In this Dog Breed Corner, we look at one of the most photogenic pooches around: the Bernese Mountain Dog. Read about the Bernese Mountain Dog’s history, living needs, trainability, personality, and more. Does your Bernie need a carer who can match their joy and energy? Mad Paws has quality local Pet Sitters in Adelaide, Darwin, and all across Oz!
Quick Facts ✔
Height – 58 – 70cm
Lifespan – 6 – 8 years
Country of origin – Switzerland
Breed type – Working Dog
- Active Owners
- Families with children
- House living
- Owners looking for a highly trainable dog
Bernese Mountain Dog Breed History ♜
For over 2,000 years, the Bernese Mountain Dog has been a cornerstone of farm life in Switzerland. But they didn’t always call those rolling green hills home! So, where did this fluffy pup come from, and what other fun facts can we find in the Berner’s history?
As with many aspects of European history, the Romans had a hand in the development of the Bernese Mountain Dog. That’s because, as they invaded modern-day Switzerland, they brought Mastiffs and other large guarding and herding dogs. And while the Roman empire would eventually leave the region, the dogs they left behind were quite content to stick around with their new Swiss families.
The Bernese Mountain Dog was especially important in the farming region of Canton of Bern. In the land that lent them their name, these large, intelligent doggos were used for a variety of different country tasks. They herded sheep and cattle, guarded the homestead, and pulled carts of goods between small towns and villages. Because many farms struggled to survive at this time, farmers would choose to own a versatile, and more affordable, Berner instead of spending their savings on a horse. And, thanks to the dogs’ long, silky coats, they were better adapted to the mountainous regions than horses and even some of their close canine relatives.
However, by the dusk of the 19th century, the popularity of the Bernese Mountain Dog was falling for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, the number of farmers in Switzerland had dwindled. As this decline coincided with the advent of mechanised farming, there was no longer a huge demand for a working dog.
And, there was another surprising reason that the Bernese Mountain Dog fell out of favour: it had competition. Another beautiful Swiss dog, the Saint Bernard, was wildly popular during the 1800s. And, when the Swiss Kennel Club finally decided to recognise a mountain dog breed, they opted for the Saint Bernard over the Bernese Mountain Dog.
Fortunately, a group of Swiss dog lovers, and one Berner-loving innkeeper in particular, nurtured the breed back from the brink. Drawing on the gene pool of the few remaining Berners, the group shepherded the breed into the 20th century. But these lumbering doggos wouldn’t be working farms anymore. They’d be impressing the world in show rings and competitions.
These days, the Bernese Mountain Dog has taken on a new role, that of a loving pet. Because of their incredible size, they may never be the most popular family dog, but in the right home, they make for lovely canine companions!
Bernese Mountain Dog Personality Traits ★
If you’d like a dog that remains a puppy long after they’ve stopped growing, the Berner is for you. A mixture of athlete and jester, few dogs can match the Bernie in the realm of playfulness.
But, when properly exercised and given mental stimulation, you’re likely to have an easy-going lounger on your hands.
When it comes to children, the Berner’s patience and calm demeanor make them excellent playmates. Just be sure that these fast friends are always supervised. The Bernese Mountain Dog’s size alone could lead to accidental injury around small children.
One thing to remember is that, because these dogs were originally bred to guard the home and the flock, they can sometimes become territorial or aggressive towards other dogs or animals. And without proper socialisation, they can be fearful or wary of strangers. These behaviours should be dealt with as soon as they develop so that these puppers can live up to their potential as welcoming, gentle giants. After all, these doggos are so recognisable and lovable that you can expect to meet at least a couple of adoring fans every time you leave the house. With proper socialisation, you won’t have to worry about well-meaning strangers flocking to pet this furry pup.
Other than those vestiges of their guard dog past, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a good-mannered, intelligent, and affectionate pup. They are extremely loyal, and will form strong bonds with all family members. Don’t expect any alone time with this affectionate doggo around. Whether you’re cooking in the kitchen or reading a book in bed, your Bernie will be there to keep you company.
Because these dogs are so highly social, they don’t take well to alone time. In fact, they can be prone to separation anxiety if left to their own devices. Arranging for a Pet Sitter will help them cope with being away from their beloved humans.
Trainability & Training Tips
Combine this dog’s personality traits with a sharp mind and acute EQ, and the Bernese Mountain Dog is a great student. They’re not quite as quick to learn as some other breeds, but they’re eager to please. With the right training methods, they will pick up tricks, agility, and obedience training in a trice.
Socialisation and obedience should be a top priority when it comes to training. These puppers can sometimes pick up a habit of jumping on people, which should be addressed while they’re still small. After all, you might love getting big bear hugs from these fluffy pups, but once they’re at their max weight, this greeting could be overwhelming to others.
Patience and a gentle approach should be taken with this dog breed. Given their sensitivity, they can feel hurt if trainers correct them harshly, so use the carrot instead of the stick.
Exercise Needs & Living Conditions ⌂
While they may look pretty and photogenic, don’t underestimate this dog’s energy reserves. With their working dog background, they can easily keep up with all of your outdoor adventures. Whether you’re hiking to the tops of mountains or going for long walks on the beach, your Bernie will love exploring the outdoors with you.
On the flip side, if you’re attempting to exercise this pup in a short time period, you might find it difficult to tire them out. They’re not too interested in games like fetch, and they may not be your most enthusiastic jogging partner. Instead, they prefer to spend time playing with other dogs, exploring nature at their leisure, or working at a specific task.
It’s this last area that you’ll find most success in addressing the Bernie’s exercise needs. Offering them opportunities to return to their farming days is sure to engage them, physically and mentally. You’ll find some creative Owners hooking these pups up to wagons to carry groceries or even children. And on hikes, they will be happy to sport their own pack or saddle bag. These pups absolutely love the chance to help out, even if it’s more symbolic than necessary.
Overall, you should aim for about an hour of exercise everyday. This could include a brisk walk with a friendly Dog Walker, a trip to the dog park, and a fun training session. Or, you could opt for one long hike or agility training session. However you achieve that full hour, your Bernese Mountain Dog will be ready for a good cuddle session by the end of the day.
When it comes to living conditions, think big. As a large dog bred for wide open spaces, the Bernese Mountain Dog will be cramped in a small apartment. Living in close quarters with strangers can make them feel unsettled and anxious, leading to excessive barking and territorial aggression.
Instead, it’s best that these dogs live in a home with a fenced backyard. That way, they can get some much needed fresh air and feel more content about their personal space.
One final thing you should know about this special pup is that they can drool! Not all of them will leave their sloppy marks on your furniture and flooring, but you can’t rule out a drool-filled home. Many Berner Owners make sure to place water bowls on towels or rugs and keep extra rags handy for spot cleaning. Otherwise, these pups can track water throughout the home.
Bernese Mountain Dog Grooming ✄
The fact that this doggo is named after the Swiss Alps should warn you: it’s a cold climate dog. As a result, you can expect a LOT of shedding – especially during autumn and spring. You can try to get ahead of it, but just know that you’re in for Shed City. Shed City!
Regular brushing can help you pick up some of the falling fur while also preventing tangles in this long-haired pup. You’ll also want to invest in some grooming tools specially designed for double-coats. Otherwise, that thick outer coat will prevent you from being able to brush the downy underfur.
And when summer arrives, you’ll need to take extra steps to keep your Berner cool. They weren’t exactly intended for the extreme heat of many Australian regions! Plus, these enthusiastic pups aren’t likely to self-regulate, and will always choose work or play over rest. So, Owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs should take special precautions to keep their dogs cool especially on walks or during exercise.
That said, it’s not a good idea to have this long-haired dog trimmed for summer. As double-coated dogs, a Berner’s fur has naturally cooling qualities that will help with temperature regulation.
Bernese Mountain Dog Health +
Unfortunately, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s health issues don’t stop at an aversion to heat. As we mentioned earlier, the modern-day Berner stemmed from a very small breeding pool. As a result, they have a shorter lifespan than many other breeds, and are vulnerable to a range of diseases. Owners of these dogs may have to help their pup navigate:
- von Willebrand’s Disease
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Eye conditions, such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, or eyelid conditions such as entropion or ectropion
- Heart problems, such as subaortic stenosis
- Some forms of cancer
And, because this is a high energy dog with a thick coat, weight gain can be tricky to spot before it’s a full-blown health concern. In addition to regular exercise, having this dog on a proper diet is an important way to keep the Berner from creeping towards obesity. A Mad Paws Dinner Bowl dog meal plan is an easy way to ensure that every pre-portioned meal is packed with the right amount of protein and nutrients.
Fun Fact ♥
The average adult Bernese Mountain Dog can haul up to 10 times its own body weight! How do we know? Because there are Bernie weight pulling and cart pulling competitions all over the world, including in Victoria! Sure, there’s an air of competition during these events, but they’re more about having fun and giving the doggos the chance to show off their incredible talents.
You won’t just find Bernies at these cart-pulling festivals. Siberian Huskies, American Staffordshire Terriers, and really any enthusiastic doggo can all be fitted with the special pulling harness and given a shot at victory!
Final Thoughts on the Bernese Mountain Dog ♥
If we could go back in time, we would thank all of the hard-working Berner enthusiasts of the 19th century for keeping this lovable dog breed alive. Without them, our dog parks just wouldn’t be the same without the goofy, sweet, mild-mannered Bernese Mountain Dog.
An excellent family dog who is always up for an outdoor adventure, the Berner is the perfect pup for active Owners. They don’t want to be left alone, and may require the special attention of a dedicated Dog Walker to ease their separation anxiety.
Owners of this dog will need to prepare themselves for a short lifespan, an array of health conditions, and a constant onslaught of shedding. But, they’ll be rewarded with an easy-going, loving, and loyal doggo in the Bernese Mountain Dog.