Bernese Mountain Dogs

Breed Information, Health Care, and Training

If you want a big, beautiful, playful and trainable dog that is great for first-time dog trainers and families, then you will want to consider the Bernese Mountain Dog. This old breed of gentle giant is highly adaptable, and generally easy to please.

Jump to:  Breed History, Appearance, Temperament, Health Issues, or Training.

Breed History – Bernese Mountain Dog

The original history of the Bernese Mountain Dog is somewhat lost in time, partly due to the fact that they are believed to have existed for about 2,000 years. Back in the days of yore, they were employed as farm labor dogs. They regained popularity in the early 1900s thanks to the farming breeders of Bern, who went to the trouble to revive the Bernese Mountain Dog breed from the brink of extinction.

A couple of decades later, an American farmer championed the cause of having the Bernese Mountain Dog registered with the American Kennel Club, and they’ve been popular in the American market ever since.

Appearance – Bernese Mountain Dog

Huge, fluffy, friendly-faced, and happy – these are a few obvious words that come to mind as soon as you lay eyes on a Bernese Mountain Dog. Their black coat is glossy, with patches of white on the chest and feet, and brown markings on the face. It is extremely rare to see markings on a Bernese Mountain Dog other than what I’ve just described.

This very thick double coat makes the Bernese Mountain Dog excellent for people who live in cold climates, and a poor choice for those who live in a hot, arid place. The coat of a Bernese Mountain Dog sheds excessively, especially during changing seasons.

A fully-grown Bernese Mountain Dog will be about two feet tall and weigh anywhere between 85 and 165 pounds. Obviously, you don’t want a dog that large in a small apartment.


Social Temperament – Bernese Mountain Dog

The temperament of a Bernese Mountain Dog is, in a word, perfect. They are sweet, gentle, excellent with children, and highly affectionate. They are often employed by nursing homes, hospitals, and in other uses as therapy dogs.

As with any breed of dog that bonds this closely with humans, you need to make sure to prevent separation anxiety. This is not a breed of dog that should be left outdoors alone for any length of time, nor is it a good breed for a single person who works away from home during the day. A Bernese Mountain Dog should be near a human almost 24 hours a day. If he is not, behavior problems are almost certain to arise, including potentially destructive behaviors.

Although rather calm, a Bernese Mountain Dog is not a lazy dog. He was bred for work, and needs exercise on a daily basis. A Bernese Mountain Dog will crave time outdoors, and should be walked as often as possible, and taken to outdoor play time at the park or in the woods.

This breed of dog should also be given adequate puppy socialization training in order to learn how to respond to other animals.

Unique Health Problems – Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog breed does not live a very long life. The expected life span is only about 7 to 12 years, with a particularly high rate of death because of cancer. The Bernese Mountain Dog also suffers from afflictions that are relatively common to all breeds of dogs, but especially common to this breed.

Here’s what you need to be aware of:

  • Hip Dysplasia, which is occasionally painful and leads to arthritis if not treated with surgery.
  • Cancer is very common, both in the lymph nodes and bones. About half of all Bernese Mountain Dogs die of cancer.
  • Both of these risks can be reduced by giving the best possible dog food and diet.

Training – Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is very trainable and intelligent; however, their minds don’t move as quickly as some other breeds. Therefore, you’ll need to give Bernese Mountain Dogs time to think during training.

That being said, simply follow my instructions in various articles about basic behavioral training and obedience training, and your Bernese Mountain Dog will catch on fine.

In particular, never use any harsh correction methods with a Bernese Mountain Dog. They will take this to heart immediately, resulting in a dog with low confidence.

Clicker training is an excellent training tool for Bernese Mountain Dog; they respond to it brilliantly.

As a breed that was developed for work, a Bernese Mountain Dog should be given extensive training. You can feel free to find ways to train your Bernese Mountain Dog for work around the house or farm. They are strong enough to pull carts, so keep that in mind when you are deciding how much exercise your Bernese Mountain Dog should have.

Other notes about training a Bernese Mountain Dog:

  • As sociable as Bernese Mountain Dogs are, you’ll want to discourage them from jumping up on people, starting when they’re small.
  • If you don’t start leash training with your Bernese Mountain Dog ASAP, you may find yourself being dragged around by this humongous dog.

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