Bernese Mountain Dogs are best for active homes with lots of opportunities for outdoor exercise and play. Berners thrive in cold climates but can do OK in warmer weather with lots of shade and AC. They're kid-friendly, though younger dogs may need supervision due to the breed's large size and weight.
Bernese Mountain Dog Traits
What makes the Bernese Mountain Dog a Bernese Mountain Dog? Let's find out how they stack up.
Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament
Bernese Mountain Dogs have an affectionate temperament, making them great as a pet. Give your Berner lots of attention. This isn’t a dog who wants to be left alone in your yard outside. They might get bored and start barking at the birds to keep themselves entertained! Berners also love to explore, so take them with you on your adventures. And at the end of the day, they’ll love nothing more than to cuddle up with you, enjoying the quiet times as much as they enjoy playtime.
These dogs also are smart and eager to please. Bred to be working dogs, they thrive with structured games or sports. Although they’re not the high-energy type like a Border Collie or Jack Russell Terrier, they still need daily exercise to meet their energy level needs. They’ll love activities like carting, drafting, herding, agility sports or scent work.
Although the Bernese breed is a powerful, large dog, they’re also docile and sweet. They have a lot of patience and are known to be good with children. Like many dogs, however, they might be cautious or shy around strangers or in new situations. That’s why it’s so important to socialize them as puppies. Because they’re big, they might forget their own strength, especially when they’re younger than 3 or 4 years old and feeling extra playful. So, it’s good to keep an eye on younger Berners when they’re with kids and babies or smaller pets like cats. But overall, they’re really quite calm and sweet-tempered.
How to Care for a Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese dogs are known for their patient, calm demeanor, but they still need a lot of socialization as puppies. You will be brushing them a lot, especially when the seasons change (spring and fall). Berners thrive with mental and physical exercises, so get them involved in daily walks, dog sports and other fun activities. Just remember, the Bernese breed’s thick coats can make hotter weather tough on them. If you live in a warmer climate, take them out during the cooler parts of the day and provide them with a lot of shade.
Bernese Mountain Dog Health
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years, but unfortunately, they’re prone to a number of health concerns. It’s good to know what these health issues are, so you can help your Berner live a longer, healthier life. Some of these health issues are genetic and can be avoided if the parent dogs are tested early. To ensure you get a healthy puppy, find a reputable breeder who carefully screens for health issues. Be sure to get a copy of the test results of the parents for any litter you’re considering. If you’re adopting your pup, make sure you get a copy of the vet’s wellness exam.
- Cancer: As with many dogs, cancer can be an issue for Berners. One of the more common forms of cancer this breed may encounter is malignant histiocytosis, which affects the immune system and is aggressive. Watch your Berner for signs of lethargy, loss of appetite or weight loss, and contact your veterinarian if you see anything unusual. At this time, this inherited cancer has no treatment options.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: This is a neurological disease that affects the spinal cord, which slowly weakens, then paralyzes the back legs. There is no effective treatment at this time, but keeping your pup at a healthy weight and as active as long as possible may help slow the progress of the disease. Physical therapy can also help but won’t prevent it. If you notice anything unusual with your Berner, like lameness, visit your veterinarian.
- Von Willebrand Disease: Bernese Mountain Dogs are susceptible to von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder where the blood doesn’t clot well. Your veterinarian can test your dog for this. It is a lifelong disease with no cure, so your vet may recommend a stress-free lifestyle for your pup and avoid activities where your dog may get bruised or scratched (playing with other pets, hikes, etc.). Your vet may also advise you to avoid giving your dog any medications that interferes with clotting.
- Joint and Orthopedic Issues: As with many large breeds, Berners can experience hip and elbow dysplasia, along with other orthopedic issues. While dysplasia can’t be prevented, your veterinarian will recommend you keep your pup at a healthy weight and restrict some exercise to help keep it from affecting your dog’s quality of life.
- Eye Issues: Berners can develop eye issues ranging from cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) to entropion and ectropion. Both cataracts and PRA cause blindness but aren’t painful. Depending on your dog’s age and the severity of the cataracts, they can be removed through surgery. At this time, there is no treatment for PRA. Entropion and ectropion affect the way the eyelids roll in or out. Ectropion (the droopy-eyed look Basset Hounds are famous for) is when the eyelids roll out and can trap debris, irritating the eye; it can be treated with eye drops. Entropion is when the eyelid rolls in. The dog’s hair on the eyelid rubs against the eye, causing pain, corneal ulcers or perforations. This can be corrected through surgery.
- Ear Infections: A Berner’s floppy ears can develop infections. Signs of an ear infection include head shaking, redness or swelling in the ear canal, itchiness or odor. You can help prevent ear infections by keeping the ears dry; be sure you thoroughly dry them after a bath or swim . If you suspect your pup has an ear infection, take them to the vet. Your vet can clear up mild ear infections with a medicated ear cleanser followed by topical medication; if the case is more severe, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.
Bernese Mountain Dog History
The Bernese Mountain Dogs find their origin in Switzerland, where they drove cattle and guarded farmlands in the canton of Bern. It’s rumored their early ancestors were brought to Switzerland by invading Roman soldiers thousands of years ago. The Berner Sennenhund, as they’re also called, was bred for a thick, insulated coat that could keep them warm even in the freezing cold weather of the Swiss Alps. Their black coat absorbs heat, further helping them thrive in more challenging, frigid weather.
They retired from farm life thanks to the industrial revolution. When their numbers diminished in the 1800s, Swiss breeders sought to build their numbers again with the help of Professor Albert Heim. Heim, a distinguished Swiss geologist, formed the official Swiss breed club. Because their history involves being bred to be farm dogs, they excel as drafting dogs (pulling carts) and guarding property.
A Kansas farmer brought the first two Berners to the United States in 1926, which helped speed up their popularity. The first Bernese Mountain Dog was registered with the AKC in 1937. It’s closely related to the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, which wasn’t recognized by the AKC until 1995. There are four varieties of Swiss mountain dogs in total, but only Berners have a silky, longer coat.
So, where is the best place to find Bernese Mountain Dog puppies today? You can find a list of reputable Berner breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. Depending on the breeder, the average price for a Berner puppy could range from $800 to almost $2,000. Expect to pay more for a dog who has pedigree papers along with health and temperament screenings. You can also talk to Bernese Mountain Dog rescue organizations or your local animal shelter about adoption opportunities.
Do Bernese Mountain Dogs shed?
Yes, Bernese Mountain Dogs shed. Most of the time, they need to be brushed about three to four times a week. But when the seasons change (spring and fall), you will increase that to multiple times a day to keep up with the shedding.
How long do Bernese Mountain Dogs live?
Bernese Mountain Dogs live 7 to 10 years. If you find a reputable breeder who screens for health issues, your healthy Berner can enjoy a longer lifespan.
Do Bernese Mountain Dogs drool?
Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t typically drool a lot. However, if an individual Berner has looser jowls or lips that hang more, then they might drool more often.
Are Bernese Mountain Dogs good with cats?
Bernese Mountain Dogs are affectionate and easy-going, making them a great addition to households with pets, including cats. However, because they’re so large with puppyish energy, younger dogs might accidentally injure cats. You may need to monitor Berners when they’re with cats during their more playful years, up to about 4 years of age.
Are Bernese Mountain Dogs aggressive?
No, Bernese Mountain Dogs aren’t aggressive, even though they are big dogs. The fact is, they are affectionate, loving and even patient with kids. They’re a little cautious with strangers, but they do well as long as they’re socialized as puppies. They may not know their own strength, but they’re not aggressive or mean.
What are the most common Bernese mixes?
The most common Bernese Mountain Dog mixes are:
- Bernese-Poodle Mix (Bernedoodle)
- Bernese-Labrador Mix (Labernese)
- Bernese-Golden Retriever Mix (Golden Mountain Dog)
- Bernese-Aussie Mix (Berner Aussie)
- Bernese-Husky Mix (Bernese-Husky)
- Bernese-Border Collie Mix (Bordernese)
Bernese Mountain Dogs are affectionate dogs who will quickly become your best friend. They love having jobs to do, whether it’s pulling a cart or running through an agility course. But they’re in dog heaven when they get to play in the snow. Your Berner will thrive in an active household where you go on adventures during the day and relax together as a close-knit family at night.