How much do you know about the Bernese Mountain Dog? These hard-working gentle giants will steal your heart with their charming smiles. To say they are the ideal family dog is an understatement! If you’re interested in adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your family, here’s what you need to know.

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Where Does the Bernese Mountain Dog Come From?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of four large dog breeds originating from the Swiss Alps in Switzerland. The other three breeds from the area are the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, the Appenzeller, and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, all of which share the Bernese Mountain Dog’s gorgeous tricolor coat. The Bernese Mountain Dog hails from the canton of Bern, an agricultural area vital to Switzerland’s dairy production. Bernese Mountain Dogs worked as farm dogs: accompanying alpine herders and dairymen, herding and protecting cattle, and even pulling cheese carts to market. These dogs were the ultimate general-purpose farm dog.

Initially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937, today, the Bernese Mountain Dog is ranked number 22 in popularity of the 193 recognized breeds and categorized in the Working Group.

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What Does a Berner Dog Look Like?

We can identify all four of the dog breeds that originate in the Swiss Alps by their large size and distinctive tri-colored coats, but the Bernese Mountain Dog is the only one with long hair. Their thick double coat has a long outer coat and woolly undercoat, so the Berner is ideal for comfort in cold climates. The breed standard calls for predominantly black coats with a white chest and white horseshoe shape around a black nose. Berners also tend to have rust-colored markings above the eyes, the sides of the mouth, and the front of the legs. The American Kennel Club also recognizes individuals with less-common coats that exhibit tan markings instead of rust-colored. Bernese Mountain Dogs have heavy-set, muscular bodies slightly longer than they are tall, with a broad, strong back. 

Bernese Mountain Dog males weigh between 80 and 120 lbs and are approximately 25-28 inches high at the withers (top of the shoulder). Females weigh between 75 and 100 pounds and stand between 23 and 26 inches at the withers. 

What Is A Bernese Mountain Dog’s Personality Like?

One of the most well-known characteristics of a Bernese Mountain Dog is their docile, self-assured, and good-natured temperament. They have earned a reputation as “gentle giants” from their care for livestock to their interactions with humans, especially young ones. It is incredibly common to see a Bernese Mountain Dog with small children climbing on and over them as they lie amongst their human family. This breed is quite patient, affectionate, and tends to work well around other pets and strangers. Berners are also goofy and comical when they play. These dogs are very loyal and bond strongly with one owner or family; they would not do well living outside of the family home. 

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How Hard Is It To Train a Berner?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is, at heart, a working dog. With their large size and high-energy requirements, training and socialization during puppyhood are crucial. This breed is known to take slightly longer than average to mature, maintaining a “puppy brain” for several years. This fact means consistent training and patience are essential to successfully raising a Bernese Mountain Dog to maturity. Puppy classes are a great way to start training and socializing your new puppy early on. At a minimum, you should teach your Bernese Mountain Dog basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, and come. This breed is typically intelligent and eager to please, making them reasonably easy to train. Their sweet nature means they do not respond well to harsh training methods or hard corrections. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement techniques. You can also train a Bernese Mountain Dog to pull a small cart using a harness.  

Due to their strong familial ties, Berners left alone for long periods can resort to undesirable behaviors. You can mitigate these behaviors by providing access to treats, puzzles, and interactive toys to keep them entertained.

How Much Exercise Do They Need?

Bernese Mountain Dogs require at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to stay healthy both mentally and physically. Though they thrive the best living inside, Berners enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and camping among their human family members. This breed is not suited to life in an apartment or condo: we strongly recommend a large, fenced-in backyard. Bernese Mountain Dogs can expel energy pulling carts, an activity for which they were initially bred; there are even carting and drafting competitions for this dog and contests of agility, herding, and obedience in which they also thrive.

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Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Have Health Problems?

Although generally healthy, some irresponsible breeding has led to certain groups of Bernese Mountain dogs suffering from hip or elbow dysplasia and eye disease. Hip and elbow dysplasia are both inherited conditions. The easiest way to diagnose the problem is via a visit to the vet and x-rays. Both conditions can lead to arthritis but are manageable with weight management, joint supplements, medicine, or surgery, depending on severity.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA, is a family of eye diseases that involve gradual deterioration of the retina. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited vision over time.

Berners can also suffer from bloat, a common though life-threatening occurrence in most large, deep-chested dog breeds. Know the symptoms and causes of bloat to identify the problem and seek medical attention quickly.

Berner’s have a life expectancy of 7-10 years.

How Do You Groom a Bernese Mountain Dog?

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s long, silky coat sheds year-round, though shedding is worse when seasons change. Plan to comb your Berner’s fur at least once a week with a brush to minimize shedding and stay on top of tangles. Also, consider investing in a vacuum best suited for dealing with long pet hair.

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Can’t Go Wrong With a Bernese Mountain Dog

There’s a good reason Bernese Mountain Dogs are such a popular breed. Their playful, loving demeanor and gentle, calm disposition make them ideal for any household. In a Bernese Mountain Dog, you will find the best combination: a constant companion and cuddle buddy combined with the perfect outdoor adventure partner.

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