Berner Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog 101:
Your Ultimate Guide

bernese mountain dog shedding

Welcome to an in-depth exploration of the captivating world of Bernese Mountain Dogs – an ultimate guide that delves into every facet of these remarkable companions. From their striking appearance to their endearing temperament, rich history, and practical care guidelines, this comprehensive resource aims to equip you with a thorough understanding of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed.

With a focus on accuracy and reliability, we’ll navigate through their distinctive traits, optimal living conditions, grooming needs, and more. Whether you’re a long-time admirer seeking to deepen your knowledge or a newcomer considering adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your life, this guide promises to provide a solid foundation to appreciate and care for these exceptional canines. 

Table of Contents

Bernese Mountain Dog Hike

Bernese Mountain Dog Origin, Roles, and Preservation

The Bernese Mountain Dog, also commonly known as “Berner Sennenhund” in its native tongue, originated in Switzerland, specifically in the canton of Bern, hence its name.

Historically, this breed was utilized by Swiss farmers as a working dog, performing various roles such as herding cattle, pulling carts, and serving as a watchdog. Known for its strength, agility, and affable nature, the Bernese Mountain Dog quickly gained popularity and began to spread to other countries in the 19th and 20th centuries, facilitated by the urbanization of Switzerland and the subsequent movement of people.

The breed was officially recognized by the Swiss Kennel Club in 1907, and thereafter by other kennel clubs worldwide, solidifying its status as a distinct breed. As its popularity continued to grow internationally, dedicated breeding programs were established to preserve the breed’s unique traits and characteristics. These programs have been crucial in maintaining the Bernese Mountain Dog’s genetic diversity, temperament, and working abilities while minimizing hereditary health issues.

Today, the Bernese Mountain Dog is cherished worldwide as a loyal companion and working dog, thanks to the tireless efforts of breed enthusiasts and dedicated breeders who have preserved and promoted this magnificent breed.

Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed that captures hearts around the world. Known for being gentle, affectionate, and incredibly loyal, they are often considered one of the best family pets. However, their temperament is influenced by various factors, including genetics, socialization, and training.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good with Kids?

Bernese mountain dogs are renowned for their gentle and affable nature, making them an excellent companion for children. These dogs are known to be extremely patient, tolerant, and protective, traits that are particularly desirable in a family pet.

Additionally, their playful and sociable demeanor aligns well with the energy and enthusiasm of children. Bernese mountain dogs often form strong bonds with their human families and are particularly affectionate towards children.

However, like with any breed, it is important to supervise interactions between dogs and young children to ensure safety for both parties. It is also essential to teach children how to properly interact with dogs, respecting their space and not engaging in behavior that could be perceived as threatening.

Overall, with proper socialization and training, the bernese mountain dog can be a wonderful and loyal addition to families with children.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Loyal?

Loyalty is at the core of the bernese mountain dog’s personality, resulting in unwavering devotion to their owners. They forge profound bonds that are built on trust, making them not only loyal but also protective guardians of their family unit. 

This deep-seated loyalty is a testament to their historical background as working and herding dogs, where close cooperation and reliance on their human counterparts were essential. This trait elevates them beyond mere pets, solidifying their position as steadfast and cherished members of the family.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Aggressive?

Bernese mountain dogs are generally not aggressive; they are known for their calm, gentle, and friendly demeanor. However, they are also known to be loyal and protective of their families, which means they may exhibit guarding behaviors, usually manifested as barking rather than aggression. 

Their loyalty and protective nature make them excellent watchdogs, but they are typically not aggressive towards people or other animals unless they perceive a direct threat to their family. It is important to note that bernese mountain dogs have a potential for shyness or sensitivity, which can sometimes be mistaken for aggression if the dog is fearful or feels cornered. 

Proper socialization and positive reinforcement-based training from a young age are crucial to prevent the development of fearful or shy behaviors and to ensure a well-rounded, confident dog. While individual temperament can vary, the breed as a whole is not known for aggression.

bernese mountain dog

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good with Cats?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally known for their gentle and friendly nature. They are often good with children and other animals, including cats. However, every dog is an individual, and their ability to get along with cats will depend on their individual temperament and the way in which they have been socialized.

It is important to remember that Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large breed, and sometimes they can accidentally knock over smaller animals or children just by their sheer size and strength.

If you are introducing a Bernese Mountain Dog to a cat, it’s important to do so carefully and gradually, and to supervise their interactions until you are confident that they can get along safely. 

Also, make sure to provide the cat with escape routes and high places to retreat to if needed.

Bernese Mountain Dog Snow

Suitable Environment and Living Conditions

Ideal Climate

The ideal climate for a bernese mountain dog is a cooler one, as their thick, long coat is designed to keep them warm in cold temperatures. This breed originated in the swiss mountains, and they are well-suited for similar environments. 

They thrive in regions with cooler temperatures and even enjoy playing in the snow. It is important to note that, due to their dense coat, they can quickly become overheated in hot weather. Therefore, it is essential to provide a cool, shaded environment during the warmer months and to ensure they have access to plenty of fresh water. 

Exercise should be limited during the hottest parts of the day to prevent overheating.

Adaptability to Warmer Climates

While the Bernese Mountain Dog prefers cooler climates, they can adapt to living in warmer regions if certain precautions are taken. It is crucial to provide a cool and shaded environment for them to retreat to during the hot weather. 

An air-conditioned dog house is an excellent solution to keep your Bernese Mountain Dog cool and comfortable during the hot summer months, as it provides a shaded and chilled retreat for them to escape the heat. 

Additionally, exercise should be limited during the hottest parts of the day, and they should have access to plenty of fresh water at all times. It is also important to be aware of the signs of overheating, such as excessive panting, drooling, and lethargy. 

While they can adapt to different climates, it is important to be aware of their needs to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Indoor Space

For a Bernese Mountain Dog, a living area of at least 600-800 square ft is recommended to allow them enough space to move around comfortably without feeling cramped. Additionally, they should have a comfortable and spacious sleeping area, ideally a dog bed that is at least 4×3 ft. 

It is also important to consider the layout of your home. Open floor plans work well for larger breeds as it gives them more room to move around. Remember, this is just a guideline, and the more space you can provide, the better it will be for the dog. 

It is also important to provide regular exercise and socialization outside of the home. Bernese Mountain Dogs enjoy spending time with their families and should be included in family activities both inside and outside the home.

Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise

Outdoor Space

For a Bernese Mountain Dog, it is recommended to have a backyard that is at least 1000 square ft. This will provide ample space for them to roam, play, and exercise freely. 

However, the larger the space, the better, as it allows for more room to run and play. Make sure the area is securely fenced to keep the dog safe. Remember, having a spacious backyard is beneficial for their physical and mental well-being, but it is not a substitute for regular walks and exercise. 

It is important to provide regular exercise and socialization outside of the backyard as well.

Can Bernese Mountain Dogs Live in Apartments?

Bernese Mountain Dogs can live in apartments, but there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Because they are a large and active breed, they require a significant amount of space to move around comfortably. A minimum apartment size of 800-1000 square ft is recommended.

Additionally, it is important to provide regular exercise and socialization outside of the apartment. Living in an apartment means you will need to take them out for walks several times a day, and also provide opportunities for off-leash play in a securely fenced area.

It is also important to consider the dog’s temperament. Bernese Mountain Dogs are known to be calm and well-mannered indoors, which can make them suitable for apartment living. 

However, they can also be prone to separation anxiety, so it is important to provide proper training and socialization to ensure they are comfortable being left alone.

Finally, consider the rules and regulations of your apartment building. Some buildings have restrictions on the size or breed of dogs allowed. Make sure to check with your landlord or apartment management before bringing a Bernese Mountain Dog into your apartment.

Setting up Personal Space

Creating a personal space is important for Bernese Mountain Dogs as it offers them a sense of security, helps manage stress and separation anxiety, facilitates better sleep, and aids in training and behavior management.

Since they are a large breed, it is important to provide a spacious bed or crate that is large enough for them to lie down comfortably. A dog bed that is at least 48x36in (122x91cm) should be sufficient. Consider options with orthopedic or memory foam for support, a durable and washable cover, and raised edges or bolsters for comfort. 

A non-slip bottom is essential to prevent movement on slippery floors, and a waterproof or water-resistant cover is helpful for managing accidents or drooling. These features ensure the bed is comfortable, functional, and hygienic.  

Additionally, their personal space should include familiar items, such as their favorite toys, a piece of clothing, and a blanket, to help them feel secure and comfortable. Fresh water should always be available in this space, and it should be regularly cleaned and maintained. 

It is recommended to set up their personal space in a quiet area of your home, away from high traffic areas and noisy appliances, to provide a peaceful retreat for your dog. Remember, while it is important to provide a personal space for your dog, they should not be left in confined spaces for extended periods.

Bernese Mountain Dog Size

Bernese Mountain Dog Size

Male Bernese Mountain Dog Weight & Height

In the world of Bernese Mountain Dogs, males stand as sturdy figures, typically weighing between 80 to 115lb (36.3-52.2 kg) as they mature. This weight range underscores their historical role as robust working partners, adept at tasks like herding and pulling carts. 

Their substantial build, including a broad chest and muscular frame, reflects their physical prowess and heritage. This weight range captures their commanding presence and speaks to their enduring capability. 

Adult males typically stand between 25-28 inches at the shoulder, exemplifying their commanding presence and historical role as strong working companions.

Female Bernese Mountain Dog Weight & Height

Female Bernese Mountain Dogs exhibit grace and agility, usually weighing around 70-95lb (31.8-43.1 kg) when fully grown. 

Their slightly lighter weight compared to males doesn’t diminish their strength. Instead, it showcases their ability to navigate various terrains with precision and poise. Their build, though lighter, reflects their historical versatility as farm dogs, emphasizing a balanced combination of strength and finesse. 

Adult females display a slightly smaller yet equally elegant height than the males, ranging from 23-26 inches.

Factors Affecting Bernese Mountain Dog Weight

Several factors influence the weight of Bernese Mountain Dogs, contributing to the range observed within the breed. Genetics play a crucial role the lineage and genetics of the parents can influence how a dog’s weight aligns with the typical range. 

Nutrition also has a significant impact. A balanced diet tailored to their life stage and activity level can help maintain a healthy weight. Lifestyle and exercise routines are pivotal. Regular physical activity not only prevents excess weight gain but also promotes overall well-being. 

On a more obvious note, age is another determinant puppies grow and gain weight rapidly; weight stabilization occurs as dogs mature.


Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy Weight

As puppies, Bernese Mountain Dogs start small, around 1 – 1.5 lb at birth. During their rapid growth phase, which spans approximately 6 to 9 months, they steadily put on weight. 

By the time they reach 6 months, male puppies can weigh around 45 – 60 lbs, while females are slightly lighter at 40 to 55 lbs. This weight progression underscores their transformation into the sturdy adults that exemplify the breed. 

Understanding this growth trajectory is essential for providing them with the right care and nourishment to support their development.

Dogs Similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog in Weight and Height

Dogs that share similar height and weight characteristics with Bernese Mountain Dogs encompass a few distinct breeds. 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, hailing from the same Swiss lineage, often shares a comparable height range of around 23 – 28in at the shoulder. These dogs also share the tricolor coat pattern, contributing to their visual resemblance. 

Another breed that aligns in size is the Saint Bernard, known for its impressive stature, often standing around 25 – 28in tall. While their coats may differ, both breeds exude a gentle and reliable nature, much like their Bernese counterparts. These breeds not only showcase similar heights, but also reflect the charm of large, hearty companions that have historically contributed to various roles alongside humans.

It is worth mentioning that like any breed, there can be variations in size and weight within the Bernese Mountain Dog breed. Some individuals may be slightly larger or smaller than the average range.

Double Dew claw

Unique Appendages

Double Dewclaw

Before delving into the intriguing world of Bernese Mountain Dogs’ double dewclaws, let’s unravel the nature of these appendages. A dewclaw is an extra, vestigial digit that doesn’t make contact with the ground. 

Most dogs have single dewclaws on their front legs, resembling thumbs. However, Bernese Mountain Dogs defy the norm with a fascinating twist they possess not just one, but two dewclaws on their hind legs. 

This unique feature adds to their distinctive appearance and carries a historical legacy that shapes their functionality and care.

Functionality in the Alps: Double Dewclaws' Purpose

The double dewclaws of Bernese Mountain Dogs aren’t merely ornamental; they serve a significant purpose harkening back to their ancestral responsibilities in the Swiss Alps. 

These extra digits acted as natural aids, lending enhanced stability and traction on the challenging terrain of the Alpine region.

From herding livestock to hauling carts, these dewclaws functioned as built-in crampons, allowing these dogs to navigate rocky paths and steep inclines with remarkable surefootedness.

Modern Choices: To Remove or Retain?

Interestingly, some modern breeders choose to address the presence of double dewclaws in a different light. While these appendages are a testament to the breed’s historical role, their positioning can sometimes make them susceptible to injury. 

Dewclaws, particularly when not closely attached, can snag on objects or tear accidentally, leading to discomfort or complications. Consequently, breeders sometimes opt to remove the double dewclaws shortly after birth. 

This decision is grounded in ensuring the dogs’ well-being and preventing potential future issues.

bernese mountain dog

Bernese Mountain Dog Coat

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s coat embodies practical functionality, characterized by a two-tiered structure that harmonizes protection and comfort. This double coat comprises an outer layer and an undercoat, each layer thoughtfully tailored to adapt to the dog’s environment.

Outer Coat

Guardian of Elements: Anchored by the outer layer, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s coat features moderately long guard hairs that form an impenetrable barrier against external forces. 

These coarser guard hairs serve as a protective shield, effectively shielding the dog from elements such as rain, snow, debris, and even harmful UV rays. 

This rugged exterior ensures the dog’s cleanliness and guards against dampness or the accumulation of foreign particles.


Nestled beneath the guard hairs, the undercoat emerges as the coat’s temperature control center. Comprised of fine, densely packed hairs, the undercoat functions as a natural insulator, trapping air close to the dog’s body for efficient thermal regulation. 

During colder periods, the undercoat thickens to provide a cozy, heat-retentive layer. Conversely, in warmer climates, it thins out to enhance air circulation, mitigating the risk of overheating.

Not All Coats Are Equal

It’s crucial to recognize that not all dogs possess double coats; this characteristic is not universal. Some breeds exhibit single coats primarily composed of guard hairs. While these single coats lack the layered versatility of a Bernese Mountain Dog’s coat, they still serve vital functions.

Single coats can offer sufficient protection against milder weather conditions, functioning as efficient shields against rain and sun exposure, albeit without the added insulation and adaptability of a dual-layered coat.

Many other breeds also have double coats, including the Siberian Husky, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Samoyed, as well as some smaller breeds such as the Shiba Inu and Pomeranian.

It’s important to note that although many breeds have double coats, there is often great variation of the length, density, and appearance of the coat from breed to breed.

bernese mountain dog color

Coat Color Variations and Markings

In Bernese Mountain Dogs, the most common and recognized coat color is the traditional tri-color pattern of black, rust, and white. This classic color combination is not only visually striking but also serves as a key identifier of the breed. 

The rust and white markings often appear in specific areas such as the eyebrows, cheeks, chest, legs, and tail tip. Additionally, a distinctive feature seen in some Bernese Mountain Dogs is the presence of a white Swiss cross on the chest. This cross, when present, adds a touch of uniqueness to the breed’s appearance.

However, within the spectrum of coat colors, there are occasional occurrences of other color mutations that can lead to variations. It’s important to note that while these variations might pique curiosity, they generally don’t align with the breed standard due to potential health concerns and the desire to uphold the breed’s distinct visual identity.

Beyond the tri-color pattern, a few color mutations that can occasionally arise include:

Merle: Merle Bernese Mountain Dogs showcase a captivating coat featuring a mix of colors, such as black, gray, and blue, forming irregular patches against a lighter backdrop. The hallmark of a merle coat is its marbled or mottled appearance, creating intricate and unique patterns that set them apart. While visually striking, merle-coated Bernese Mountain Dogs are notably rare, accounting for a low percentage of births within the breed due to the recessive nature of the merle gene. However, it’s important to highlight that the merle gene can also bring about health concerns, including potential risks of deafness, blindness, and developmental issues.

Solid White: The rare solid white color in Bernese Mountain Dogs results from genetic mutations impacting pigment distribution, often accompanied by an elevated risk of congenital deafness. This condition is tied to the white (S) gene, which can influence both coat color and hearing health.

Solid Brown: Occasionally, genetic variations lead to a rare brown coat variant in Bernese Mountain Dogs, arising from the B locus gene. While maintaining the breed’s robust traits, these dogs may be more susceptible to health issues related to pigmentation, such as sunburn and pigmentation-related skin disorders like vitiligo or melanoma due to increased sensitivity to sun exposure.

It’s crucial to understand that breed standards prioritize the holistic well-being of Bernese Mountain Dogs, including their health, temperament, and appearance. Although unique coat colors might be aesthetically appealing, responsible breeding practices remain centered around maintaining the recognized tri-color appearance while safeguarding the health and longevity of individual dogs. 

If you’re considering adopting a Bernese Mountain Dog or are intrigued by coat color variations, seeking guidance from reputable breeders and veterinarians is strongly recommended.

Bernese Mountain Dog Grooming

Bernese Mountain Dog Grooming

Routine grooming maintenance for a Bernese Mountain Dog involves regular brushing to remove loose hair and prevent mats, occasional bathing to remove dirt and maintain coat health, nail trimming to prevent discomfort, dental care to prevent tartar buildup and gum disease, and ear cleaning to prevent infections. 

During shedding seasons, thorough de-shedding is particularly important to remove all the loose hair. Regular maintenance is crucial for the overall health and comfort of your Bernese Mountain Dog.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Shed?

As mentioned previously, our Berners have a double coat, which consists of two layers: a dense, soft undercoat, and a longer, coarser outer coat. Bernese Mountain Dogs experience a moderate to high level of shedding. 

Their thick double coat helps protect them in cold weather, but it also means they shed their fur throughout the year. Shedding tends to be more significant during seasonal transitions in spring and fall. 

Regular brushing is essential to manage their shedding and keep their coat healthy. During heavy shedding periods, daily brushing may be necessary. While Bernese Mountain Dogs do shed, it’s worth noting that proper grooming and regular brushing can help minimize the amount of loose hair in the home. 

Double coated dogs often require specific grooming techniques to keep them healthy and well-maintained.

Which Brush is Best for Dogs with Double Coats?

When grooming double coated dogs, it is essential to use the right brushes and grooming tools due to effectively tackle both the outer coat and the dense undercoat.

Slicker Brush: A slicker brush is an essential tool for grooming a Bernese Mountain Dog. It has fine, short wires close together on a flat or slightly curved surface. The slicker brush helps remove tangles, loose hair, and debris from the outer coat. Gently brush in the direction of hair growth, working through the coat section by section. Be cautious not to press too hard, as you don’t want to scratch or irritate the dog’s skin.

Undercoat Rake or De-shedding Tool: A specialized undercoat rake or de-shedding tool is useful for removing loose hair and reducing shedding from the dense undercoat of a Bernese Mountain Dog. These tools have longer, widely spaced teeth that reach down into the undercoat to remove loose hairs. Use the rake or de-shedding tool in the direction of hair growth, working through the coat gently. Be mindful not to pull or tug too hard, especially on any tangles or mats.

Pin Brush: A pin brush is similar to a human hairbrush and can be used for everyday grooming. It’s great for removing loose hair and debris while also stimulating the skin and distributing natural oils throughout the coat.

Comb: A comb with both wide and narrow teeth can be helpful for removing tangles and mats and for grooming around the face and paws.

Remember to always groom in the direction of hair growth and be gentle when removing tangles and mats to avoid causing any discomfort or pain. Regular brushing with the appropriate tools will help to keep your Bernese Mountain Dog’s coat healthy and comfortable.

Bernese Mountain Dog Shedding

Bathing & De-Shedding

Bathing a Bernese Mountain Dog can be a challenging task due to their large size and thick double coat. It is generally recommended to bathe a Bernese Mountain Dog every three to four months, unless they get particularly dirty or have a bad odor. 

However, many owners prefer to align the bathing time with the major de-shedding seasons, spring and fall, when the dogs shed their seasonal undercoats, to manage everything at once. Bathing helps to loosen the dead coat and can make it easier to remove when brushing. 

It is important to use a dog-specific shampoo that is gentle on their skin and coat.

The time it takes to bathe and de-shed a Bernese Mountain Dog yourself can vary depending on a few factors: the thickness of their coat, their size, and their level of cooperation. 

Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to bathe a Bernese Mountain Dog properly, and another 1 to 2 hours to thoroughly de-shed their coat, making a total of 2 to 4 hours. Keep in mind that de-shedding is a thorough process that involves removing all the loose hair from both the topcoat and the undercoat, and it can be quite time-consuming. 

Additionally, it is crucial to thoroughly dry their coat after bathing to prevent any skin infections.

Because of these challenges, many owners choose to take their Bernese Mountain Dog to a professional groomer. 

A professional groomer will have the necessary experience, tools, and facilities to properly bathe, dry, and de-shed your dog, making the process less stressful for both you and your dog. 

However, it is important to note that not all groomers are equally skilled at de-shedding, so it is recommended to do your research and choose a groomer with experience in dealing with double-coated breeds like the Bernese Mountain Dog.

Dog paw fur

To Trim or Not to Trim?

While you don’t need to trim a Bernese Mountain Dog’s coat, some areas may require attention. Trimming the hair between the paw pads can prevent matting and reduce the accumulation of debris. You may also need to trim the hair around the ears, eyes, and tail to keep those areas clean and tidy.

The Dangers of Shaving a Bernese Mountain Dog

It is not recommended to shave a Bernese Mountain Dog or any other breed with a double coat. The double coat serves as insulation to keep the dog cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and shaving it can interfere with the dog’s natural ability to regulate its body temperature, potentially leading to heatstroke, hypothermia, and sunburn. 

Shaving can also expose the skin to the sun, increasing the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Additionally, shaving a double coat can lead to permanent damage to the coat, causing it to grow back unevenly or not at all. 

This can lead to skin problems such as irritation, dryness, and infections. Instead of shaving, it is recommended to regularly brush your Bernese Mountain Dog to remove loose hair and prevent mats and tangles. 

Regular grooming will help keep your dog comfortable and healthy without the need for shaving.

Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise

Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise

Bernese Mountain Dog Energy Level

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally considered to have a moderate energy level. As puppies and adolescents, they can exhibit bursts of energy and playfulness, but as they mature, they tend to become more calm and laid-back. 

However, it is important to remember that “moderate energy” does not mean “no exercise needed”. Regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and social interaction are still essential for their overall well-being and happiness.

How Much Exercise Does a Bernese Mountain Dog Need?

Ideally, Bernese Mountain Dogs should receive at least one hour of exercise daily, incorporating both moderate and more vigorous exercises. Start with a brisk walk, gradually increasing the pace to a light jog or a game of fetch. 

Hiking is also a great activity for this breed as it not only provides physical exercise but also mental stimulation from the changing environment. Their dense coat makes them particularly prone to heat exhaustion, so adjusting their exercise routine according to weather conditions is non-negotiable for their health. 

Additionally, be mindful of ground heat; for example, when the air temperature is 77F (25C), the asphalt can quickly reach 125F (52C), which is hot enough to cause paw pad burns. 

Hence, always check the pavement temperature and, if necessary, opt for grassy areas or adjust the timing of walks to cooler parts of the day.

Mental Stimulation

To mentally stimulate your Bernese Mountain Dog, incorporate a variety of activities that challenge their cognitive functions. 

Start with basic obedience training, which not only instills good behavior but also engages their mind. Puzzle toys filled with treats can be a great way to challenge them mentally and keep them occupied. 

Interactive games like hide and seek or finding hidden treats also provide mental engagement. Regularly changing the toys and rotating different activities can help prevent boredom.

 Additionally, advanced training sessions that involve teaching new tricks or commands can be an excellent way to keep their mind active. 

Remember, mental stimulation is as important as physical exercise for a Bernese Mountain Dogs well-being, so make it a priority in their daily routine to ensure a well-rounded, happy, and healthy dog.

Age-Appropriate Exercise and Joint Health

It is crucial to tailor your Bernese Mountain Dog’s exercise routine to their age to support joint health and ensure long-term well-being. 

Puppies and young dogs need moderate activities like controlled leash walks on soft surfaces to protect developing joints. 

As they mature, gradually increase exercise intensity with activities like hiking or light jogging that build muscle strength and support joints. For senior dogs, maintain regular, gentle exercise, adjusting for any limitations. 

Age-appropriate exercises are key to physical and mental well-being, promoting vitality throughout their life.

Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy training

Bernese Mountain Dog Training and Socialization

Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, which makes them highly trainable. 

They are not typically described as stubborn, however, like all breeds, they can have their moments, especially if they are not properly trained or socialized. 

It’s important to start training and socialization as early as 8 weeks old, and to be consistent and positive in your approach.

Training and Socializing Your Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy

It is best to start training a Bernese Mountain Dog as early as possible. Puppies as young as 8 weeks old can begin learning basic commands like sit, stay, and come. 

Early socialization is also crucial for Bernese Mountain Dogs, so exposing them to various people, animals, and environments during their first three months can help them grow up to be well-rounded and confident adults. 

Puppy training classes can be a great way to start both training and socialization. Remember to use positive reinforcement techniques and be consistent and patient with your training approach.

Training Adult Bernese Mountain Dogs

Contrary to popular belief, adult dogs, including Bernese Mountain Dogs, can learn new skills and behaviors. Training an adult Bernese Mountain Dog may require more time, patience, and possibly professional assistance, especially if they have developed undesirable habits or have a lack of proper socialization. 

It’s crucial to maintain consistency, exhibit patience, and employ positive reinforcement techniques throughout the training process. Initiating training with basic obedience commands and progressively advancing to more complex training is recommended. 

Moreover, careful socialization should be integrated into the training regimen of an adult Bernese Mountain Dog, particularly if they were not sufficiently socialized during their puppyhood or have not spent time around other dogs for most of their lives.

bernese mountain dog training

Obedience Training

Obedience training should include basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and leash training. Since Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large and powerful breed, leash training is particularly important to ensure they are manageable and well-behaved when out and about. 

It’s also beneficial to start training them as puppies, as they are eager to learn, and this will set a good foundation for their adult years. 

Additionally, teaching fun tricks such as spin, shake, and roll over, still contributes to general obedience even though they are for fun. 

Training should not always be serious and strict; incorporating learning fun tricks can make the training sessions more enjoyable for both you and your dog, while still teaching them to listen and follow commands.

Bernese Mountain Dog Cart Pulling

Activities and Challenges

Due to their working heritage, Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to do well in activities that challenge their mind and body, such as agility, obedience competitions, and cart-pulling. 

Engaging them in these activities will not only provide physical exercise but also mental stimulation. It is also a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog and to keep them happy and fulfilled.

Benefits of Online Dog Training Courses

Online dog training courses can be a great option for training your Bernese Mountain Dog, especially if you are a first-time dog owner or if you have a busy schedule. 

Online courses allow you to learn at your own pace and revisit the material as many times as needed. They also provide the flexibility to train your dog at any time of the day, which can be particularly beneficial for those with busy schedules. 

Moreover, online dog training courses often provide a structured training plan and clear, step-by-step instructions, making it easier to train your dog consistently and effectively.

Recommended Online Dog Training Courses

It is essential to find the right resources for training your Bernese Mountain Dog. 

There are several online dog training platforms that come highly recommended by dog owners, such as The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan, Train Pet Dog, Success Dogs, Dog Training Depot, and Brain Training for Dogs. 

Regardless of the method or platform you choose, the most important factors in dog training are consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement.

Bernese mountain dog health issues

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Issues

Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to certain health issues including cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, inherited eye disease, and bloat. 

These issues are common due to genetic predispositions, as many purebred dogs, including the Bernese, are prone to certain inherited health problems.

Cancer, particularly Histiocytic Sarcoma

What is Histiocytic Sarcoma? Histiocytic sarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer that arises from histiocytes, a type of cell that is part of the immune system. This cancer can affect multiple organs and tissues throughout the body, making it particularly challenging to treat.

Why Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone: Unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a significantly higher genetic predisposition to develop histiocytic sarcoma compared to other breeds. While the exact cause is unknown, it is believed to be due to specific genetic mutations that have become more common in the breed over time.

Symptoms: Symptoms can vary widely depending on the location and extent of the tumors. Common signs may include lameness, swelling, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing. Given the nonspecific nature of these symptoms, a thorough veterinary evaluation is essential for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment and associated costs: Treatment options for histiocytic sarcoma are limited and often involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, due to the aggressive nature of this cancer, the prognosis is often poor even with treatment. Costs can vary widely but can easily reach several thousand dollars. It is vital to have a comprehensive pet insurance policy that includes coverage for cancer treatment to help manage these costs.

Prognosis: The prognosis for histiocytic sarcoma is generally poor, with many dogs succumbing to the disease within a few months to a year after diagnosis, despite aggressive treatment.

Preventative Measures: Unfortunately, there are no known preventative measures for histiocytic sarcoma. However, early detection can sometimes lead to better outcomes, so regular veterinary check-ups are essential. This is not necessarily a result of ‘poor breeding practices’ but rather a consequence of a small gene pool, which increases the risk of genetic diseases like histiocytic sarcoma. Responsible breeders attempt to breed out these genetic diseases by conducting appropriate genetic testing and only breeding dogs free of these conditions. However, due to the complex nature of cancer, it is not always possible to entirely eliminate the risk.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

What are Hip and Elbow Dysplasia? Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are developmental disorders where the hip or elbow joint does not develop correctly. This can lead to arthritis and pain in the affected joints.

Why Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone: Bernese Mountain Dogs are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia due to their size, genetics, and breeding history. Large and giant breeds like the Bernese Mountain Dog are more susceptible to these conditions because of the increased weight and stress on their joints, and can be propagated through poor breeding practices. Responsible breeding, selecting pairs with good hip and elbow scores, is crucial to reduce the incidence of these conditions.

Symptoms: Symptoms can vary from dog to dog but commonly include limping, difficulty standing up or lying down, reluctance to jump, run, or climb stairs, and an altered gait.

Treatment and associated costs: Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition and can range from non-surgical management (weight control, physical therapy, and pain medications) to surgical intervention. Costs can vary significantly, from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the treatment required. A comprehensive pet insurance policy that includes coverage for genetic conditions is crucial to help manage these costs.

Prognosis: With early detection and appropriate treatment, many dogs can lead active and comfortable lives. However, it is a progressive condition, and in severe cases, it can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life.

Preventative Measures: While it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk, feeding a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing regular, moderate exercise can help manage the condition. Most importantly, only obtain a dog or puppy from a reputable and ethical breeder who conducts proper genetic testing and screening for hip and elbow dysplasia before breeding.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

What is PRA? PRA is a group of genetic diseases that lead to the degeneration of the photoreceptor cells in the retina, eventually resulting in blindness.

Why Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone: Although PRA can affect many breeds, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a higher genetic predisposition due to specific genetic mutations. The risk of PRA, as well as other genetic disorders, is often higher in purebred dogs because of the limited genetic diversity within the breed.

Symptoms: The initial symptoms may include night blindness and dilated pupils, which can progress to decreased light response and, eventually, complete blindness. Both eyes usually get affected simultaneously.

Treatment and associated costs: Unfortunately, there is no cure for PRA. However, antioxidant supplements and supportive care can help slow down the progression. The costs associated with managing PRA can vary, but they are generally lower compared to other genetic diseases. Purchasing a comprehensive pet insurance policy that includes coverage for genetic conditions will help manage some of the associated costs.

Prognosis: The eventual outcome of PRA is blindness. However, dogs adapt remarkably well to vision loss, provided their environment remains consistent.

Preventative Measures: Preventing PRA is not possible once a dog carries the genetic mutation. It is crucial to only obtain a dog or puppy from a responsible breeder who conducts genetic testing for the PRA gene mutation before breeding. This practice can help reduce the incidence of the disease in the breed.

Von Willebrand's Disease (vWD)

What is vWD? vWD is a hereditary condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot properly. It is caused by a lack or malfunction of a specific protein needed for blood clotting. There are three different forms of this disease, ranging from mild (Type 1) to severe (Type 3).

Why Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone: Like many purebred dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a relatively small gene pool, which increases the risk of genetic diseases like vWD becoming more prevalent. Over generations of breeding, certain genetic traits, including the defective gene responsible for vWD, may have become more common in the breed population.

Symptoms: Symptoms can vary widely, from mild to severe, and may include spontaneous bleeding from the nose, gums, or other mucous membranes, prolonged bleeding after surgery or injury, blood in the urine or stool, and, in severe cases, spontaneous internal bleeding.

Treatment and associated costs: Treatment for vWD involves managing bleeding episodes and minimizing the risk of bleeding. This may include transfusions of blood or blood products, and the use of medications that promote clotting. The cost of treatment can vary significantly based on the severity of the disease and the frequency of bleeding episodes, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars annually. A comprehensive pet insurance policy with coverage for genetic conditions can help manage some of these costs.

Prognosis: The prognosis for dogs with vWD varies depending on the severity of the disease. Dogs with mild forms of the disease may lead relatively normal lives with proper management, while dogs with severe forms may have a shortened lifespan due to complications from bleeding.

Preventative Measures: The best way to prevent vWD is through responsible breeding practices. The incidence of Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) can be higher among dogs bred by breeders who do not conduct genetic testing. Since vWD is a genetic disorder, it is passed from parent to offspring. Breeders who do not conduct genetic testing on their breeding dogs cannot know if they are carriers of the vWD gene mutation, and therefore may breed dogs that pass the disease to their offspring. This is why it is so important to avoid backyard breeders, and only obtain a dog from a reputable and ethical breeder who conducts genetic testing for known hereditary diseases, including vWD.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), or bloat

What is GDV? GDV, commonly known as bloat, is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and then twists (volvulus), preventing the gas from escaping and cutting off blood supply to the stomach and other organs.

Why Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone: Bernese Mountain Dogs are at higher risk for GDV because they are a large and deep-chested breed. These physical characteristics make them more susceptible to bloat compared to smaller or more compact breeds.

Symptoms: Symptoms of GDV include a visibly distended abdomen, unproductive attempts to vomit (retching), restlessness, excessive drooling, pale gums, rapid heart rate, and collapse.

Treatment and associated costs: GDV is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgical intervention to untwist the stomach and remove any dead tissue. The cost of treatment, including surgery and supportive care, will vary widely based on the severity of the condition and the region in which you live, but can range from $1,500 to $5,000 or more. Obtaining a comprehensive pet insurance policy with coverage for emergency situations is highly recommended to help manage these costs.

Prognosis: With prompt and appropriate treatment, the prognosis for dogs with GDV can be good. However, there is always a risk of complications, and some dogs may not survive despite the best efforts of the veterinary team.

Preventative Measures: While the exact cause of GDV is not known, there are several preventative measures that can help reduce the risk. These include feeding smaller, more frequent meals; avoiding exercise immediately before and after eating; not feeding from a raised bowl; and avoiding rapid eating by using a slow-feeder bowl. It is also advised to be aware of the symptoms and seek immediate veterinary attention if GDV is suspected.

bernese mountain dog

Bernese Mountain Dog Lifespan

Bernese Mountain Dogs typically have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years, heavily influenced by genetics and inheritable diseases such as cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, and heart diseases. 

Another factor contributing to their relatively short lifespan is their size; larger dog breeds tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds. 

This phenomenon is somewhat counterintuitive as in many species, larger animals tend to live longer. However, in dogs, larger breeds age more quickly and are more prone to age-related diseases at a younger age.

Bernese Mountain Dog Longevity: Breeder Responsibilities

Selecting a reputable, responsible breeder increases your dog’s chances of a longer, healthier life, as the breeder prioritizes genetic testing and health screenings, reducing inherited diseases.

 Responsible breeders also provide proper early life care, nutrition, and socialization; they set a strong foundation for long-term health, and offer ongoing support to new owners and accurate information about breed-specific needs and common health issues.

Bernese Mountain Dog Longevity: Owner Responsibilities

Owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs can help avoid unnecessary shortening of their Bernese Mountain Dog’s life by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, mental stimulation, and routine veterinary check-ups. 

Additionally, being proactive about preventing obesity, promptly addressing any unusual symptoms, and being aware of common breed-specific health issues can contribute to the dog’s overall well-being and longevity.

Misconceptions of Dog Years to Human Years

The dog years to human years ratio is not a simple 1:7 conversion as commonly believed. 

Dogs mature more quickly in their first two years of life; a one-year-old dog is roughly equivalent to a 15-year-old human, and a two-year-old dog is about equivalent to a 24-year-old human. After that, each additional dog year is roughly equivalent to 4-5 human years.

bernese mountain dog puppy

Nutritional Needs of Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs, like other large breeds, have specific nutritional needs that differ from smaller breeds. 

They require a higher calorie intake due to their size and activity level, but it’s crucial to balance this with exercise to avoid obesity. While they are generally active, they are not as hyperactive as some other large breeds. 

Large breeds like the Bernese are prone to joint issues, so a diet that includes nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin that support joint health is beneficial.

Bernese Mountain Dog Diet

Bernese Mountain Dog owners often use a mix of commercial, homemade, and raw foods to meet their pet’s unique nutritional needs. However, it’s essential to carefully tailor the diet for their specific requirements.

Commercial Dog Food: Commercial dog food is convenient and often fortified with essential nutrients. However, some contain harmful fillers and preservatives. It’s crucial to choose high-quality food for your Bernese Mountain Dog. Advantages include convenience and a balanced diet if high-quality; disadvantages include artificial ingredients in lower-quality brands.

Homemade Dog Food: Homemade food allows control over ingredients and quality. However, it requires a thorough understanding of canine nutrition to ensure a balanced diet. Advantages include ingredient control and customization; disadvantages include time required and risk of nutrient deficiency if not carefully formulated.

Raw Dog Food: A raw food diet includes raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables. Advocates argue it leads to shinier coats and cleaner teeth. However, there are risks of bacterial contamination, unbalanced diet, and choking hazards. Advantages include potential health benefits; disadvantages include bacterial contamination risk and potential choking hazards.

bernese mountain dog puppy

How Much to Feed a Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy

Bernese Mountain Dog puppies grow more slowly than smaller breeds, requiring a diet that supports steady, controlled growth. Feeding them a diet specifically formulated for large breed puppies can help prevent rapid growth, which can lead to joint and bone problems later in life.

For Bernese Mountain Dog puppies, it is recommended to divide their daily food intake into three or four smaller meals throughout the day. 

This helps in managing their growth rate and energy levels. For example, a 2-4 month old puppy might be fed 3-4 times a day, whereas an older puppy, around 6-12 months, might be fed 2-3 times a day.

Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy Feeding Chart

Puppy Age
Puppy Weight
2-3 months
20 - 30lb (9 - 13.6kg)
1 - 1.5 cups
4-5 months
30 - 50lb (13.6 - 22.7kg)
1.5 - 2 cups
6-8 months
50 - 70lb (22.7 - 31.8kg)
2 - 2.5 cups
9-12 months
70 - 100lb (31.8 - 45.4kg)
2.5 - 3 cups

The table provided is a general guideline based on typical recommendations from pet food manufacturers. Actual quantities may vary based on your puppy’s activity level, growth rate, body condition, and the food’s nutritional and caloric content. Always consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate diet and feeding schedule for your puppy.

tips for new dog owners

Considerations for Prospective Owners

Before taking the leap, take a moment to consider:
  1. Do I have enough space at home, both indoors and outdoors, to accommodate the size of a Bernese Mountain Dog comfortably?
  2. Am I prepared to invest time and effort in regular grooming to maintain their dense double coat?
  3. Can I commit to providing sufficient social interaction and companionship for a breed that thrives on human connection?
  4. Do I have the patience and dedication to use positive training methods, considering their potential for shyness and sensitivity?
  5. Are the members of my household comfortable with the breed’s large size and gentle nature, particularly if there are children or other pets?
  6. Am I ready to address potential health issues that are common among Bernese Mountain Dogs, such as hip and elbow dysplasia?
  7. Have I thoroughly researched reputable breeders and familiarized myself with the breed’s exercise, training, and nutritional requirements?
  8. Can I provide the time, attention, and resources necessary to ensure the overall well-being and happiness of a Bernese Mountain Dog throughout their life?
  9. Do I have a solid understanding of the breed’s temperament, characteristics, and potential challenges that may arise?
  10. Am I fully committed to welcoming a Bernese Mountain Dog into my family, knowing that they can be a lifelong companion that requires care, dedication, and love?
These questions hold significance for potential Bernese Mountain Dog owners, as they aid in responsible decision-making. Contemplating the breed’s unique traits, needs, and potential challenges assists in assessing preparedness and dedication, fostering an environment that suits both dog and owner. This introspection contributes to an informed choice, laying the foundation for a gratifying and enduring partnership with the breed.
sennenhund dogs

Introduction to Other Sennenhund Dogs

Exploring the realm of other mountain dog breeds unveils a tapestry of diverse characteristics, roles, and origins. Among these breeds are the Appenzeller Sennenhund, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. While each holds a unique identity, a common thread binds them: their history of working alongside farmers and herders in the Swiss Alps. These breeds’ roles span from herding livestock to guarding property, reflecting their adaptability and versatility.

While the Bernese Mountain Dog shares this heritage, differences emerge: the Appenzeller Sennenhund is energetic and medium-sized, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog has a high energy level and is smaller in size, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a moderate energy level and is also a large breed.

While the Bernese Mountain Dog is a well-suited for a family-oriented, moderate activity lifestyle, the Appenzeller thrives with energetic, active families, the Entlebucher excels in working roles, and the Greater Swiss is best suited as a gentle family companion.

Bernese Mountain Dog Clubs Around the World

Being part of Bernese Mountain Dog breed clubs and organizations cultivates a passionate community dedicated to preserving the breed’s heritage, health, and distinct characteristics. 

This shared enthusiasm serves as a valuable platform for exchanging insights, experiences, and expertise, bolstering the well-being of these dogs. 

This united community not only enriches breed knowledge but also provides a robust support system, safeguarding the breed’s future.

European Clubs Listed Here: Berner IWG

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Bark a lot?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally not excessive barkers. They may bark to alert you of someone approaching your home or if something unusual is happening, but they are usually quite calm and reserved. 

However, individual temperaments can vary, and some Bernese Mountain Dogs may be more vocal than others. Proper training and socialization from a young age can help manage barking behavior.

How Much Does a Bernese Mountain Dog Cost?

The cost of a Bernese Mountain Dog can vary widely based on several factors, including the breeder’s reputation, location, and the puppy’s lineage. As of my last update, prices generally range from $800 to $2,500 or more. 

Puppies from breeders with a strong reputation for producing healthy, well-tempered dogs, and with high-quality lineage (for example, dogs that have won championships or come from a long line of health-tested and certified dogs) will generally be on the higher end of the price range.

It’s also important to consider the ongoing costs of caring for a large dog, including food, grooming, regular veterinary check-ups, and unexpected health issues. Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to several health issues, so it’s advisable to have pet insurance or a financial plan in place to cover potential veterinary costs.

Remember, the initial cost of purchasing a dog is only a small portion of the total cost of ownership. It’s important to consider all the ongoing costs and to be prepared for the financial commitment of owning a large breed dog.

How Big Do Bernedoodles Get?

A Bernedoodle is a hybrid dog breed resulting from the cross-breeding of a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Poodle. 

The size of a Bernedoodle can vary significantly based on its genetics and whether it is a standard, miniature, or toy Bernedoodle. Standard Bernedoodles typically weigh between 50-90 pounds (23-41 kg) and stand about 23-29 inches (58-74 cm) tall at the shoulder. 

Miniature Bernedoodles typically weigh between 25-49 pounds (11-22 kg) and stand about 18-22 inches (46-56 cm) tall at the shoulder. Toy Bernedoodles typically weigh less than 24 pounds (11 kg) and stand about 12-17 inches (30-43 cm) tall at the shoulder. 

There can be considerable variation in size within each category, influenced by the size of its parents and its specific genetic makeup.

Welcome to our Bernese Mountain Dog haven! We’re passionate about sharing breed knowledge, training tips, and fostering a community of fellow enthusiasts. Join us on this journey of celebrating the love and uniqueness of these wonderful dogs and their furry friends.

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