About the Breed
OriginsBernese Mountain Dogs ("Berners") are one of the 150 breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club. They are working dogs with origins in the farm areas of Switzerland and named for the Canton of Bern. Historically, Berners were used as general purpose farm dogs for their large, hardy frames and their calm-natured, people-oriented temperaments made them ideal for driving cattle, pulling carts to market, watching the farm and being farmers' companions. While Bernese Mountain Dogs are wonderful creatures with a long list of attributes, not all dogs exemplify the best the breed has to offer. This is not a breed for everyone and every dog possesses individual strengths and weaknesses. Before you decide to make a Berner part of your family thoroughly research the breed, talk to reputable breeders and knowledgeable owners, and get to know some of the dogs themselves.
Appearance and SizeThe Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking, tri-colored, large dog. They are intelligent, strong and agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which they were used. Measured at the withers, dogs are 25 to 27½ inches; bitches are 23 to 26 inches. In terms of weight, dogs and bitches generally range from 80-115 and 70-95 pounds respectively.
TemperamentBy nature, Berners are alert and affectionate dogs. With appropriate training that is essential for ownership of a large working breed, Berners are generally gentle, easygoing and tolerant. They are also usually excellent with children. They are not prone to excessive barking unless left unattended for too long. Large dogs, even a Berner, should not be left alone unsupervised with small children or children unknown to the dog. They do not do well when isolated from people or activity.
Behavior problems are likely to develop when a Berner is deprived of considerable interaction with people. The breed is protective but should not be aggressive unless provoked or threatened and may be aloof to strangers. While Berners should not be shy, this tendency can be found in some lines of the breed or in dogs that were not properly socialized as pups. Due to temperament concerns, it is very important to expose Bernese to a wide variety of people, places and other animals, especially in their first year of life.
Living EnvironmentBerners need to live where you are and should be inside with the family. They do not do well as kennel dogs and should never be tied outside and left. Bernese are farm dogs by heritage and as such need exercise to stay fit mentally and physically. Small fenced yards should be viewed as a place of convenience and safety but not as a place for adequate exercise for this moderately active breed. A minimum of 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise daily plus several trips outside daily are adequate for some Bernese. To remain fit and pleasant to live with others require three times that amount of exercise.
As you would expect with their heavy coat and rugged appearance, Bernese love the cold and snow. But both their size and heavy black coats make these dogs susceptible to heat stroke. Berners do best in a climate-controlled environment during hot weather especially if not acclimated to warm temperatures. Activities during the hotter months should be confined to the coolest times of day.Berners are not generally jumpers or climbers, but do require a sturdy four or five foot fence to keep them safely on your premises. Be advised that many breeders will not place a dog in a home that does not have suitable fencing. And, yes, some Berners do like to dig!