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Bernese Mountain Dogs
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bernese mountain dog breed

While the Bernese Mountain dogs we know today originated in Switzerland, their distant ancestors are believed, by some, to have existed around two thousand years ago living alongside Roman armies.

Subsequently when the Romans invaded Switzerland, their dogs - speculated as Molosser type breeds, arrived with them and so began the evolution of the "Berner".

This familiar name, actually Berner Sennenhund, is derived from the Swiss canton of Berne in which these mountain dogs came to live as companions and guardians on farms.

Likely as not they also contributed their working talents for herding, droving and pulling carts while on the farms.

Most of the very early history of this ancient dog breed, as you may have already guessed, is not born out by documentation. However, later historical evidence does exist in the form of paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries showing farm dogs bearing a strong likeness to the BMD.

The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937.

Personality and Traits:

bernese mountain dog image in profile

While this breed is very confident and has shown to be an independent thinker, their history includes years of being completely domesticated pets.

As such, they have a strong desire to be included in every part of family life and will absolutely not do well left alone for extended periods. Prospective owners who ignore the Berner's need for companionship are sure to wind up with behavioral problems.

Once a Bernese feels he is firmly a part of the family pack, owners will enjoy a steady temperament, plus a loyal, affectionate and intelligent companion with trainability and willingness to please.

Training of the berner is very important to establish your leadership. The most successful approach to take with this sensitive dog is one of kindness, while at the same time being firm and consistent. Early socializing of this large dog is highly recommended.

They have proven to do well in the areas of conformation, obedience, carting and therapy services.

Health Concerns of the Bernese Mountain Dog

This breed's lifespan has seen quite a dramatic drop in recent years. While some may live up to eleven years, sadly it is more likely to be as little as eight or less due to a number of health issues that can affect them. Part of the reason may also be due to a tightly controlled gene pool and a certain amount of inbreeding,

Among the health issues affecting Bernese Mountain dogs, cancerous tumors appear to be the greatest concern, especially of the genetic kind. The most common type of hereditary cancer is reported to be histiocytic sarcoma and this accounts for a significant number of occurrences in the Berner dogs.

As is often the case with large breeds, Bernese Mountain dogs are also at a higher risk for arthritis, and hip/elbow dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia is the most frequently seen health problem in the orthopedic area.

Because of this, it would be important to purchase a puppy from a reliable breeder that only breeds dogs that been tested and cleared for these conditions and can provide proof that the parents of any puppy of interest have been so certified.

Other health concerns of the breed includes eye disorders - foremost being cataracts, followed by ectropion, and entropion. The breed also may be susceptable to allergy issues, bloat and kidney problems.


bernese mountain dog artwork

The look of this rugged mountain dog is impressive to say the least. Solid in appearance, symmetrical and well-balanced, he typifies the ideal physical characteristics of a working dog.

Height of Bernese Mountain dogs ranges from 23 to 27-1/2 inches.
Weight range is from 88 to 97 pounds.

Coat and Care:

bernese mountain dog in the snow

The coat is made up of three vivid colors with the dominant color being black. Rich rust markings appear in several areas of the body and there is a striking white blaze around the muzzle and chest.

The coat should have a natural sheen, be of medium length and can be slightly wavy or straight.

Fairly frequent brushing is needed to remove any accumulated dirt, prevent mats and tangles from forming and to keep it looking its gorgeous best.

A daily amount of shedding is common to the Berner which brushing will remove - thereby keeping it from being deposited around your home!

Heavy shedding of the undercoat only occurs seasonally - one or twice a year. During this "blowing" of the coat, more frequent brushing, as well as bathing, will speed up the process.

The FURminator is a very popular grooming tool Berner parents use for deshedding.

If the dog is to be shown the coat should remain natural without any unnecessary trimming.

In addition to coat care, it is a good idea to give your dog an overall pet checkup once a week - you can find out how to do that here.

Activity Level

This is a large breed and exercise activities need to be tailored to the age and health of the dog so as not to overstress limbs and muscles.

Not withstanding that all dogs need exercise, each one is unique in its physical abilities and inclinations. Learning from the breeder about the activity level of the parents of the your new dog should provide a helpful starting point for assessing the length of daily walks and play.

In general, healthy adult Bernese Mountain dogs need long walks every day, preferably during the cooler part of the day. If you enjoy hiking, this breed will not only love to accompany you, they can also carry the water and treats in a doggy backpack!

Space Needs

The Bernese Mountain dog is definitely a dog that prefers to spend most of the time inside with family. That being said, it would be ideal for him to have access to a fenced outdoor area where owners can safely put him outside for short periods of play and to enjoy some fresh air.

Whether inside or out, the heavy coat of the breed would generally lean toward cooler conditions when it comes to the ideal environment, but with access to plentiful water and shade, as well as a protective dog house, the Berner can be comfortable outside for brief amounts of the time even in warmer climates.

But it does bear keeping in mind that this breed has a heavy, mostly dark coat and originated in the mountains where temperatures rarely rise above seventy even in the summer months.

Children and the Bernese Mountain Dog

While Bernese Mountain dogs have a fine reputation for enjoying children and being gentle around them, those families with young children that are considering a Berner should keep in mind that this is a big dog. Young/small children, unless adequately instructed, can often behave in ways that test any pet's tolerance or might even accidentally injure a pet.

Likewise a dog of this size may innocently knock over a small child while playing a game.

Even after teaching a child the proper way to interact with pets, supervision by an adult is still the best policy whenever they are together because both children and pets can be unpredictable.

Senior or Less Active Families

Bernese Mountain dogs have proven themselves in therapy service and would make excellent companions for seniors or more sedentary families providing someone is available to handle daily walks.

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