Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

In this guide, we will delve into the history and origins of the breed, exploring how these magnificent dogs came to be. We will also discuss their size and appearance characteristics, highlighting the features that make them instantly recognizable.

One of the factors that make Bernese Mountain Dogs so beloved is their long life expectancy. We’ll explore just how many years of love and companionship you can expect from these loyal and devoted canine friends.

But it’s not just their looks and longevity that make Berners special. Their temperament is also worth mentioning. We’ll uncover their inherent traits, including their friendly and gentle nature, making them excellent family pets and therapy dogs.

Trainability and adaptability are crucial aspects to consider when bringing a new dog into your home. We will discuss how Bernese Mountain Dogs fare in these areas, providing insights into their intelligence and willingness to learn.

Exercise is essential for any dog’s overall well-being, and Berners are no exception. We’ll explore their exercise requirements and energy levels, ensuring you have a good understanding of how to keep them happy and healthy.

Maintaining a well-groomed Bernese Mountain Dog is a labor of love. We will delve into their grooming requirements, discussing the tools and techniques necessary to keep their beautiful coats looking their best.

While Berners are generally healthy dogs, they are not without their fair share of potential health issues. We will touch on some common ailments associated with the breed, providing you with the knowledge to keep your furry friend in optimal health.

If you find yourself captivated by the Bernese Mountain Dog but still want to explore other options, we’ve got you covered. We’ll highlight some comparable breeds, allowing you to make an informed decision about which breed best suits your lifestyle.

Lastly, we’ll take a look at some notable dogs from this breed, showcasing the achievements and contributions of these incredible canines.

So, whether you’re considering adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your family or simply have a curiosity about this beloved breed, enjoy this in-depth exploration of all things Berner!


History and Origins of the Breed

The history and origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog are rooted in the picturesque region of Bern, Switzerland. These dogs were originally bred for farm work, serving as versatile and reliable working companions to Swiss farmers and dairymen.

Origins in Switzerland:

  • The Bernese Mountain Dog, or “Berner Sennenhund” in Swiss German, is one of four Swiss Mountain Dog breeds, which also include the Appenzeller, Entlebucher, and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs.
  • The breed’s history can be traced back over 2,000 years in the Swiss Alps, where they were primarily used for herding cattle, pulling carts, and guarding farms.
  • The Bernese Mountain Dog’s ancestors are believed to have been brought to Switzerland by the Romans and were later interbred with local farm dogs.
  • Their robust and sturdy build, along with their ability to navigate uneven terrain, made them indispensable to Swiss farmers in the mountainous regions.

Purpose and Work:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs were primarily used as draft animals, capable of pulling heavy loads such as milk carts, farm equipment, and even sleds during the snowy winters.
  • Their intelligence, strength, and endurance made them excellent working dogs, and their friendly nature allowed them to interact well with both humans and other animals on the farm.
  • They were also skilled at herding and protecting livestock, ensuring the safety and well-being of the farm animals.

Recognition and Breed Standard:

  • The breed’s popularity spread beyond Switzerland, and in 1907, the Bernese Mountain Dog was officially recognized by the Swiss Kennel Club.
  • The breed’s first breed standard was established in 1910, outlining their physical and temperamental traits.
  • The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the Bernese Mountain Dog in 1939, further solidifying its status as a distinct and cherished breed.

Introduction to North America:

  • It wasn’t until the late 1920s that the Bernese Mountain Dog made its way to North America, with the first recorded import to the United States in 1926.
  • The breed gained recognition by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1937, joining the Working Group.
  • Since then, Bernese Mountain Dogs have captured the hearts of countless dog enthusiasts worldwide, both as working dogs and as beloved family pets.


Today, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s rich history and heritage continue to be celebrated. While they may no longer be as prevalent in farm work, their gentle nature, loyalty, and striking appearance have made them cherished companions and show dogs around the globe.


Size and Appearance Characteristics

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large and impressive breed, known for its striking appearance and sturdy build. In this section, we will explore the size and appearance characteristics that make these dogs so unique.


  • Adult male Berners typically stand between 24 to 27.5 inches (61 to 70 cm) at the shoulder.
  • Adult females are slightly smaller, measuring between 22 to 26 inches (56 to 66 cm) in height.
  • The weight range for Bernese Mountain Dogs is generally between 80 to 115 pounds (36 to 52 kg) for males and 70 to 95 pounds (32 to 43 kg) for females.

Physical Features:

  • The Bernese Mountain Dog has a powerful and well-balanced build. They have a broad chest, strong neck, and sturdy limbs, giving them a robust appearance.
  • Their heads are proportionate to their bodies, with a flat skull and a well-defined stop (the point where the forehead meets the muzzle).
  • The breed’s eyes are dark brown and almond-shaped, exuding a kind and intelligent expression.
  • Berners have medium-sized, triangular-shaped ears that hang down close to their cheeks.
  • Their muzzles are strong and straight, with a black nose.
  • One of the most distinguishing features of the Bernese Mountain Dog is its beautiful tri-color coat, which consists of a jet black base with rust-colored markings on the cheeks, above the eyes, on the legs, and on the chest. A white blaze or spot on the chest is also common.
  • The coat is thick, moderately long, and weather-resistant, protecting them from the harsh Swiss mountain climate.
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs have a distinctive white Swiss cross-shaped mark on their chests, adding to their unique appearance.


  • Bernese Mountain Dogs have a double coat, with a dense, soft undercoat and a longer, coarser outer coat.
  • They are considered to be moderate to heavy shedders, especially during seasonal transitions in the spring and fall.
  • Regular grooming and brushing will help manage shedding and keep their coats healthy and free from mats.

Overall Impression:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are often described as majestic and noble in appearance. Their powerful build, coupled with their distinctive tri-color coat and friendly expression, makes them a sight to behold.
  • It’s worth noting that while their appearance may be striking, it is their gentle and loving nature that truly captures the hearts of those fortunate enough to share their lives with these magnificent dogs.


The size and appearance characteristics of Bernese Mountain Dogs contribute to their undeniable appeal, making them an iconic and recognizable breed. Their impressive stature and beautiful coat are just the beginning of what makes them such beloved companions.


Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is an important aspect to consider when deciding to bring one into your family. In this section, we will explore the average lifespan of Berners and factors that can influence their longevity.

Average Life Expectancy:

  • On average, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a lifespan of around 7 to 10 years.
  • It’s important to note that this is just an average, and individual dogs may live shorter or longer lives depending on various factors.

Factors Affecting Life Expectancy:

  • Genetics: Like many purebred dogs, genetics play a significant role in determining the lifespan of Bernese Mountain Dogs. Responsible breeders strive to minimize the prevalence of hereditary health issues through careful selection and testing of breeding stock.
  • Health Conditions: Berners are prone to certain health conditions that can impact their lifespan. These may include cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus), heart disease, and certain types of neurological disorders. Regular veterinary check-ups, proper nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle can help mitigate the risks associated with these conditions.
  • Exercise and Diet: Providing adequate exercise and a balanced diet is essential for the overall health and longevity of any dog. Bernese Mountain Dogs benefit from regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and keep their joints and muscles in good condition.
  • Environmental Factors: The environment in which a Bernese Mountain Dog lives can also impact their lifespan. Dogs that are exposed to excessive heat, harsh weather conditions, or unsafe living conditions may be at a higher risk of health issues and a shorter lifespan.

Responsible Breeding Practices:

  • Responsible breeders play a crucial role in promoting the health and longevity of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed. They conduct health screenings and genetic testing on their breeding dogs to minimize the risk of passing on hereditary conditions.
  • When considering adding a Bernese Mountain Dog to your family, it is important to seek out reputable breeders who prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs.

Quality of Life:

  • While the average lifespan of a Bernese Mountain Dog may be shorter compared to some other breeds, it is essential to focus on providing them with a high quality of life during their time with you. This includes regular veterinary care, a nutritious diet, mental and physical stimulation, and lots of love and attention.


While the average lifespan of a Bernese Mountain Dog may be shorter than some other breeds, the joy and love they bring to their families during their years together are immeasurable. By focusing on responsible breeding practices and providing them with a healthy and happy lifestyle, you can help ensure that your Berner enjoys a fulfilling and meaningful life.




The temperament of a Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the breed’s most endearing qualities. Known for their gentle and friendly nature, Berners make excellent family pets and are often sought after as therapy dogs. In this section, we will delve into the temperament traits that make Bernese Mountain Dogs so beloved.

Gentle and Affectionate:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their gentle and loving nature. They are typically very affectionate towards their family members and enjoy being close to their loved ones.
  • They thrive on human companionship and are often described as being highly devoted to their families.
  • Berners are known to form strong bonds with their owners and are often eager to please.

Good with Children:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally good with children, making them an excellent choice for families.
  • They are patient and tolerant, often displaying a calm and gentle demeanor around kids.
  • However, as with any dog, it is essential to supervise interactions between young children and dogs to ensure mutual respect and safety.

Friendly and Social:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are typically friendly and sociable with people and other animals.
  • They are known to be welcoming to strangers and often exhibit a friendly disposition when properly socialized from a young age.
  • Berners can get along well with other dogs and pets in the household, provided they are introduced properly and given adequate socialization.

Alert and Watchful:

  • Despite their friendly nature, Bernese Mountain Dogs possess a natural instinct to be watchful and protective of their family.
  • They are known to be good watchdogs, alerting their owners to potential dangers or intruders.
  • While not typically aggressive, they may bark to alert their family of any perceived threats.


  • Bernese Mountain Dogs generally adapt well to various living situations, including apartment living, as long as they receive adequate exercise and mental stimulation.
  • They are known to be adaptable to different environments and can thrive in both rural and urban settings.
  • However, it’s important to note that Berners are a large breed and require sufficient space to move around comfortably.


Understanding the temperament of a Bernese Mountain Dog is crucial when considering them as a family pet. Their gentle and affectionate nature, combined with their patience and sociability, make them an excellent choice for households of all types. Whether you’re looking for a loyal companion or a therapy dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s temperament is sure to win your heart.


Trainability and Adaptability

Trainability and adaptability are important factors to consider when bringing a Bernese Mountain Dog into your home. In this section, we will explore the trainability and adaptability of this breed, providing insights into their intelligence, willingness to learn, and ability to adjust to different environments.

Intelligence and Learning Ability:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally intelligent and eager to please their owners, which can make them relatively easy to train.
  • They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, such as reward-based training and praise.
  • Consistency, patience, and firm but gentle guidance are key when training a Berner.
  • Early socialization and puppy training classes are highly recommended to ensure they grow into well-rounded and well-behaved adults.

Obedience Training:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs have a natural inclination to please their owners, making them receptive to obedience training.
  • Basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and down can be taught with consistency and positive reinforcement.
  • Advanced training, such as off-leash training or specialized tasks, can also be achieved with proper training techniques and consistency.

Adaptability to Different Environments:

  • While Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their love of outdoor activities, they can adapt to different living environments, including apartments or houses with smaller yards.
  • However, it’s essential to provide them with regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and ensure their overall well-being.
  • Berners may require additional care and attention during hot weather due to their thick coats, so it’s important to provide them with appropriate shade and hydration.


  • Early and continued socialization is crucial for Bernese Mountain Dogs to help them develop into well-mannered and confident adults.
  • Exposing them to various people, animals, environments, and experiences will help them become comfortable and adaptable in different situations.
  • Socialization also helps prevent potential behavioral issues, such as shyness or fearfulness.

Working and Performance Abilities:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs have a strong work ethic and were historically used for various tasks on Swiss farms.
  • They have the potential to excel in various canine sports and activities, such as obedience, rally, agility, and cart pulling competitions.
  • Engaging them in mentally stimulating activities and providing them with outlets for their energy can help prevent behavioral issues that may arise from boredom or under-stimulation.


Remember, each Bernese Mountain Dog is an individual, and their trainability and adaptability may vary. Patience, positive reinforcement, and consistent training methods will go a long way in helping them reach their full potential. By investing time and effort into training and providing them with a stimulating environment, you can help your Berner thrive and adapt to different situations with ease.


Exercise Requirements and Energy Level

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. In this section, we will explore their exercise requirements and energy levels, providing guidance on how to keep them happy, healthy, and properly exercised.

Exercise Requirements:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are an active breed that benefits from daily exercise to expend their energy and prevent boredom.
  • A typical Berner should have at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, although some may require more depending on their individual energy levels.
  • Exercise should consist of both physical activity, such as walks, hikes, or play sessions, as well as mental stimulation through training or puzzle toys.

Physical Activities:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs enjoy a variety of physical activities. They are excellent hiking companions and will happily trek alongside you on trails.
  • Swimming can also be a great exercise option for Berners, as it is easy on their joints and provides a full-body workout.
  • Playing fetch or engaging in interactive games in a securely fenced yard can also help burn off excess energy.

Mental Stimulation:

  • In addition to physical exercise, Bernese Mountain Dogs require mental stimulation to keep their intelligent minds engaged.
  • Incorporating training sessions, puzzle toys, and interactive games can help satisfy their mental needs and prevent boredom.
  • Activities that challenge their problem-solving skills, such as scent work or obedience training, can be particularly beneficial.

Age and Energy Level Considerations:

  • The exercise needs of a Bernese Mountain Dog may vary depending on their age and energy level.
  • Puppies have bursts of energy and may require shorter, more frequent play sessions to prevent overexertion.
  • Adult Berners generally have a moderate energy level, while senior dogs may need less intense exercise but still benefit from regular walks and mental stimulation.

Weather Considerations:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick double coat that provides insulation, making them more suited to cooler climates.
  • It’s important to take weather conditions into account when exercising your Berner, as they may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion or discomfort in hot and humid conditions.
  • During hot weather, exercise should be scheduled during cooler times of the day, and access to shade and fresh water should be provided.


Meeting the exercise needs of your Bernese Mountain Dog is crucial for their overall health and happiness. Regular physical activity and mental stimulation not only keep them physically fit but also help prevent destructive behaviors that may arise from boredom or excess energy. By providing them with a well-rounded exercise routine, you can ensure that your Berner is living their best life.


Grooming Requirements

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a beautiful and dense coat that requires regular grooming to keep it healthy and looking its best. In this section, we will explore the grooming requirements of Bernese Mountain Dogs, including coat care, brushing, bathing, and other essential grooming practices.

Coat Care:

  • The Bernese Mountain Dog has a thick double coat, consisting of a soft, dense undercoat and a longer, coarser outer coat.
  • Regular coat care is essential to prevent matting, keep the coat clean, and promote healthy skin and hair.
  • The coat should be checked regularly for tangles, debris, or any signs of skin irritations.


  • Bernese Mountain Dogs benefit from regular brushing to remove loose hair, prevent matting, and distribute natural oils throughout the coat.
  • Using a slicker brush or a medium-toothed comb, gently brush through the entire coat, paying extra attention to areas prone to matting, such as behind the ears, under the neck, and on the hindquarters.
  • Brushing sessions should be done at least once or twice a week, but during shedding seasons, daily brushing may be necessary.


  • Bernese Mountain Dogs do not require frequent bathing unless they are particularly dirty or have a strong odor.
  • Overbathing can strip their coat of natural oils, which can lead to dryness and skin problems.
  • When bathing is necessary, use a mild dog shampoo and thoroughly rinse the coat to remove all traces of soap.
  • It’s important to dry the coat thoroughly after bathing to prevent dampness, which can contribute to matting and skin issues.

Nail Care:

  • Regular nail trimming is essential for Bernese Mountain Dogs, as their nails can grow long and may cause discomfort or difficulty walking.
  • Use a quality nail clipper or grinder specifically designed for dogs to trim the nails, taking care not to cut into the quick (the sensitive part of the nail).
  • If you are unsure or uncomfortable with nail trimming, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian for assistance.

Ear and Dental Care:

  • Checking and cleaning the ears regularly is important to prevent infections. Use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning solution and gently wipe the outer part of the ear with a soft cloth or cotton ball.
  • Dental hygiene is crucial for overall health. Brush your Berner’s teeth regularly with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste to prevent dental issues and maintain fresh breath.

Professional Grooming:

  • While regular at-home grooming is essential, some Bernese Mountain Dog owners may opt for professional grooming services to maintain their dog’s coat.
  • Professional groomers can provide services such as coat trimming, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and other specialized grooming techniques.


By following a regular grooming routine and providing proper care for their coat, nails, ears, and teeth, you can help keep your Bernese Mountain Dog looking and feeling their best. Regular grooming not only promotes good health but also enhances the bond between you and your beloved Berner.



Health Issues

While Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally healthy dogs, like any breed, they are prone to certain health issues. In this section, we will discuss some common health concerns that can affect Bernese Mountain Dogs, as well as preventive measures and regular veterinary care that can help keep them in optimal health.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs can be susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, which are inherited conditions that affect the joints.
  • These conditions occur when the hip or elbow joint does not develop properly, leading to joint instability and potential pain or lameness.
  • Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for hip and elbow dysplasia, and potential owners should inquire about the health clearances of the parents before getting a puppy.


  • Unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a higher risk of developing various types of cancer compared to some other breeds.
  • The most common types of cancer seen in Berners include mast cell tumors, histiocytic sarcoma, and lymphoma.
  • Regular veterinary check-ups and early detection can improve the chances of successful treatment and management of cancer.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat):

  • Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition that can affect Bernese Mountain Dogs.
  • It occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists, leading to a potentially fatal blockage of blood flow.
  • Feeding multiple small meals throughout the day, avoiding vigorous exercise immediately after meals, and using slow-feeder bowls may help reduce the risk of bloat.

Heart Disease:

  • Berners can be prone to certain heart conditions, including dilated cardiomyopathy and mitral valve disease.
  • Regular veterinary examinations that include auscultation of the heart and diagnostic tests can help detect and manage heart disease early.

Other Health Concerns:

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs may also be susceptible to other health issues, including hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and certain types of neurological disorders.
  • Regular veterinary care, including preventive measures such as vaccinations, parasite control, and routine blood work, is essential in maintaining the overall health and well-being of Berners.


It’s important to note that not all Bernese Mountain Dogs will develop these health issues, and many can live long and healthy lives with proper care. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, exercise, and a loving home environment are all crucial in keeping your Berner healthy and happy. When considering getting a Bernese Mountain Dog, it is recommended to choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their breeding dogs.


Comparable Breeds

While the Bernese Mountain Dog is a unique and beloved breed, there are several other breeds that share certain characteristics and make great alternatives or companions. In this section, we will explore some comparable breeds that may be worth considering if you’re looking for a similar type of dog.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog:

  • The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, also known as the Swissy, is another Swiss breed and one of the four Swiss Mountain Dogs.
  • Like the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Swissy is a large and sturdy breed known for its gentle nature and working abilities.
  • They also have a tri-color coat, although their markings differ from the Berner’s coat pattern.
  • Both breeds are known for their loyalty, intelligence, and suitability as family pets or working dogs.


  • The Newfoundland is a large, gentle giant breed that shares similarities with the Bernese Mountain Dog in terms of size and temperament.
  • Both breeds are known for their calm and patient nature, making them excellent family pets, therapy dogs, or working dogs.
  • Newfoundlands also have a thick double coat and require regular grooming to maintain their coat’s health and appearance.

Saint Bernard:

  • The Saint Bernard is another well-known and similar breed to the Bernese Mountain Dog, originating from the Swiss Alps.
  • Like Berners, Saint Bernards are large, gentle, and known for their friendly and patient temperament.
  • They have a thick coat that requires regular grooming, and they are also prone to certain health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia.


  • The Leonberger is a large and majestic breed that shares some characteristics with the Bernese Mountain Dog.
  • Both breeds have a friendly and gentle nature, making them great family companions.
  • Leonbergers have a thick, water-resistant double coat and require regular grooming.
  • They are also known for their strength and working abilities, similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog.


It’s important to note that while these breeds share similarities with the Bernese Mountain Dog, each breed has its own unique traits and characteristics. When considering a comparable breed, it’s essential to research and understand the specific needs and requirements of the breed to ensure it aligns with your lifestyle and preferences. Consulting with reputable breeders or contacting breed-specific rescue organizations can provide valuable insights when exploring other breeds similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog.


Notable Dogs from This Breed

The Bernese Mountain Dog breed has produced many notable dogs throughout history. In this section, we will highlight some of the most famous and influential Bernese Mountain Dogs, showcasing their achievements and contributions to various fields.


  • Barry is perhaps the most famous Bernese Mountain Dog in history. Born in Switzerland in the early 1800s, he was a legendary rescue dog in the Great St. Bernard Pass.
  • Barry is credited with saving the lives of at least 40 people lost in the treacherous mountain terrain, earning him a reputation as a hero and symbol of the breed’s loyalty and bravery.


  • Sasha gained international fame as the first Bernese Mountain Dog to set foot on Mount Everest.
  • In 2001, Sasha accompanied a team of climbers during their ascent to the summit, becoming a symbol of determination and the breed’s ability to adapt to extreme conditions.


  • Luna was a therapy dog who made a significant impact on the lives of many individuals.
  • She worked alongside her handler, visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, providing comfort, support, and companionship to those in need.
  • Luna’s gentle and friendly nature exemplified the breed’s suitability as therapy dogs.


  • Max gained recognition as a search and rescue dog, specializing in locating missing persons.
  • His exceptional tracking abilities and teamwork with his handler resulted in the successful recovery of numerous individuals in various search and rescue operations.


Notable Bernese Mountain Dogs like Barry, Sasha, Luna, and Max exemplify the breed’s intelligence, loyalty, and versatility. These remarkable dogs have left a lasting impact through their heroic acts, therapy work, and search and rescue achievements. Their stories serve as a testament to the Bernese Mountain Dog’s incredible capabilities and the bond they form with their human companions.


The Bernese Mountain Dog, with its striking appearance and gentle nature, is a breed that captures hearts with its beauty and loving temperament. Renowned for its strength, loyalty, and versatility, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a rich history as a working and companion dog.

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