Originally bred as an all-purpose farm dog, today’s Bernese Mountain Dog still has those working dog instincts, but is mostly a calm and patient large breed dog. In this post, we’re going to go over the Bernese Mountain dog to give you a better idea of what you can expect from owning this breed.
Historically the Bernese – or the Berner – was used as a working dog in the Swiss mountains and farms. Notably, because of the Berner’s large size and ability to pull much more than its own weight, the Bernese was used as a draft dog, pulling carts. The Bernese were also used to drove cattle, guard farmyards and as gentle companions.
Coat & Coloring
The Bernese Mountain Dog is also known for their long, silky, thick coat that is tri colored – black, white and rust. Usually a berner’s markings will include a white marking on his chest (slightly resembling the Swiss flag cross), white on his snout up in between his eyes, and a white tipped tail. Though they have beautiful coats, the Bernese Mountain Dog will shed throughout the year and heavily during spring and fall. Brushing their coat regularly can help with matted coats and excessive shedding.
Unfortunately, the Bernese are one of the short-lived dog breeds with an average lifespan of about 8 years due to health problems that can arise. The two main medical problems for the Bernese Mountain Dog are cancer and musculoskeletal issues. The Bernese are susceptible to many types of cancer including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor and histiocytic sarcoma. Musculoskeletal problems can include arthritis, hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture. It’s important to have regular visits with your veterinarian to make sure your Berner is living their healthiest life.
Bernese Mountain Dog Puppies and Training
Your Bernese Mountain Dog won’t fully reach maturity until he is three to four years old. This long “puppy” span can be frustrating, but is a vital period for having an easygoing and tolerant adult Bernese later on.
Bernese Mountain Dog puppies are very active, curious, and can be quite a handful, given their large size. They can be a little too rough on young children simply because of their size, even though they are just playing a mean no harm. Your dog needs to be socialized early so he will get along with other dogs and doesn’t become overly reserved. They are also known to be fearful of new places or experiences if they aren’t often thrown into them, so make sure you are always taking them to new places during this early development period.
It is highly recommended that you take your Bernese puppy to obedience training as well, to help them socialize as well as sort out any unwanted behavior. Training can start the very day you bring your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy home. They are smart dogs, and capable of soaking things up right away, so don’t wait.
With regard to training practices, a gentle hand is best for this smart, active breed. Some males may tend to be dominant, but they are generally very docile and do not require a firm hand during training. They are very treat-motivated and will respond well to positive reinforcement.
While most Bernese Mountain Dogs will be eager to learn, other times they may be stubborn and a bit slow. It is best to practice patience with your Bernese if they are slow to pick things up, because even if they show some reservations to training at first, they will generally warm up to the idea and can graduate to more advanced training and tricks as they age. But if you are harsh with them or negative, they will not want to train at all.
Bernese Mountain Dog Personality
A good-natured pet who makes a great family companion, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a very amiable personality. These dogs, formerly used on farms as working dogs, enjoy challenges and love to learn new things, so keeping them stimulated will be essential to having a happy dog. Obedience training is a great idea, as well as early training and socialization, to hone their behavior before they get too big and boisterous to manage.
These large dogs do have strong protective instincts, and will guard the family, making an excellent watchdog, but will also be tempted to herd small children around due to their strong farming instinct. That being said, if you have a farm, they will be delighted to be put to work! They love to work in the field and have a need for some kind of job to do.
This all stems from a strong desire to please their owner. Bernese Mountain Dogs are sweet, affectionate dogs, who are very gentle and caring around children and show extreme patience even when kids tend to get a little too rough. They have boundless energy despite their large size, and will play all day, then crash down somewhere near the family when it’s time to unwind.
But do watch out — because they are so affectionate and love to be near their family, sometimes these lovable dogs might think they are lap dogs and you will have a 100-pound ball of fur climbing into your lap on the couch! This behavior will need to be trained out of them, and they will be happy to lay at your feet as long as you are close by.
Bernese Mountain Dog Activity Requirements
Despite their appearance as big, cuddly bears, Bernese Mountain Dogs actually do require a lot of activity to be happy. They love to nap and relax with their family as well, but would rather be outside playing, making them not the best dogs for living in apartments.
Bernese Mountain Dogs enjoy daily walks at the minimum, but also love to have a yard or park to run around in. However, if you live in a warmer area, they won’t be able to play outside for long, as their long coats leave them prone to overheating.
Their smarts and desire to work also make them surprisingly good at agility training.
Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament
The Bernese is a happy and patient dog overall, but they also tend to be shy if they aren’t properly socialized when they are young. In fact, if your dog isn’t socialized with cats, dogs, and people as puppies, they may have canine anxiety issues in adolescence and extending into adulthood. You should bring your Bernese puppy with you to as many different events and places as possible when they are young so they will be familiar with going to new places, rather than fearful.
Because of how devoted the Bernese Mountain Dog is to their family, they are also prone to canine separation anxiety. If they are left alone for long periods of time and not given their proper attention and exercise, they may develop some destructive behavior.
Overall, the Bernese Mountain Dog makes a great family pet and has a temperament and personality that will agree with most family situations.