Get rates for your pet:

See My Rates »
Retrieve a Saved Quote

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed and Insurance Guide

By Christy True and medically reviewed by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
published: January 3, 2023 - updated: January 20, 2023 • 5 min. read
Bernese mountain dog outside

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.

Bernese mountain dog
Protect your pet

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:

Weight Chart3 months6 months9 months12 months16+ months
Male Bernese mountain dogs30 lbs.55 lbs.72 lbs.90 lbs.105-130 lbs.
Female Bernese mountain dogs23 lbs.45 lbs.62 lbs.80 lbs.100-115 lbs.

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:

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsHigh
Good with PetsMedium
Need for ExerciseMedium
Energy LevelMedium
Intelligence LevelMedium
Able to Be TrainedMedium
Amount of BarkingMedium
Amount of SheddingHigh

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.

Bernese mountain dog

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for Bernese mountain dogs:

Head:

  • 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

Forequarters:

  • Shoulders moderately laid back
  • Pasterns slope slightly but never weak
  • Dewclaws may be removed
  • Feet round and compact with well-arched toes

Hindquarters:

  • Broad, strong, and muscular thighs
  • Hocks well let down and straight viewed from rear
  • Dewclaws removed
  • Feet compact and turn neither in nor out

Coat:

  • Thick, moderately long, and slightly wavy or straight
  • Bright natural sheen coat
  • Undue trimming is discouraged

Color:

  • Tri-colored with ground color jet black
  • Markings are rich rust and clear white
  • Symmetry of marking is desirable

Gait:

  • A slow trot is the natural working gait
  • Powerful drive from the rear through a level back
  • Good reach in the front
Bernese mountain dog with family

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

Mental Enrichment:

  • Tracking, agility, and herding activities
  • Playtime both outside and inside with family members

Training Strategies:

  • Start training and socialization from an early age
  • Use positive reinforcement rather than scolding

Grooming Tips:

  • 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 dog in meadow

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
  • Cancer
  • 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.

Related Breeds

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
  • Hovawart
  • Beauceron
  • 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.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

Show more
joanna pendergrass
By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer in Atlanta, GA. After graduating from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine with her veterinary degree, JoAnna completed a 2-year research fellowship in neuroscience at Emory University. During this fellowship, she learned that she could make a career out of combining her loves of science and writing. As a medical writer, JoAnna is passionate about providing pet parents at Healthy Paws with clear, concise, and engaging information about pet care. Through her writing, she strives not only to educate pet parents, but also empower them to make good health decisions for their pets. JoAnna is a member of the American Medical Writers Association.

Show more