Bernese Mountain Dog | Ultimate Breed Guide
A rare sight in simmering India, the Bernese Mountain dog is one of the most good looking dog breeds out there. Initially bred for farm work in the hills of Switzerland, the “Berner” is an ideal breed for those who lead active lifestyles and love the outdoors. These large, tri-colored dogs are a great example of the term “gentle giant”- they are known to be patient, calm, and intelligent. However, do not be fooled by their friendly disposition! After all, they were bred for hard work, and for this reason, they are incredibly energetic and require plenty of exercises. This also means that they are not at all suited for apartment living and need adequate space to lead happy and healthy lives.
Accompanying their gentle nature is a stunning and well-endowed coat on the exterior that is prone to large amounts of shedding. However, prospective owners might be glad to know that the shedding is made up for by the ease of training these dogs. Bernese Mountain dogs are keen to learn and do, which contributes to their training. Their long history of herding, cart-pulling, and protecting means that they love being involved and require owners who are willing to include them in different activities. In addition to early training, plenty of socialization is also vital to make a Bernese Mountain puppy a well-rounded dog.
This breed is known to be affectionate and compatible with children, making it a good choice for families. However, one thing that you might want to know before zeroing in on a Berner, especially if you have kids, is that they have short life spans when compared to other breeds. The average lifespan of a
Bernese Mountain dog is 6-8 years, and this is because they are prone to many health problems which have arisen due to inbreeding. This heartbreaking fact inhibits many from adopting a dog of this breed, but there might be hope as recent advances in medicine can extend this time.
However, despite this, the charm of a fluffy Bernese Mountain puppy is hard to resist and given their temperament and disposition, they are sure to bring love and joy into their owners’ lives.
Origin: Bern, Switzerland
Avg Price in India: Rs.45000- Rs.50000
Breed Group: Working
Lifespan: 6-8 years
Avg Size of Male: 25-28 inches tall when measured from the shoulder and weight 80-115 pounds
Avg Size of Female: 23-26 inches tall when measured from the shoulder and weight 70-95 pounds
Weight Range: 70-115 pounds
Colors available: Combination of three colors- Jet Black, Rust, and White.
Good for First-time Owners: 2/5
Their mellow temperament may make the Bernese Mountain dog seem like a good breed for first-time owners, however, their high energy levels, large size, shedding and health issues may be better suited to
an experienced dog owner.
Energy Level: 4/5
As this breed was bred for heavy-duty farm work, they have high energy levels and need to be occupied.
Exercise Needs: 3/5
They require plenty of daily activity and space to run around.
This breed is very good with people and can be quite playful and goofy.
Affection Level: 4/5
Bernese Mountain dogs are people dogs- they require companionship and love. And in return for a loving family, they give plenty of affection and warmth.
This breed is very kid and family-friendly as it is known to be gentle and loyal.
Ease of training: 3.5/5
They have a desire to learn and involve themselves in activities, which makes them quite easy to train, given that training is started early.
Tendency to Bark or Howl: 4/5
One of the initial functions of this breed was a watchdog and for this reason, they have a tendency to bark or howl, especially when they think that they have to protect their owners.
Watchdog ability: 5/5
They are loyal to their families and will alert the family of any potential dangers by barking.
Protection ability: 4.5/5
Bernese Mountain dogs make for excellent watchdogs and will go to any lengths to protect their owners from potential dangers.
Grooming needs: 3/5
As these dogs have thick, luxurious coats they need to be groomed more often.
Amount of Shedding: 4.5/5
This breed’s good looks, unfortunately, come at the price of copious coat shedding, especially in the summer months.
General Health: 1/5
These dogs are prone to a number of genetic diseases which have arisen because of a small gene pool and irresponsible breeding practices.
Cold tolerance: 5/5
They were initially bred in the cold mountains of Switzerland which means that they do very well in cooler climates. Their thick coat protects them from cold winds and the biting weather.
Heat tolerance: 1/5
Bernese Mountain dogs do not do well in warmer climates and people who live in hot and humid areas are strongly advised against this breed.
History and Background
The Bernese Mountain dog is one of the four types of Switzerland mountain dogs that exist. They are believed to have originated in the farms of Bern, a canton in Switzerland. The breed came about as a cross between certain Mastiff breeds that entered the country with the invasion of the Romans in the 1st Century BC, and some local breeds. They served as loyal farm dogs for many years in the hills, performing tasks such as herding cattle, pulling carts and protecting their owners’ homes.
This breed almost became extinct in the 1900s when the number of people practicing agriculture in Switzerland fell. Thankfully, however, the native Swiss people became interested in preserving their indigenous breed, and attention was brought to it. Slowly after the 1 st World War, this breed was imported to different parts of the world such as the United States and Great Britain and today can be found in many countries, serving as a loyal companion.
Bernese Mountain dogs are large, strong dogs that are made for a lifetime of hard work. A very handsome breed, their tri-colored coat is their crowning glory. Most of their fur coloring is jet black, with some white on the chest and face areas as well as rust markings on the face and near the paws. Their coat has two layers- the outer layer is long and silky, and the undercoat is wooly. The coat is definitely prone to shedding and requires some extra grooming to maintain its luster.
They have medium-sized ears that are also fuzzy and drops down. Their eyes can range between several colors- from a light brown to an ice blue. Despite their size and appearance, the eyes of this breed reveal their gentle and calm nature.
This breed is known to be sweet, tolerant and calm. They adore their families and will protect them at any cost. An important thing to remember about this breed is that they mature very slowly- they reach their full size only at around 2 years old. However, this maturing process does not apply to the physical features of the dog but also to his mental faculties. This means that early socialization is recommended to get him used to different people and animals. An interesting fact about this breed is that they have a ‘soft’ personality and their feelings get hurt if they are reprimanded harshly. That is why gentle training before they reach their full size is required to get this breed to respond to commands.
As Bernese Mountain dogs can tend to be a little shy, introducing them to different social situations from a young age will help them develop their social skills and get over their hang-ups about new people. And last but not least, keeping your Berner well exercised and occupied will improve his health and personality and will also go a long way in preventing destructive behavior like digging and chewing.
Berners are especially prone to a large number of diseases and disorders which have risen due to their small gene pool. This has resulted in inbreeding and irresponsible breeding practices and has hence caused this breed to have a shorter lifespan. Getting a health guarantee from a breeder is an absolute must before deciding on this breed.
This breed, unfortunately, is affected by many types of cancer which can often prove to be fatal. The treatment has to be swift to save your dog from this disease. Malignant histiocytosis is one such type of cancer that this breed is especially prone to. Apart from cancer they can also suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, which are genetic conditions affecting the bones and joints of the dog. Von Willebrand’s disease is another disorder that can affect both dogs and humans. This disease inhibits the blood clotting process and can cause nosebleeds, bleeding of the gums and excessive bleeding from small cuts or incisions. Though this cannot be treated, it can be managed through medication and treatment.
Gastric Torsion is another health condition to look out for in a large breed like the Bernese Mountain dog. This occurs when the stomach fills up with gas and twists, cutting off blood flow to the heart. This can lead to death if not treated immediately. If you would recall, this is how Marley of the famous “Marley and Me” passed away.
Bernese Mountain dogs do require medical attention from time to time and can be predisposed to contracting certain genetic disorders. For this reason, it is crucial to choose a reliable and responsible breeder and also ensure that you have the financial means to look after one before adopting a Berner.
This breed as mentioned earlier sheds a decent amount so it is of utmost importance to brush your dog’s coat often with a brush designed for his type of fur. This will keep the coat shiny and healthy and will also remove dead hair. The good news is that this breed does not need to be bathed as often- once in two to three months will suffice.
Trimming of nails and brushing of the teeth should also be a part of the regular upkeep as this will help in maintaining hygiene. Daily brushing of the teeth will help in preventing gum diseases and buildup of tartar.
Also, be sure to check and clean your Berner’s ears often as they can be prone to infections. Clean them out when required with cotton.
- It is a much better and safer option to adopt a Berner from a shelter or rescue organization as most breeders do not pay attention to the health history of the dogs that they are breeding. This is crucial in the case of this breed, given the genetic conditions that they are susceptible to.
- Berners shed all year round but especially in the spring and fall seasons.
- People who live in hot and humid climates should definitely not consider this breed as they do not do well in such conditions.
- The Bernese Mountain dog is one of the four Swiss Mountain dogs and is the only of them that has long hair.