Is a Berner for you?

• Are you looking for a small, delicate lap dog?

• Does dog hair everywhere give you fits?

• Can you live with a yard full of holes and barren of vegetation?

Are you sure you want a Bernese Mountain Dog?
The Bernese Mountain Dog, or Berner, originated in the Bern mountains of Switzerland. There are four Swiss Mountain Dogs: the Bernese, the Greater Swiss, the Appenzeller and the Entlebucher. The Berner has the longest hair coat. The Swissie is the largest and has a short coat. The Appenzeller is smaller than a Berner with a short coat and the Entlebucher is the smallest. The Berner was developed as a farm dog that pulled carts of produce and milk into town. They also guarded the farm and drove cattle and sheep.

Berners are large dogs. Males average 24-28 inches at the shoulder and weigh 80 to 120 pounds. Females are a bit smaller at 22-26 inches tall and can weigh 70 to 100 pounds. Berners are always tri-color and always have the same pattern. They are basic black with white muzzles, chests, toes or feet and a white tail tip. There is rust between the black and white adding to their striking markings.

The breed’s thick hair coat is medium to long in length and may be a bit wavy. There is a soft undercoat that is shed out every spring and the summer coat is then shed in the fall. Regular grooming is a must or the coat can quickly get out of control. This is also a working breed with lots of energy. They should be exercised regularly to keep the dog mentally and physically sound.

Berners are a very versatile breed. They can excel in obedience, tracking and agility. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America offers drafts tests. In this series of exercises, the dogs must pull a cart and demonstrate an ability to maneuver a cart empty and with a load in it. For the Novice Draft Dog (NDD) title, a dog must do this on a lead. Versatile Berners have a conformation championship (Ch), an obedience title and a draft dog title.

Berners are renowned for their lovely temperament. They are very people oriented and bond very strongly with their family. They can be aloof, but this should not excuse a shy or aggressive dog. They can be very good with children, but child-dog interactions should always be supervised. Children need to learn how to interact with a dog and the dog needs to learn appropriate behavior around children. Berners are also excellent therapy dogs. They can be protective without any special protection training other than being part of a loving family.

A major downside of this breed is the fact that they can be very short lived. The average life span of a Berner is 7-10 years. They can have many health problems including hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies and cancer. Two types of cancer have been shown to be genetic in Bernese Mountain Dogs. Veterinary cost are often more expensive due to the breed’s large size. Heartworm medication, anesthesia and antibiotic costs are all dependent on the size of the dog.

If you think this breed may be for you, attend dog shows to find breeders in your area. Be prepared to be asked a lot of questions. Good breeders are concerned with where their puppies are going. You should ask a lot of questions as well. Questions about health certifications that the dogs have, if they have any conformation or obedience titles, and what does the breeder think this litter can contribute to the overall quality of the breed are just a few examples. Meet the dogs and decide if you can live with the hair and the energy. Breeders may have puppies, or, if you don’t have the time and energy for a puppy, an older rescue dog may be what you need. Regional clubs usually have a rescue program in place. They also hold draft tests and have fun matches or picnics that allow you to see the dogs at work and in person. Talk with several people to get a better idea of how a Berner would fit into your life or how you will fit your life to a Berner!

The Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog descends from dogs in the Alps, which accompanied Roman soldiers, on their journeys through the mountains. Its ancestors were most likely large mastiff-type dogs, but dogs left as guardians at Roman outposts were also crossed with local herding dogs, resulting in the dog that we know today. The Bernese is one of the four breeds known as the Swiss Sennenhunde (the other three are the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, the Appenzeller, and the Entlebucher). The breed was agile and strong which enabled it to navigate treacherous mountain passes and to cart the wares of merchants to the market. The breed was not introduced to North America until the 1930’s but since that time has gained a great following. These large dogs, which require plenty of exercise and room, prefer country living, but adapt well to almost any environment as long as they are with their family.

Height: 24.5 – 27.5″ (62.2 – 62.2cm) for dogs, 23 – 26″ (58.4 – 58.4cm) for bitches

Weight: Males 80 to 120 pounds, females 70 to 100 pounds.

Coat Type: The heavy, glistening coat of the Bernese Mountain Dog is slightly wavy and is of medium-length. In the winter months the soft yet weather-resistant coat covers a dense undercoat. The color is always jet-black with rust and white markings. Grooming needs are easily met with regular brushing since the coat remains mat-free.

Temperament: A true servant to mankind, the breed has always been devoted, loyal, intelligent, and good-natured.

Health Problems: Berners are prone to hip and elbow Dysplasia, Bloat, Progressive retinal atrophy, OCD, Mast Cell tumors, Malignant Histiocytosis, along with other cancers.

Berners have an average life span of only 8 years

Special Interest: During the age of mechanization, the breed almost disappeared. Through the concerted efforts of two dedicated breeders in 1892, the Bernese Mountain Dog survived and, in the early 1900’s, rose in popularity in its homeland by leaps and bounds as a show dog.

AKC: Group 3 – Working Dogs
CKC: Group 3 – Working Dogs
KC: Non-Sporting – Working Group
FCI: Group 2
ANKC: Group 6 – Utility