Bernese Mountain Dog Guide

Working Dog Breeds

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The Bernese mountain dog is slightly longer than tall, though it appears square. It is a sturdy, large, hardy dog capable of both draft and droving work. This requires a combination of strength, speed and agility. Its natural working gait is a slow trot, but with good reach and drive. Its thick coat is moderately long, and slightly wavy or straight, providing insulation from the cold. Its expression is gentle, and its coloring is striking.

The Bernese mountain dog is an easygoing, calm family companion (that is, after it leaves its adolescent stage). It is sensitive, loyal and extremely devoted. It is gentle with children and often reserved with strangers. It generally gets along well with other dogs and pets.


FAMILY livestock dog, mountain dog, mastiff (draft/cattle)

AREA OF ORIGIN Switzerland

DATE OF ORIGIN ancient times



AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 25-27.5 Weight: 90-120

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 23-26 Weight: 70-100

OTHER NAME Berner sennenhund, Bernese cattle dog

Energy level Low energy

Exercise needs Low

Playfullness Not very playful

Affection level Moderately affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Friendly

Ease of training Hard to train

Watchdog ability Medium

Protection ability Not very protective

Grooming needs Moderate maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Low tolerance

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This dog enjoys the outdoors, especially in cold weather. It needs daily but moderate exercise, either a good hike or a walk on leash. It enjoys pulling. Although it can physically live outdoors in temperate to cold climates, it is so in tune with its human family that it cannot be relegated to life alone in the yard. Inside, it needs plenty of room to stretch out. Its coat needs brushing one or two times weekly, much more often when shedding. The Bernese life span is described by a Swiss expression: "Three years a young dog, three years a good dog and three years an old dog. All else is a gift from God."
• Major concerns: CHD, elbow dysplasia, histicytosis, OCD
• Minor concerns: fragmented coronoid process, gastric torsion, PRA
• Occasionally seen: hypomyelination
• Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye
• Life span: 7 – 9 years
• Note: Extra care must be taken to avoid heatstroke.
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The most well-known of the sennehunde, or "Swiss mountain dogs," the Bernese is distinguished by being the only one to have a fairly long, silky coat. The origin of the breed is speculative at best. Some experts believe its history traces back to the Roman invasion of Switzerland, when the Roman mastiffs were crossed with native flock-guarding dogs. This cross produced a strong dog that was able to withstand the Alpine weather and that could serve as draft dog, flock guard, drover, herder and general farm dog. Despite the utility of these dogs, little attempt was made to perpetuate them as a breed purposefully. By the late 1800s, the breed was in danger of being lost. At that time, professor Albert Heim initiated a study of Swiss dogs that led to the identification of the Bernese mountain dog as one of the existing types. These dogs were found only in the valleys of the lower Alps. Through Heim's efforts, they were promoted throughout Switzerland and even Europe. The finest specimens came to be found in the Durrbach area, at one time giving the breed the name Durrbachler. With the breed's spread, the name was changed to Bernese mountain dog. The first Bernese came to America in 1926; official AKC recognition was granted in 1937.
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