Is a Berner for You?
• Are you looking for a small, delicate lap dog or a large 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 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 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. The breed was agile and strong which enabled it to navigate treacherous mountain passes and to cart the wares of merchants to the market. They also watched over the farm and drove cattle. 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.
The long coat should be jet-black with rust and white 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. Grooming needs are easily met with regular brushing since the coat remains mostly mat-free. 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 draft, therapy, herding, 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.
They can have many health problems including hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, allergies, and cancer. 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.
Male dogs should be 24.5 - 27.5" tall at the shoulders, Females should be 23 - 26" tall at the shoulders.
Males typically weigh 80 to 120 pounds and females 70 to 100 pounds.
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. The HMBMDC holds several events throughout the year allowing 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! Contact the Breed Education Committee for more information.
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.