Table of Contents
Introduction to Bernese Mountain Dogs
If you’re looking for a calm and strong dog that is large and good-natured, then a Bernese mountain dog might be the perfect fit for you. This breed of dog is powerful and loves to work hard. But it is also a sweet and affectionate breed that does very well in family environments. Bernese mountain dogs have thick and silky coats that have multiple colors.
They are versatile working dogs and have been used for many different purposes since they were first bred. Yet these dogs present unique challenges to pet parents, such as shedding, barking, and having high energy. Learning more about this breed is important before adopting or purchasing one to live in your home. It’s also a great idea to sign your Bernese mountain dog up for pet insurance as soon as possible to be proactive about your dog’s health.
Size of Bernese Mountain Dogs
Male Bernese mountain dogs weigh 100 to 130 pounds when fully grown, and females weigh between 70 and 90 pounds. At their adult height, males stand 25 to 27.5 inches tall, and females are 23 to 26 inches tall. It can take up to two to three years for these dogs to reach full size. This is unique because most other breeds of dogs are fully grown by 12 months to 18 months of age. Bernese mountain dogs start out quite small and then grow quickly during the first six months.
Here’s how big you can expect your Bernese mountain dog to get during the pup’s earliest months of life:
|Male Bernese mountain dogs
|Female Bernese mountain dogs
Characteristics of Bernese Mountain Dogs
With their teddy bear-like appearance, it’s hard not to want to love and cuddle a Bernese mountain dog. These dogs were bred to work on the farmlands of Switzerland and are also well-suited for tracking, herding, and carting competitions.
Bernese mountain dogs show unconditional love and loyalty, and they even get along well with kids when socialized from an early age. They are also known to be alert and self-confident, although aloof to the attention of strangers. The breed does great in cold weather but not well in hot weather, and they definitely need a good amount of space to move around.
As you get to know a Bernese mountain dog’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on the breed characteristics:
|Level (High, Medium, Low)
|Affectionate with People
|Good with Kids
|Good with Pets
|Need for Exercise
|Able to Be Trained
|Amount of Barking
|Amount of Shedding
History of Bernese Mountain Dogs
There are four mountain dog breeds that came from the canton of Bern, an agricultural area known for dairy production in Switzerland. One of these breeds is the Bernese mountain dog, which got its start driving cattle, guarding farms, and pulling heavy loads. They have broad and muscular bodies that give them great strength. When farming and ranching began getting more mechanized, the popularity of the Bernese mountain dog dwindled.
To revive the breed, Professor Albert Heim led a Swiss breed club in the early 1900s. The breed began gaining more popularity as a farm dog and as household companions once the farm work was done. A Kansas farmer brought a pair of these dogs to America in 1926, and their usefulness caught on in the U.S. then as well. The American Kennel Club registered its first Bernese mountain dog in 1937, and there is the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America that hosts carting and drafting events that put the skills of these hardworking dogs to the test.
Bernese Mountain Dog Standard Information
According to the breed standard information, the Bernese mountain dog is a tri-colored, large dog that is sturdy and intelligent. There are distinct masculine and feminine differences between males and females of this breed. Also, they are slightly longer in the body than they are tall.
Here is an overview of the breed standard information for Bernese mountain dogs:
- Intelligent, gentle, and animated expression
- Dark brown and slightly oval eyes
- Medium-size ears
- Strong and straight muzzle
- Teeth meet in a scissors bite
- Skull flat on top and broad
Neck, Topline, Body:
- Strong, muscular, and medium-length neck
- Level topline from withers to croup
- Broad and firm back
- Busy tail carried low in repose and upward swirl permissible when alert
- Shoulders moderately laid back
- Pasterns slope slightly but never weak
- Dewclaws may be removed
- Feet round and compact with well-arched toes
- Broad, strong, and muscular thighs
- Hocks well let down and straight viewed from rear
- Dewclaws removed
- Feet compact and turn neither in nor out
- Thick, moderately long, and slightly wavy or straight
- Bright natural sheen coat
- Undue trimming is discouraged
- Tri-colored with ground color jet black
- Markings are rich rust and clear white
- Symmetry of marking is desirable
- A slow trot is the natural working gait
- Powerful drive from the rear through a level back
- Good reach in the front
Caring for Bernese Mountain Dogs
You’ll love caring for a smart, hardworking, and loyal Bernese mountain dog, but it’s a good idea to know what caring for one involves before introducing one into your family. These dogs love working hard but also enjoy having downtime with their family members. They’re patient, calm, and do not like spending time alone.
Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a Bernese mountain dog:
Best Living Environments:
- Houses with fenced-in yards
- Not ideal for apartment living
- Households where someone is home most of the time
- Colder climates
Type of Exercise:
- Hiking and camping
- Pulling things around in carts
- Walking or running each day
- Long daily walks around the neighborhood
- Needs at least 30 minutes of exercise per day
- Tracking, agility, and herding activities
- Playtime both outside and inside with family members
- Start training and socialization from an early age
- Use positive reinforcement rather than scolding
- Prepare to do a lot of vacuuming due to the shedding
- Brush every couple of days
- Full grooming every one to two months
Common Health Problems of Bernese Mountain Dogs
Bernese mountain dogs live considerably shorter lives than some other dogs – only between seven to 10 years. Irresponsible breeding can cause Bernese mountain dogs to live shorter life spans. It is important to keep up with regular vet checkups and talk to your vet about issues this breed is prone to.
These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Bernese mountain dogs:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Portosystemic shunt (blood vessel disorder)
- Progressive retinal atrophy (eye disease)
- Von Willebrand disease (blood disorder)
- Pansteatitis (limping and lameness)
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloat)
Diet and Nutrition for Bernese Mountain Dogs
Bernese mountain dogs are prone to overeating and gain weight easily. Therefore, you will need to monitor their meal portions and intake of treats. They are also prone to bloat, which commonly affects deep-chested, large dogs.
Bloat, which can be life-threatening, can be caused if dogs are fed just one large meal daily, eat quickly, or exercise right after eating. It is more common among older Bernese mountain dogs. This breed will typically eat between three to six cups of dry dog food per day.
Where to Adopt or Purchase Bernese Mountain Dogs
If you want to purchase a pure Bernese mountain dog, good places to look are the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America and the American Kennel Club Marketplace. You may also find this breed of dogs or mixes of it through rescue organizations, such as BFW Rescue, Inc., Mountain Pet Rescue, and the Bernese Mountain Dog Rescue.
Bernese mountain dogs are unique canines, but they share certain characteristics with other breeds. If you love Bernese mountain dogs, then you might also enjoy getting to know these dog breeds:
- Appenzellar Sennenhund
- Estrella mountain dog
- Entlebucher mountain dog
- St. Bernard
Pet Insurance for Bernese Mountain Dogs
Healthy Paws is here to help you take the best care of your Bernese mountain dog through all stages of the pup’s life. We understand the issues affecting this breed and can provide you with insurance coverage to help pay for expensive vet bills you weren’t expecting to pay. We cover accidents, illnesses, cancer, emergency care, genetic and hereditary conditions, breed-specific conditions, and alternative care for Bernese mountain dogs, and we can get you a quote today for the cost of pet health insurance.