Bernese Mountain Dogs: Playful, Energetic Working Pets
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 in the nineteenth century, according to the Burnese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA), “nearly extinct.”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, and 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, or 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 allot plenty of time daily for playing, exercising, and grooming. Add a bath as needed, and a well-balanced diet, and 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 7.9 years according to the 2005 BMDCA health survey.
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.
Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy Playing
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
- 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
The American Kennel Club (AKC), "AKC Meet the Breed: the Burnese Mountain Dog"