of this disease throughout their ancestry, although dogs without hip dysplasia can still give birth to dogs with it.5
Another common issue is elbow dysplasia which can oftentimes be even more painful and debilitating than hip dysplasia.5 Similarly to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is caused by a degenerative joint which can then cause arthritic changes to occur in the elbow joint.5 This disease can affect puppies as young as 5 months old and can often be identified via an x-ray.5 Other diseases stemming from genetic components and causing arthritic changes includes Osteochondritis Dissecans.5
There are also a number of eye health issues associated with the Bernese mountain dog breed, including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (a disease in the eye that can lead to blindness) and Entropion and Ectropion which effects the eyelids and can eventually lead to damage in dog’s eye.5
All breeds of dog have their own associated types of cancer - for Bernese mountain dogs, two types of cancer are believed to be inherited.5 They are mast cell cancer and histiocytic sarcoma and can unfortunately be fatal.5 Other more general diseases that commonly occur in dogs is autoimmune disease, subaortic stenosis and degenerative myelopathy which is a progressive paralysis disease particularly evident in older dogs.5 Von Willebrand's disease can also be found in this breed - a bleeding disorder which is an autosomal recessive trait.5
Caring For Bernese Mountain Dogs
In order to cater towards the Bernese mountain dog’s sensitive stomach, it is recommended to feed them with wet food or kibble that is compliant with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)’s standards.6 Because of the quick pace in which they grow, Bernese mountain dog puppies rely on proper amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.6
A responsible amount of training is essential to keep these adorable pooches their friendly, happy-go-lucky selves, including a lot of positive reinforcement.6 Socializing them at a young age with other well-behaved dogs helps them to quickly and efficiently learn these behaviors. 6
Prevent ear and eye disease by cleaning them regularly - especially after walks if you notice any debris in or around these areas.6 Keeping their coat intact requires brushing several times a week and a bath at least every 2-4 weeks depending on the thickness of their coat.6 Remember, these thick coats can cause them to overheat during hotter climates, so ensure lots of breaks during walks and they are well hydrated with cool areas to lay in at home also.
Do Bernese mountain dogs shed a lot?
Yes, Bernese mountain dogs shed a lot. To avoid any discomfort from your pup, ensure you brush them and give them baths regularly.6 However, even with a regular brushing routine, it is fairly inevitable that your dog will still shed - we recommend investing in a strong vacuum cleaner.
Are Bernese mountain dogs barkers?
Due to their origins as watchdogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs certainly have a loud bark. The amount they bark can vary and be regulated through training, but the volume is just part of their nature, which also makes them great watchdogs.1
Adorable, and often friendly and gentle, the Bernese mountain dog is a brilliant companion for nature lovers that enjoy long hikes and dog lovers alike. Muscular in stature with beautiful, silky fur, these dogs love devotedly and loyally.
Whether you’re thinking about adopting a pup or are already a pet parent, Dutch can help you learn more about your furry friend. Browse the website to learn more about our services and explore other Dutch blogs for more information on your favorite, four-legged friends.
“Bernese Mountain Dog” Dogtime https://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/bernese-mountain-dog#/slide/1
“About Bernese Mountain Dogs” BMDCA Info Series, 2019 https://www.bmdca.org/breed_education/pdf/01_bernese_basics_about.pdf
Reisen, Jan. “7 Fun Facts about the Bernese Mountain Dog” American Kennel Club, 4 Nov. 2022 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/7-fun-facts-bernese-mountain-dog/
Coile, Caroline. “Bernese Mountain Dog” Britannica, 30 March 2023 https://www.britannica.com/animal/Bernese-mountain-dog
“Health Issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs” BMCDA Info Series, 2020 https://www.bmdca.org/breed_education/pdf/04_bernese_health_issues.pdf
LaMon, Virginia. “Bernese Mountain Dogs” PetMD 17 Oct. 2022 https://www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/bernese-mountain-dog