The Bernese Mountain Dog, or Berner Sennenhund in his native Switzerland, was used as an all-around farm dog by Alpine herdsmen in the canton of Bern. The dogs drove cattle to pasture, pulled milk carts to the dairy, and acted as watchdogs on the farm. Generally, Berners hauled milk in pairs, so it was common to see two of them hooked to a cart. Berners are thought to have descended from mastiff-type dogs who came to Switzerland along with Roman armies some 2,000 years ago. There they interbred with local dogs and were developed to help with farm work. With industrialization, however, the dogs almost disappeared. The breed was revived in the early 20th century to become a companion dog, although many still carried out their traditional farm duties as well. The American Kennel Club recognized the Bernese Mountain Dog in 1937.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is slightly longer than tall, though it appears square. It is a sturdy, large, hardy dog capable of both draft and droving work. This requires a combination of strength, speed and agility. Its natural working gait is a slow trot, but with good reach and drive. Its thick coat is moderately long, and slightly wavy or straight, providing insulation from the cold. Its expression is gentle, and its coloring is striking.
The Bernese mountain dog is an easygoing, calm family companion (that is, after it leaves its adolescent stage). It is sensitive, loyal and extremely devoted. It is gentle with children and often reserved with strangers. It generally gets along well with other dogs and pets.
Features of Bernese Mountain Dog
Berners have numerous health problems due to their small genetic foundation, and perhaps due to other reasons yet undiscovered. Currently, the life span of a Bernese Mountain Dog is comparatively short, about six to eight years, though in recent years, the life expectancy has gone up to about ten years. This may be due to more responsible breeding and regard for genetic conditions.
Because of the Berner’s popularity, some people have bred dogs of lesser quality in order to sell the puppies to unsuspecting buyers. Often these dogs are bought at auction and little is known about their health history. Do not support irresponsible breeding practices. It is best to get your dog from a shelter or rescue instead of giving money to those who would breed without regard for the dogs’ health.
Veterinary care can be costly because of the health problems in the breed.
Berners shed profusely, especially in the spring and fall. If shedding drives you crazy, this may not be the right breed for you.
The Berner likes to be with family. They’re likely to develop annoying behavior problems, such as barking, digging, or chewing, if he’s isolated from people and their activities.
When Berners are mature, they are large dogs who like to have a job to do. For those reasons, it’s wise—and fun—to begin obedience training early.
Although they’re very gentle with children, Berners sometimes accidentally knock over a small child or toddler.
To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store.
Specification of Bernese Mountain Dog
large (61-100 lbs.)
children seniors dogs cats families
gentle friendly playful aloof
blackbrown / chocolate / liverwhite
easy to trainrequires lots of groomingprone to health issuescold weather tolerantgood for first-time pet ownersstrong loyalty tendenciesgood hiking companion