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Description: The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking, tri-colored, large dog who thrives in cold weather. These Cattle Dogs are one of four distinct Swiss breeds descended from a cross between Roman mastiffs and the local dogs. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large, squarely built animal with dark brown eyes and triangular drop ears that are set high on the head. All of this, along with their deep chest and bushy tail are covered in a long, glossy, distinguishingly tricolor coat. Because of their heavy coat they do not do well in very hot or humid climates. The Bernese Mountain Dog is gentle in temperament and easy to get along with. Sweet in nature, the Bernese Mountain Dogs are outgoing, affectionate canines who love children and are very loyal to their family, and usually to other pets as well. Large as they are, they require sufficient space to run and play. Although Bernese Mountain Dogs may be sloppy in their affections and remain a happy dog most of the time, they do retain some guarding instinct and may not always warm up to strangers at first. They are one-owner dogs and may find it difficult to adjust to a new owner if introduced after 18 months of age. With their sleek look and sweet temperament, Bernese Mountain Dogs are ideal for an active owner in a suburban or rural environment.
Other Names: Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog, Bouvier Bernois
Type: Guardian Dog; Working Dog
Height: Males: 25 – 27.5 inches; Females: 23 – 26 inches
Weight: 75 – 105 lbs.
Colors: Jet black with rich, reddish brown markings on cheeks, over eyes on legs and chest; some white markings on head, chest, tip of tail and feet are permissible. Usually a black base with rust and white markings. These are the usual Swiss colors. there should be distinctive tan/rust markings on each leg.
Coat: Thick, moderately long, straight or slightly wavy but never curly, with a bright, natural sheen. Coat is naturally glossy. Frequent brushing is required.
Temperament: Bernese Mountain Dogs are active, friendly, and very easygoing. They are confident and gentle, and do well with children. Temperament is often described as “sweet”, and they appear happy. In the 1930s, a popular fad was to breed the Bernese Mountain Dog into a more fierce guard dog, resulting in some strains of Bernese Mountain Dogs that are slightly more alert and aggressive than others, for purposes of guarding. The Bernese Mountain dog may be wary of strangers, but the Bernese can learn obedience successfully and is easy to train.
With Children: Yes, but may knock down smaller children by accident. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a rather large dog.
With Pets: Yes, friendly. Some male-male aggression with other dogs, good with cats and other small pets. Easygoing with other animals.
Special Skills: In the past, it was a cattle-driver, watchdog, tracking dog, as well as guard dog. The breed was created in the Roman era and used in Caesar’s army to be guard dogs for their supplies and stations. They were also bred to withstand severe weather, such as in the Alps, and to be a herding and farm dog. Today, it is a watchdog and family pet that does well in shows and often makes appearances at charity events. These dogs are still used in Sweden to pull milk carts, dairy products, and other market products up Swiss mountainsides.
Watch-dog: High. Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred to be watchdogs.
Guard-dog: Medium – High. In the 1930s, a few bloodlines of these dogs were bred to be more of a guard dog than a happy family pet, therefore resulting in some unreliable temperament in those specific bloodlines, but not in all Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Care and Exercise: Bernese Mountain Dogs need daily brushing of their long silky coat. Extra care should be taken when the Bernese Mountain Dog is shedding. Bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. Regular nail and teeth care. Bernese Mountain Dogs requires regular daily exercise but it is worth noting that until they are fully grown they should not be taken on long tiring walks.
Special Needs: Grooming, socialization, and training.
Training: A quick learner, Bernese Sennenhunds require a consistent and loving approach to training. Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred to serve as herders, protectors, and thus are intelligent, quick-learning dogs. They may require socialization among other dogs and people in order to increase compatibility between the Bernese Mountain Dog and others.
Learning Rate: Very High. Obedience – High. Problem Solving – High. This breed is known for being a quick-learner and responsive to positive training.
Activity: High. Needs exercise, but enjoys lounging with owner. Bernese Mountain Dogs require a lot of exercise to keep healthy. Walks and play sessions are essential, although do not allow them to play with small children as they may knock them over on accident.
Living Environment: A home with a back yard is essential. Their natural territorial instinct will keep them close to home, and close to their owners. The best owner for the Bernese Cattle Dog would be an active owner in a suburban or rural environment.
Health Issues: Due to a small genetic pool, the Bernese Mountain Dog carries the increased risk of genetic disorders, such as stillborn puppies. These problems include hip & elbow dysplasia, hereditary eye diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancers, aortic stenosis and kidney problems. Other health issues may include von Willebrand’s disease, skin and coat problems, thyroid disorders and bloat. Bloat is a health issue to most dogs, being the second largest killer of dogs other than cancer, but Bernese Mountain Dogs can be particularly susceptible to it because of their deep chests.
Life Span: 7 – 10 years
Litter Size: 4 – 10
Country of Origin: Switzerland
History: The Bernese Mountain Dog can trace their ancestry to the Roman invasion of Switzerland over 2,000 years ago. The Mastiffs of Rome were crossed with the native flock-guarding dogs which produced a breed that was able to withstand severe weather, such as in the Alps. The breed was subsequently named for the canton of Berne in the central farmlands of Switzerland, the region in which it was developed. The Bernese Sennenhund holds the resemblance of Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, and Saint Bernards, all of which are believed to have played a part in the development of the dog. These dogs are believed to have ancestry from the Molossus dog of ancient Greece and Rome. The Bernese Cattle Dogs were used as guard dogs and draft dogs in Caesar’s army. After this, the breed was mainly used as an all-purpose dog for farming, herding, pulling carts and other farm jobs. In the 1800s the breed almost became extinct if it were not for Herr Franz Schertenleib and Zurich professor Albert Heim who worked with the breed to revive it. Schertenleib had heard stories of the dog from his father, and went in search of the dog that was soon to be extinct. After finding the species, Heim joined him in his efforts and the breed was brought back. The Bernese Mountain Dog was brought to the U.S. in 1926. In the 1930s, a few bloodlines of these dogs were bred to be more of a guard dog that was fierce looking rather than a happy family pet, therefore resulting in some unreliable temperament in those specific bloodlines, but not in all Bernese Mountain Dogs. This led to the common inbreeding of Berners, which resulted in many genetic disorders that still perpetuate today. Today the Bernese Mountain Dog’s popularity has grown largely in Europe as well as the U.S. Bernese Mountain Dogs can still be seen pulling carts up the Switzerland mountainsides. Today in America they are used at many charity events, at shows, and as a gentle family pet.
First Registered by the AKC: 1937
AKC Group: Working
Registries: AKC, ANKC, CKC, FCI (Group 2), KC (GB), UKC