Bernese Mountain Dogs - Breed Introduction
The Bernese Mountain Dog is an affectionate, gentle, intelligent, and loyal animal that bonds to his family at a very young age. This dog loves people and children, and loves to be in physical contact with them by leaning against them or sitting on their feet.
Over the years this dog has been used for driving livestock, as a farm guardian, and for draft work. He excels in tracking, herding watchdogging, guarding, search and rescue, and competitive obedience.
A large, heavy dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog matures to 23 to 28 inches in height (58 to71 centimeters), and weighs between 80 and 110 pounds (36 to 50 kilograms).
History of Breed
Named after the Berne canton of Switzerland, the exact origins of this breed are uncertain. It most likely began as a farm dog in the Swiss mountains.
There are paintings showing dogs of the Bernese type dating back to the end of the 18th century, although it was not until the late 19th century that Professor Albert Heim, Franz Schertenleib, and others worked to preserve the native dogs of Switzerland. It was then that the Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund) became a distinct breed.
Color and Coat
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a heavy double coat that is moderately long and can be either straight or slightly wavy. The coat is weather resistant and thick, and can make the dog uncomfortable in warm weather. He is typically better suited to cooler climates.
This tricolored dog should have a black coat with a white blaze on the head and chest, and white on the toes. There should be rust colored markings over each eye, on the cheeks, on the sides of the chest, on each leg, and under the tail. The markings should be symmetrical. A perfectly marked dog gives the illusion of a white “Swiss Cross” on the chest, when the dog is viewed from the front in a sitting position.
Personality and Temperament
The Bernese Mountain Dog prefers the outdoors, although he is usually well-behaved and relatively inactive while indoors. Although this dog can move with great speed and agility, it has little endurance. In addition to enjoying activities such as hiking, these dogs can be trained to pull small wagons or carts.
Known as highly devoted animals that crave attention, the Bernese Mountain Dog is best suited to a family that can spend a great deal of time with him. Because of his intense loyalty, this dog has an extremely hard time adjusting to a new owner once he has bonded with his family.
This dog is a very friendly breed and gets along well with people and animals alike. He is easily trainable but needs time to think things through. Patience and consistency are key, as he does not respond well to rough treatment and harshness. The Bernese Mountain dog loves to please and enjoys working for praise and treats.
The coloring described above is strictly adhered to, and any foundation color other than jet black results in disqualification. Eyes should be dark brown and oval shaped, with tight-fitting lids. The ears should be set high, triangular and medium-sized, hanging close to the head. The nose is always black and the teeth should meet in a scissors bite.
Despite the square appearance of the Bernese Mountain Dog, his body should be slightly longer than it is tall with sturdy, dense bone structure. His legs should be straight with compact, round feet. The tail should be bushy and straight.
This dog should have an intelligent yet gentle expression. He should be alert and self-confident yet remain good natured.
The Bernese Mountain Dog should have efficient gaits, whether working for speed and agility or at a slower working trot that is typical of his use as a draft animal. His hindquarters should generate power and he should have good reach with his front limbs.
Typical Health Concerns
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a much higher occurrence of fatal cancer than other breeds. Cancer is the leading cause of the Bernese Mountain Dog’s short life expectancy, with some dogs dying as young as 3 or 4 years of age. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America is aggressively researching this issue in an effort to improve the dog’s life expectancy and quality of life.
These dogs are also are prone to musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture.
Many times the symptoms of arthritis set in at a very young age - as early as four to five years. These large dogs may have mobility problems and may need special consideration such as ramps for home and vehicle access. Soft, comfortable bedding helps alleviate joint pain for these dogs.
This dog sheds heavily and continually, and requires brushing at least every week or two. When the thick undercoat is shedding, the dog should be brushed daily. The coat is naturally resistant to dirt, and should be washed or dry shampooed only when necessary.
Country of Origin
The Bernese Mountain Dog originated in Switzerland.
Average Life Span
Compared to other dog breeds of similar size, the Bernese Mountain dog is very short lived. These dogs can be expected to live 6 to 8 years, with an average life expectancy of 7.2 years.
In previous years the life expectancy of this dog was 10 to 12 years. The longest lived Bernese Mountain Dog died in the UK at 15.2 years of age.