Bernese Mountain Dogs

Alpine Breed is Ideal for Families

An outdoors dog at heart, the Bernese mountain dog is surprisingly fast for its large size. Affectionate with children, other pets and even strangers at times, the breed is frequently described by its owners as also having a big heart.

This “friend for life” enjoys sticking close to its family and will gladly tag along on an excursion or activity, whether indoors or outside.

Bernese Mountain Dog

There is speculation that the Bernese mountain dog originated more than two thousand years ago as the offspring of mastiff-like dogs traveling with Roman soldiers through Switzerland.

By the 18th century, the breed was a common working dog in midland Switzerland, driving dairy cattle alongside farmers and pulling carts to the market. Named after the dairy farmers — known as Senn. Berner (“Bernese” in English) — who lived in an area called Canton of Bern, the dog was eventually called the Berner Sennenhund (“hund” means “dog” in German).

The Bernese mountain dog is actually one of four varieties of Swiss mountain dogs, the other three being the Greater Swiss mountain dog, the Entlebucher Sennenhund and the Appenzeller Sennenhung. All four dogs share a similar resemblance, although the Bernese mountain dog is the only one of the four to have the long, silky coat.

By the 1900s, the Bernese mountain dog had gained popularity and was introduced in dog shows held in the city of Berne. By then, other dogs were being utilized on farm lands, so the breed became more of a companion for dog fanciers rather than a working dog for farmers.

Considered easy to train, this intelligent breed will follow your lead; early socialization is recommended before any bad habits can set in.

By 1910, there were 107 registered dogs in the first breed club, the “Schweizerische Durrbach-Klub.” In 1926, the Bernese mountain dog was brought to the United States and accepted into the American Kennel Association the 1937.

Cheerful and intelligent, the Bernese mountain dog is known to be affectionate and playful with children and other pets. Considered easy to train, this intelligent breed will follow your lead; early socialization is recommended before any bad habits can set in. The Bernese mountain dog does not do well if kenneled for long periods of time; the breed thrives on the company of people and is eager to please.

The Bernese mountain dog prefers to spend time outdoors with regular activities to burn off excess energy. A great hiking companion, the breed is fast and agile for its size — a true testament to its Alpine origins.

Bernese mountain dog running

The Bernese mountain dog is known for its distinct tricolored coat: mainly black with white and rust markings on its face, chest, legs and paws.

On some dogs, the white “Swiss cross” on the chest is apparent, as is the “Swiss kiss” — a white mark located behind the neck. The breed also sports a noticeable white horseshoe shape around the nose.

Both male and female Bernese mountain dogs have broad heads with small, triangular-shaped ears. While females dogs can weigh up to 105 pounds on average, male dogs usually top off around 110 pounds.

The Bernese mountain dog is also recognized for its long-haired, weather-resistant coat. Regular grooming is necessary to keep the silky hair from matting or knotting; it is recommended that you brush your Bernese mountain dog every week or two.

While these may be common medical conditions, your Bernese mountain dog will not necessarily develop any of those listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

Bernese mountain dogs
  • Cancer: This disease is unfortunately the leading cause of death in Bernese mountain dogs. A multitude of different types of cancer, including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma, have been attributed to this breed. Current studies are being conducted to try to pinpoint why this breed seems to yield a more frequent diagnosis of cancer than other dog breeds.
  • Cruciate ligament rupture: The cruciate ligament is a major part of the canine knee. Cruciate rupture is one of the most common orthopedic complications seen in dogs, one that commonly affects Bernese mountain dogs. Sometimes called ACL or CCL tear, a ruptured cruciate is often a painful and immobilizing injury.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joints that causes arthritis. The conditions is especially crippling in large breeds of dogs, particularly the Bernese mountain dog.
  • Stomach bloat or torsion (also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV) is very serious and often deadly condition where the stomach becomes painfully distended, either due to food, water or gas. The distended stomach then has a tendency to rotate twisting off its own blood supply and the only exit routes for the gas inside. This condition requires immediate, emergency veterinary treatment.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.