Bernese Mountain Dog: Complete Breed & Care Guide

Updated October 16, 2022
Bernese mountain dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog, or berner, as they're often referred to, enjoys being the center of attention. Berners are excellent watchdogs and are also known as goofy, curious companions. Pet parents need to consider a giant breed dog's expenses as the cost may break the bank.

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Overview

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a working breed known to pull a cart or carry a backpack easily. The breed is patient and peaceful. The Bernese Mountain Dog's weather-resistant double coat makes harsh elements bearable. Berners love the snow! Berners are quiet but do not thrive in an apartment environment. This dog needs regular exercise and a large yard to prevent destructive behavior.

Bernese Mountain Dog History

The berner originated in the mountains of Switzerland and is a typical dog in the Swiss Alps. The early ancestors to today's Bernese Mountain Dogs were farm animals. This working breed guards livestock and pulls heavy loads. With that in mind, cart pulling is one of this dog's favorite activities! The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America is a wonderful resource and sponsors cart pulling sports.

Bernese Mountain Dog Size

The Bernese is a sturdy breed and impressive in terms of size. Males stand between 25 and 28 inches at the withers, while females stand between 23 and 26 inches. Berners' bodies are full and robust.

Bernese mountain dog size

Bernese Mountain Dog Weight

Males weigh between 85 and 115 pounds, and females weigh approximately 70 to 95 pounds. Berners are large dogs!

Bernese Mountain Dog Colors

The American Kennel Club's (AKC) Official Breed Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog says there are two standard colors:

  • Black, rust, and white
  • Black, tan, and white

A Berner's notable markings are a white-blaze on the chest, head, and toes, and black with symmetrical rust markings. The tip of the tail is white.

Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament

This dog breed makes a wonderful pet. By nature, berners love children and are gentle and even-tempered. Pet parents know the Bernese Mountain Dog's only goal is to be the center of attention. Berners possess many desirable characteristics.

  • Highly intelligent and easy to train
  • Excellent learners of both basic obedience as well as a variety of tricks
  • Sensitive and loyal to their family
  • Excellent watchdogs and not overly aggressive
  • Enthusiastic companions with a zest for life

Bernese Mountain Dog Personality

Berners may exhibit puppyish behavior and clumsiness for the first few years of life before maturing into a well-mannered dog. This adolescent type of behavior can be difficult to manage, considering the size of the breed. Dog training and basic obedience are essential when your berner is a puppy.

Woman playing with bernese mountain dog

Socializing Your Berner Is Important

Bernese Mountain Dogs are enormous. Puppies and adults need proper socialization, and you don't want a berner to jump on a visitor. You also do not want a fearful pup, and some berners are shy. Introduce your dog to new people, places, and things as soon as possible. Always work with a professional trainer if you are new to positive reinforcement training methods.

Feeding Your Berner

There are brands with diets known for large breeds. It is essential to work with a vet or an integrative vet on the best food options for giant dog breeds. Without the right nutritional requirements, your giant dog could grow up with skeletal problems like elbow and hip dysplasia. Unique formulas for dogs over 50 pounds are available.

Specific Food For Your Berner

Talk with your vet or breeder about the best brands for your pup or adult berner along with how much to feed so your dog stays trim. The amount your pup is eating as a teenager is too much when they are an adult and fully grown. Pet parents need to start with puppy food designed for large breeds and switch to the next age-appropriate food around 12 months of age. Feed the daily amount recommended on the brand's website two to three times daily.

Also, canned or wet food may be mixed into the kibble. Many of the brands designed for giant breeds also carry wet food. If you decide to feed both formulas, make sure to decrease the amount of kibble you are feeding.

Many berners are overweight. Every dog's diet needs to include a proper balance of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for the appropriate age, weight, and energy level. A health issue pet parents must address with the vet is bloat. If your berner is a fast eater, small meals are encouraged to help avoid this health condition.

Berners Are a Working Dog Breed

If this breed is bored, behavior issues may occur. Bernese Mountain Dogs must be kept busy with a job, and pet owners need to consider dog sports. Cart-pulling is a wonderful sport many berners excel in and enjoy. Working berners do not resort to destructive behaviors like:

  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Jumping
  • Howling
dog digging in the snow

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Concerns

Unfortunately, this gentle breed is prone to a larger number of health disorders than many breeds.

  • Cancer: Bernese Mountain Dogs are at risk for cancers like malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumors, and osteosarcoma.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: These developmental issues affect many giant breeds, including the berner.
  • Kidney and liver disease: Inherited diseases can affect the liver and kidneys of this breed.
  • Von Willebrand disease: This debilitating blood disorder is common in Bernese Mountain Dogs and Dobermans.
  • Bloat: A twisted stomach can occur in deep-chested dogs like the berner.

Bernese Mountain Dog Lifespan

Bernese mountain dog's lifespans are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly shorter. Several years ago, the breed's life expectancy ranged from 10 to 12 years, which is relatively common for giant breeds, but this range is now closer to 6 to 8 years in recent years. Unfortunately, large and giant breeds may be predisposed to cancer, and in recent years, this disease is one of the largest health issues for berners. Breeders are working to fix this issue.

Senior Berners

When Berners turn 6 years old and are considered a senior dog, pet parents need to start visiting the vet for senior wellness exams and regular bloodwork. You need to keep your senior berner active and low impact activity, including swimming, may benefit an older dog. Your senior dog's size and caloric intake may need to be adjusted as well. A vet may advise how much to food after a wellness exam. If you notice a lump at any age, you need to visit the vet to rule out any health concerns.

Bernese Mountain Dog Grooming

The Bernese mountain dog is not a low-maintenance breed. This dog sheds on a seasonal basis, and some seasons are worse than others. The long, thick, silky coat requires weekly brushing sessions.

Don't Over Groom

Shaving a berner in the summer is not going to cool down your dog. Instead, it damages the dog's coat. A Bernese Mountain Dog's coat actually keeps them cool in the warmer months. However, this breed is prone to tangles and mats, so brushing with a de-tangler spray helps before a shampoo.

Dog with soap bubbles on head

Grooming Supplies

There are essential tools necessary to maintain a grooming schedule.

  • Stainless steel pin brush
  • Combs and rakes
  • Dog shampoo
  • Scissors

Bernese Mountain Dog Shedding

Bernese Mountain Dogs are seasonal shedders. Berners shed worse in the spring and fall. Many novice berner owners need to work with a professional groomer to use the pin brush and combs properly.

Bernese Mountain Dog Puppies

Matching personalities is one of the most significant factors. A breeder may help answer questions about a typical litter and walk a pet parent through the history behind the pups.

Little puppy of Bernese Mountain Dog

Questions to Ask a Reputable Breeder

A contract from a reputable breeder addresses responsibilities and payment terms. There are a few important questions pet parents must ask before purchasing a puppy.

  • May you visit the breeder's home or facility?
  • How often are litters available?
  • Are you able to meet the parents of the puppies?
  • Is there a spay and neuter contract?
  • Are references available?

Choosing the Perfect Berner Pup

Pet parents need to consider whether a male or female is the right fit. Also, if your family is active and plan to hike a lot with your new berner, it is vital to talk with the breeder to ensure the pup's personality and pup's parents are a good match. Ask the breeder to help act as a matchmaker. A vet is a useful resource, too, if this is your first giant breed.

Bernese Mountain Dogs Puppy

White Bernese Mountain Dog

The AKC breed standard for a Bernese Mountain Dog does not list the color white. An all-white berner is considered to have a fault. The berner is tri-colored. If you see a white berner listing, there is a genetic defect with the pup, or the dog is albino.

Berners Are Wonderful Family Pets

Giant dog breeds are expensive, and the berner is no exception. They also tend to have different healthcare needs than smaller dogs. Pet parents need to consider overall expenses and if this breed is a good match for the family. Berners make lovely pets, but dog lovers need to set aside time for training and to ensure the new pet is involved in a few dog sports.

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Bernese Mountain Dog: Complete Breed & Care Guide