Bernese Mountain Dog


Bernese Mountain DogThe Bernese Mountain Dog or ‘Berner’ is a very handsome large dog which became one of the more popular dog breeds in the last few decades. The Bernese is instantly recognizable by its distinctive tri-colour double coat of black, white and tan or rust. The Berner’s body, neck, head and legs are black; the cheeks, stockings and eyespots are tan or rust; and the feet chest, muzzle and tail tip are white. The outer coat is long shiny and waterproof while the Berner’s undercoat is quite dense. These Swiss mountain dogs are fairly large with male dogs standing about 25 to 28 inches and females about 23 to 26 inches at shoulder height. Berners can weigh from 70 to 110 pounds.


Some experts claim that the Bernese ancestry can be traced aback to the Roman invasion of Switzerland over 2,000 years ago. We do know that 18th century paintings show Bernese-type dogs as farm dogs. However by the end of the 19th century the breed was threatened by extinction and considerable effort was made to preserve this native Swiss breed. The Bernese name is taken from the canton of Bern where the sturdy mountain dog was used for herding cattle, pulling farm carts and guarding sheep. Berners are used as guard dogs, watchdogs, farm dogs, search and rescue dogs and companion dogs. The Bernese was prominently featured in a dog food advertising campaign in the l970’s and this started a dog breeding boom. The Berner was ranked 47th out of 154 dog breeds registered by the AKC in 2005.


Berners are outdoors dogs that thrive in cold weather. These mountain dogs are outgoing, intelligent and affectionate and make terrific family pets. The Berners love children but should be supervised with young children because they are large and can knock the toddlers over. Berners should be socialized early with small children and animals when they are puppies. These Bernese are intelligent and very trainable and make good dogs for competitive obedience trials. Berners are fairly tolerant with strangers but still make excellent watch dogs and guard dogs. These mountain dogs should not be trained to be aggressive guard dogs as they are fearsome enough already. First time dog owners can manage very well with this dog breed. Potential owners should only buy Berner puppies from long-established breeders who have broadened the genetic base.


Bernese need a moderate amount of exercise. Although they can move very quickly for a large dog, they lack endurance and don’t need long runs. Berners should not be kept in an apartment as they love to be outside in a large, fenced yard. Because this breed’s coat is so heavy, Berners prefer cooler weather.


The Bernese need only weekly brushing except when they are blowing their coats. Then they should be brushed daily.

Health Issues:

The Berner’s life expectancy has been dropping from 10 to 12 years down to 7 or 8 years in recent times. This shortened lifespan is largely due to a restricted gene pool and inherited genetic diseases. These diseases include cancer (particularly histiocytosis) and auto-immune diseases, familial kidney disease, epilepsy, eye disorders such as progressive retinal atrophy and entropion, orthopedic disorders such as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia and aortic stenosis. Cancer seems to be the most common cause of early deaths. Information on these genetic diseases can be found in our article Hereditary Diseases in Dogs. Prospective buyers should ask for the breeding parents Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test results for hip dysplasia and also the Canine Eye Registry (CERF) recent ophthalmologists report for eye disorders.

Article type: xdogbreed