• MJ Stoltz

So, you think you want a Bernese Mountain Dog?

Are you considering adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your family?


With their beautiful coloring and adorably large faces, it’s hard to blame you. However, before bringing one of these giants into your household it’s important to do your research and make sure they’ll be a good fit for you, and you a good fit for them.


Luckily, we’ve made this easy for you! We’ve done all the research, and added in our experience with the breed, to summarize everything you need to know about them. Let’s dig in.





"Sully" Photo Credit: Karen Mayer from Erie, CO

Size and Grooming


These dogs are LARGE. Some might even say giant.


As with most breeds, females are generally smaller than males. According to the breed standard, females should be between 70 and 95 pounds and stand 23-26 inches tall, while males should range between 80 and 115 pounds and stand between 25 and 27.5 inches tall.


As with all breeds, getting your dog from a reputable breeder will help ensure they stay within these standards. Breed standards have the health of the dog in mind. While there’s nothing wrong with getting a rescue, backyard breeders sometimes breed for size. A larger dog isn’t necessarily a better dog, and it’s important to keep in mind that the larger they get the more susceptible they become to hip and joint issues as they age. Even when well-bred, this breed is more prone than others to hip and elbow dysplasia. If you’d have trouble paying for vet bills or helping these large dogs climb stairs or get in and out of vehicles, this is a good thing to consider.


There’s no denying that Bernese Mountain Dogs are beautiful dogs. Their tri-colored coat gives them a regal appearance, generally cloaking them with deep black along most of their bodies with white and rust colored markings on their face, chest and feet.


Their coat is moderately long and sheds year round, so you better have a good vacuum handy. In addition to the constant shedding, they blow their coat twice a year so if you have an issue with dog hair on your furniture this probably isn’t the breed for you.


Aside from the shedding, this breed has a pretty average grooming requirement. They need to be brushed regularly to keep their coat healthy and free of tangles, but don’t require cuts or trims. While I personally love bathing large dogs, make sure you either have a large bathtub to use (and a good back) or are ready to pay for a visit to the groomer every now and then.





"Sully" Photo Credit: Karen Mayer from Erie, CO

History


Bernese Mountain Dogs are named after the region in which they originated, the canton of Bern, which is an agricultural region in Switzerland.


These dogs were used in this mountainous region to drove cattle, guard farmyards from other animals, and act as a companion when the work was done for the day. Perhaps one of their most valuable abilities was that they are able to pull very heavy loads of weight as drafting dogs.


Looking at these dog’s today you can see genetics at work right in front of you. Their sturdy frame and dense undercoat make them a perfect candidate for working in cold temperatures in difficult terrain. This isn’t to say that they can’t live somewhere with warm weather, it just means they thrive in colder climates and need to be watched closely in hot weather to prevent overheating.


Another thing to consider is that, once upon a time, these dogs were designed to pull. As with all pets, we aim to train them to not pull… but just remember the muscle they can put into it if you don’t teach them to walk politely.






"Bruno" Photo Credit: Madi Flack

Personality


As a part of the Working Group, Berners are intelligent, strong, and enjoy the job of working alongside their human.


These dogs can make amazing family pets when matched with the right family. As adults, they often do great with children, but can be very exuberant and playful puppies who generally take a few years before beginning to mature. Their goofy personalities are wonderful, but their size and energy can cause them to accidentally knock small children over when you're not keeping a close eye on them.


For families that like to spend time outside, these dogs will fit right in. They’d love nothing more than to spend their days camping, hiking, or tagging along on your long walks and will happily pull your kids around on a sled in the snow.


Bernese Mountain Dogs are extremely affectionate with their families, and often choose one person to closely bond with, but tend to be aloof and suspicious of strangers if not properly socialized. Usually they start as happy-go-lucky puppies but can become more reserved as they get older. Because of how attached they are to their family, they can be prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. If you enjoy bringing your dog along on family vacations or if you spend a lot of time at home this may be a great match. But, if you take frequent vacations resulting in your dog being left at a boarding facility, or work long hours, you may want to consider a different breed.


When it comes to training, these dog’s aren’t necessarily difficult but can also give first time dog owners a run for their money. They’re incredibly smart, and are eager to please their owners. However, they can also be headstrong and tend to be very sensitive. They require a handler who is firm, gentle, fair and consistent. They want to spend their time with you, but when trained properly they don’t tend to be “velcro” dogs.




Health Issues


Like many breeds, Berners are prone to their own set of health concerns. These include:

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

  • Eye Issues

  • Thyroid Disorders

  • Autoimmune Diseases

  • Bloat


Unfortunately, these dogs live a shorter lifespan than many. Their average lifespan is around 7 years.


Because of their size Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to be more costly than smaller breeds. In addition to any medical conditions they may develop, they also need a lot of food to sustain their large and active bodies.




"Bruno" Photo Credit: Madi Flack

To summarize, these dogs may be a fantastic match if:

  • You enjoy spending time outdoors

  • You’re committed to spending quite a bit of time with them

  • You don’t work long hours

  • You’re willing to invest in training at a young age

  • You can physically handle a very large dog

  • Don’t mind setting time aside every week for general grooming


These dog’s may not be a good fit if you:

  • Have people living below you

  • Don’t enjoy the outdoors

  • Work long hours

  • Are not committed to training

  • Are not prepared for medical bills or the cost of a high quality diet for a dog who eats quite a bit

  • Live somewhere that has hot weather year-round



So, are you still considering a Bernese Mountain Dog? Let us know! Just like with any breed, these dogs can be absolutely wonderful companions for the right person. But, if this breed isn't for you, here are some other breeds that might be worth looking into:

  • Golden Retriever

  • Newfoundland

  • Swiss Mountain Dog

  • Saint Bernard




Sources:

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