Skip to main content

Everything You Need to Know About Bernese Mountain Dogs

Donna shares insider tips about your pets gained through exclusive interviews with industry experts.

Bernese Mountain dogs, one of several Swiss Mountain dog breeds, were developed in Berne and gained American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition in 1937.

This was quite a comeback for a breed that was, according to the Burnese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA), “nearly extinct” in the 19th century.1

About Bernese Mountain Dogs

The breed standards were set in 1907 by a small group of breeders in Burgdorf, and the dogs gained popularity with the Swiss farmers.

There was a failed attempt to import them to the United States in 1926; however, in 1937, they were successfully introduced. The first two AKC-recognized Berners were named Fridy and Quell.

These hardy dogs were working farm dogs and performed tasks such as hauling small loads in dog carts, or herding cows.

The Bernese Mountain dog's high intelligence level and strength, combined with their people-pleasing personalities, made them well-suited for such tasks. The farmers relied on them to keep a watchful eye on the farm and family.

Pros & Cons of Berners as Pets

Today, one might see the Bernese Mountain dog competing in events such as drafting, droving, tracking, other agility sports, or offering love and affection as a therapy dog.

However, they need early socialization and obedience training to prepare them for these roles, and to overcome their natural predisposition to shyness.

  • Families with small children or other pets may or may not want to consider this breed unless they are willing to commit to such training.
  • Additionally, they may want to chat with other Berner owners to get a better feel for the overall temperament of the breed.
  • With their deep chests and large-boned bodies, Bernese Mountain dogs are impressive-looking dogs.
  • They are high maintenance in terms of needs for human interaction and grooming. They do shed and their heavy coats make them ill-suited for hot weather.

Note: Be sure to watch the short video below as you can really see how massive the chest area is in this breed. The dog shown was not full-grown when the video was shot, but you can see that this is a giant-sized breed!

They are happiest when they are close to their families, so plan on keeping them as inside dogs, and allow plenty of time daily for playing, exercising, and grooming. Add a bath as needed and a well-balanced diet. With proper care, your Berner should stay happy and healthy.

According to the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA), males are approximately 25 to 27 inches tall and weigh about 80 to 115 pounds. Females are smaller, weighing about 70 to 95 pounds and 23 to 26 inches tall.

Like most large or giant dogs, they have a relatively short lifespan of just seven to eight years, according to the BMDCA.

Characteristics of Bernese Mountain Dogs

Here's a snapshot of the Bernese Mountain dog.

  • Origin: Switzerland.
  • Nickname: Berner.
  • Characteristics: Loyal, intelligent, some herding instincts, extremely agile given the large bone structure.
  • Need for Human Interaction: Extremely high; may exhibit undesirable behaviors if left alone for extended periods.
  • Social Skills: Only if well socialized and obedience trained. Puppies may “mouth” objects.
  • Exercise needs: Moderate.
  • Lifespan: Approximately seven years.
  • Need to vocalize: Moderate.
  • Grooming: Weekly brushings; baths as needed.
  • Associations: The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America.

Now, let's talk about the potential health problems your Berner could face.

Common Breed Health Problems

If you are considering purchasing a Berner, you should be aware that they are predisposed to several severe health problems. The most common are:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Eye disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mast cell cancer
  • Malignant histiocytosis

If this breed profile has piqued your interest, then you may have decided you would like to own a Bernese Mountain dog.

A good place to start your research and get more information is at the BMDCA website.


1 - The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, Inc. “The BMD History and the Standard”

BMDCA Info Series, “Health Issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs,” 2009 #4

BMDCA Info Series, “FAQs About Bernese Mountain Dogs,” 2009

Berner Organization

The American Kennel Club (AKC), "AKC Meet the Breed: the Burnese Mountain Dog"

What Do You Think About These Giant Dogs?

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 21, 2011:

Hi, Cindy! Yes, the one Bernese Mountain dog did look sad...but I included the picture because he or she was well past the average lifespan of 7 years old. If someone is considering one of these beauties, I thought it might be good to know that at least one of them had made it past seven:)

I also want to take just a minute to thank you for the help, tips, and continued support this year. I've really learned a lot from reading your hubs and feedback on mine, and it's helped me become a better writer. Congratulations on achieving all the goals you set this year, and my best wishes for an even more successful 2012:)

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 21, 2011:

They are cutie-pies, aren't they? I would love to have one or two of them, but we recently lost our gentle giant Lost Boy, and my hubby just can't bear the thought of getting another dog right now. However, when/if that day ever comes, the Bernese Mountain dog is my dog of choice:)

Thanks for all the feedback and support this year, Deborah. You probably don't realize just how much encouragement it has given me, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you:)

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on December 20, 2011:

They are so cute as puppies! That middle image in your thumbnails looks so sad! :(

I really enjoyed this hub, and the video was great!

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 20, 2011:

these dogs are so adorable.. I love them.. great Hub. I am so gLad you keep us informed about our animals what to look out for and so on. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU