The Bernese Mountain Dog is a big, beautiful giant with a friendly, goofy nature. But how much do you know about this majestic Swiss breed? Read on to learn everything you need to know about these very special dogs, from training to puppy prices.
Who is the Bernese Mountain Dog?
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large farm dog that originated in the Swiss Alps. These dogs are one of four types of Swiss Mountain Dog, or Sennenhund. The other Sennenhund dog breeds are the:
- Entlebucher Sennenhund (Entlebucher Mountain Dog)
- Appenzeller Sennenhund (Appenzeller Mountain Dog)
- Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog)
History of the Great Grand Doggo
The history of these dogs is tied up with the history of Switzerland, and the Alps region more specifically. When the Romans incorporated the Alpine region into their Empire from 35 to 6 BCE, they brought with them their Molossian Hounds.
These were large, powerful, Mastiff-type dogs bred for protecting farmland and livestock. These dogs are the ancestors of many large, Mastiff-type breeds, known as Molossers. When the Roman Molossian Hounds bred with local Alpine breeds, they produced strong, brave dogs that were suited to the mountainous terrain.
The name Sennenhund comes from the German words Senne, meaning “alpine pasture” and Hund, meaning dog. Given the similarity of coloring and stature, it is likely that other Swiss mountain dogs, including the St. Bernard, are related to the Sennenhunds.
These dogs were once known as Dürrbächlers or Dürrbachhund, after the town of Dürrbach where they were especially popular. The breed dwindled in popularity in the 1800s as the need for farm dogs decreased.
In the early 20th Century, however, Albert Heim, a geologist, and advocate of traditional Swiss breeds helped to revive the Sennenhund breeds, classifying them into the four types recognized today, and bringing them to international attention at dog shows.
The Bernese Mountain Dog first came to the United States after the First World War, and they were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1937.
The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was founded in 1968. Today, the AKC ranks the Bernese Mountain Dog as the 25th most popular breed in America, up from 32nd five years ago.
5 Facts You Need to Know About the BMD!
- The larger Bernese Mountain dogs were so strong that they were used to pull carts! These dogs used to pull carts of cheese and bread from farm to farm, making deliveries. They were so good at this task that they didn’t even need to be accompanied by their owners.
- To this day, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America have carting competitions where dogs can show off their skills.
- Bernese Mountain dogs can pull over 10 times their own bodyweight!
- As well as pulling carts and protecting their farms from wolves and other wild animals, these dogs would help to herd cattle to upland pastures during spring and summer, and back again in the autumn. This is an important aspect of traditional Alpine life.
- These dogs can be real jokers. As they are so eager to please their owners, they will repeat an action that elicits laughter.
Appearance and Personality of Strong Pup!
Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large breed, with a heavy-set stature and muscular appearance. These dogs are known for their distinctive, long tri-colored coats that are mostly black, with cross-shaped white markings on the chest, a white horseshoe-shaped patch on the nose, and rust-colored markings above the eyes, on the legs, and around the chest.
The AKC breed standard is very particular about the size and positioning of these markings.
The breed has a wide, flat-topped head, medium, triangular ears that flop down with some feathering, and a bushy tail that they carry low. As with other Molossers, these dogs have loose jowls and a tendency to drool, especially after eating.
Bernese Mountain Dogs generally have a friendly and laid-back temperament, making them good family dogs. According to the breed standard, these dogs should not be aggressive or shy, though some may be reserved around strangers. Proper socialization from a young age is recommended to counteract this tendency.
These dogs are affectionate, patient, and docile, which usually makes them very good around children. Although they may have a high prey drive, these dogs can live well with other pets.
Bernese Mountain Dog Full Grown
Full-grown Bernese Mountain dogs are big and solid. For males, their height will be 24–28 inches tall, (61–71 cm), and for females, it will be 22–26 inches (56–66 cm). These dogs typically weigh 80–120 pounds (35–55 kg) for males, and 70–110 pounds (30–50 kg) for females.
Bernese Mountain Dog Mixes!
As the Bernese Mountain Dog grows in popularity, so too the popularity of Bernese-crosses grows. There are a number of common crossbreeds, which have been bred to achieve specific results, whether in terms of size, looks, or temperament.
Some people also believe crossbreeds to be healthier than purebred dogs, though this is debated. Let’s take a look at some of those crosses.
- Labernese: these dogs are crosses between Labrador Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Labernese dogs were originally bred in Canada to work as guide dogs, combining the Bernese’s loyalty and strength the Lab’s trainability.
- Bernedoodle: The Bernedoodle is a cross between a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Poodle. These can range in height from a relatively large dog, when crossed with a Standard Poodle, all the way down to the adorable Mini Bernedoodle. This tiny Bernedoodle, which is bred with a Mini Poodle, stands just 10 to 15 inches tall.
- Golden Mountain Dog: a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Bernese, these beautiful dogs are incredibly loving and loyal, making them great pets.
When buying a designer dog, make sure you source your pups from a reputable breeder.
The trend in crossbreeds has led to irresponsible breeding and puppy farming, which is not only cruel but can also lead to unhealthy puppies and encourage inherited diseases.
Is This Mountain Dog Healthy?
Unfortunately, given the large size of these dogs, and their relatively small gene pool, these dogs are not always the healthiest. The average lifespan from Bernese Mountain Dogs is just six to eight years, though some have been known to live longer.
These dogs are prone to a number of inherited conditions and diseases, including the following:
- Bone defects such as elbow dysplasia or hip dysplasia (where the hip or elbow joint develops abnormally), anconeal process, medial coronoid process or fragmented medial coronoid process (also in the elbow joint)
- Von Willebrand’s disease (a type of hemophilia)
- Cancers, such as malignant histiocytosis and histiocytic sarcoma
- Eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts
- Degenerative myelopathy, or hind-limb paralysis.
Responsible breeders will carry out medical screening prior to breeding to ensure that neither parent carries the genes that can contribute to these conditions. However, some conditions cannot be screened for.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are also prone to obesity, especially if they do not receive enough exercise or a nutritious diet. The recommended amount of food for an adult Bernese is 3 to 5 cups of high-quality dog food, daily, given in two meals.
Maintenance and Activity Level!
These dogs need frequent brushing to maintain their thick double coats, and three-monthly baths to avoid bad odors. The breed is prone to ear infections, so make sure to check your dog’s ears frequently, and ask your veterinarian if they need cleaning too.
While grooming your dog, check for any lumps, rashes, hair loss, or other signs of disease or infection. This will help to keep your dog healthy and spot any illnesses early.
Bernese Mountain Dogs need a fair amount of space and are not suited to apartment living. They do best in homes with large gardens where they can roam freely. They also need a minimum of 30 minutes of more active exercise daily and love joining their owners on hikes.
Just be careful not to let these dogs overheat: with their thick coats and dark coloring, they are not suited to heavy exercise in hot weather.
Most Popular Dog Breeds: Is the Bernese Dog Right for You?
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a popular family pet, and for good reasons. They have wonderful temperaments, they’re trainable, and they’ll keep you warm on cold winter nights.
But are they the right dogs for you? Try asking yourself the following questions before you consider getting one.
- Do you have the room for one? Don’t let the tiny size of these adorable puppies fool you. These dogs grow to a very large size and need a lot of space—at least a garden with a secure fence. If you live in an apartment, these may not be the dogs for you.
- Can you afford one of these dogs? Not only do they require high-quality dog food in large quantities, but they are also likely to have high veterinary bills as they grow older.
- Are you willing to spend a lot of time cleaning up after them? These dogs shed a lot, and are not suitable for allergy sufferers or fastidious neat-freaks.
- Do you have a lot of love to give? Bernese Mountain Dogs are loving and affectionate. These aren’t the type of dogs to keep to themselves.
Bernese Mountain Dog Puppies for Sale!
As with most breeds, Bernese Mountain Dog breeders will typically let puppies go home with their new owners from 8 weeks of age.
Be aware that by this age they may not yet have had all of their vaccinations, so make sure you check before taking them anywhere that they may come into contact with other dogs.
Bernese Mountain Dog Breeders
Both the AKC and the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America keep up-to-date directories of reputable breeders. The latter even runs a breeder referral program to help connect interested parties with the best breeders.
Avoid unregistered breeders, and never buy from pet stores that keep puppies in small cages.
Adopt Don’t Shop!
Due to their large size, many people buy Bernese puppies then find themselves unable to keep these dogs once they grow up. As a result, there are lots of Bernese Mountain dogs in shelters looking for a good home.
If you have space for one of these gentle giants in your life, try contacting the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, which helps with Bernese Mountain Dog rescue.
Price of these Bad Boys!
Bernese Mountain Dog puppies aren’t cheap!
Expect to pay upwards of $2,000 per puppy, going up to $3,000 for champion bloodlines.
For this price, however, most reputable breeders will include vaccinations, deworming, pedigree certificates, health screening, and above all the peace of mind that your puppy had a good start in life!
5 Tips for Raising BMDs!
- These dogs have beautiful, soft coats… and shed a lot! Expect to do a lot of vacuuming if you have a Bernese, as not only is there a lot of fur, but also it will show up on any surface thanks to their tricolor coats.
- Bernese Mountain Dogs are quick to grow, but slow to mature, meaning that they reach adult size long before they reach mental maturity. Watch out for a 100-pound dog who thinks it’s still a little puppy! Training is key to avoid you or your pet getting injured.
- As a working dog, a Bernese should be easy to train. Positive reinforcement works best with these dogs.
- These dogs should live inside with the family, not in an outdoor kennel. If isolated, the breed can exhibit destructive behavior like digging, chewing or barking.
- Due to this breed’s health problems, veterinary care can be expensive. Make sure you are prepared for this expense before you get one of these dogs.