Bernese Mountain Dog : appearance, character, care

A very docile dog and perfect for children and family life

All about the Bernese Mountain Dog : a great life partner and watchdog, a docile animal and very suitable for family life.

The characteristics of the Bernese mountain dog that stand out the most are its beauty, kindness and its large size. This pet has a character affectionate, loyal and very intelligent. At Petlifey, we explain everything about the Bernese Mountain Dog breed.

Bernese Mountain Dog : Origin

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a dog native of Central Switzerland and size. It falls into the category of Pinscher Schnauzer, Molosser and Swiss Cattle Dogs. It is also known by the name of Berner Sennenhund.

Some sources believe this breed is a distant ancestor of the St. Bernard dog The origins are uncertain: it is not yet clear whether it should be considered a native breed or introduced by the Romans during their advance.

This last hypothesis seems to be supported by the discovery of ancient Roman vases in which a dog very similar to the Bernese mountain dog is drawn.

In any case, its first use was as a shepherd dog: it accompanied and followed the cattle, helping the farmers in their life in the fields.

After a long period in which it risked extinction, the breed was recovered thanks to the interest of a breeder, Mr. Schertenleib.

The first farms appeared in the Burgdorf region in 1907. In the 1940s, following some crosses with the Newfoundland, the breed was stabilized with current standards.

Character of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed

Above all, the greatest virtue of the Bernese Mountain Dog is its excellent character, as it is affectionate, devoted and kind, with an inordinate love for the children of the house.

The relationship that it establishes with its owner is, above all, that of a friend of loyal and faithful behaviour for life, and with all those who come to the house.

Including strangers it has never met, it is very friendly. And in general, the same happens with other dogs and with animals of other species.

All of this endows it with a special beauty and a good-natured appearance that almost hides the real dog behind it: an incorruptible guardian who alerts the farmer to the presence of any stranger.

And despite being a good guard dog, it has a non- dominant temperament, so it is very easy to live with it. This does not mean that it does not have a high dose of pride and self-confidence, but the truth is that it never seems to be out of place.

It is a good farm animal and as such it needs continuous contact with its family. It is not advisable to “condemn” them to remain alone or isolated for long periods of time, in a yard or a plot, for example, as a mere watchdog.

With a strong affectionate and sensitive personality, this dog must constantly have human company and be treated with respect and care. If you are home alone for a long time, they are prone to crying.

It gets along well with the little ones in the house, the elderly and other household pets. As an intelligent dog, it is very easy to educate. It learns well and quickly, but you cannot use overly coercive techniques with it.

In principle, it is an animal that accepts very well the position assigned to it within the social scale of the family. It is used to living with more people on the farm and is gregarious and hard-working, but it must be made clear to them that the highest place in the hierarchy is occupied by its owner and the rest of the family.

If its owner knows how to establish themselves as a natural and calm leader, and does not abandon its role in an obvious way, it will never have a temper problem with its dog.

If not, then it could develop some behaviours that are completely alien to its cordial and participatory nature.

On the other hand, as it is a large working dog, despite being calm and stable and relaxed for hours inside the house with its owners. It is not the most appropriate breed to raise in an apartment in the city.

If you spend too many hours a day inactive you can fall with amazing ease into states of depression, or obesity that can be fatal to your health.

In short, it is a very affectionate, friendly and pleasant animal with all the members of its family unit. Very self-assured, determined, attentive and faithful, it makes an excellent guardian. It is very docile and peaceful, so it is easy to train.

  • Energy: medium / high level. Due to its large size, it needs to exercise so that its muscles and bones remain in good condition.
  • Temperament: safe, attentive and very good guardian, at work it is resistant, calm and docile. It is very affectionate and loyal to its family.
  • Adaptability: Accustomed to alpine valleys, hot climates affect them negatively, and it needs free air, so life in a small urban apartment is not ideal for this dog.
  • Sociability: a gregarious animal, it needs continuous contact with the people of its family. It gets along well with everyone.
  • Health: May suffer from joint problems and show a tendency to gain weight
  • Longevity: Lives 7 to 10 years.
  • Utility: versatile. Originally a guard dog, it is very useful as an auxiliary, draft animal, companion.
  • Use: guard, shot and company.

Characteristics of the Bernese Mountain Dog

One of the characteristics of the Bernese Mountain Dog that is first observed is that it is an imposing and attractive looking animal.

He is large, strong, muscular, with robust limbs and a harmonious and balanced body. Of agile figure, it does not seem heavy.

It is endowed with a profuse, very shiny jet black coat, with a white chest, muzzle and part of the face, and characteristic tan-colored spots well distributed at certain points of the body.

Its body is that of a strong and large dog, robust, with good muscles and endowed with strong bones, its figure is agile, harmonious and very balanced.

The head is well proportioned to the rest of the body and is strong, without being imposing. The stop is evident, but not pronounced, and the muzzle is strong and the muzzle is straight.

Their eyes are almond-shaped and the iris is pigmented dark brown. Above them, small marks of tan color usually stand out.

It has drooping, triangular ears, but with rounded shapes, and they are set high on the head. They are well covered with straight or slightly wavy hair.

Under very robust and strong legs, the feet of the Bernese Mountain Dog are small, round and with arched toes. They are generally white in color.

Its tail is quite long and the dog usually wears it down. However, when it is in motion it raises it, up to the height of the back or a little higher. It is well covered with hair.

As for its coat, it is quite long, smooth or wavy, soft and shiny. Of a beautiful deep black color, it has characteristic tan markings and others of white color.

Let’s now see what the Bernese Mountain Dog looks like and what the breed standard is :

Bernese Mountain Dog breed standard

  • General appearance: large and robust, the Bernese Mountain Dog is the only Swiss Mountain Dog that has long hair. The agile and strong figure of this dog is also balanced and very harmonious.
  • Size: very large.
  • Height at the withers: between 64 and 70 cm for males and between 58 and 66 cm for females.
  • Weight: between 40 and 50 kg for males and between 38 and 48 kg for females.
  • Other names: Bemese Mountain Dog / Bouvier bernois / Bemer Sennenhund.
  • Body: powerful and robust, it has a straight and horizontal upper line, with a harmonious transition and a slight descent from the neck to the withers. Back: It is straight and strong, with a broad and slightly collected back seen from above, and a gently rounded rump.
  • Head: strong and of a size proportionate to the rest of the body, it is not too imposing.
  • Skull: slightly domed when viewed in profile or from the front, and the frontal furrow is not well developed.
  • Muzzle: strong and of moderate length, it has a straight nasal bridge and the lips are firm, black and close to the jaws.
  • Nose: it is black.
  • Eyes: almond shaped, well set, neither sunken nor too protruding. They are dark brown in color and have well-attached lids to the eyeball.
  • Ears: of medium size and set high, they are triangular but slightly rounded. When the dog is at rest, they are usually worn flat, resting on the sides of the head. If you remain alert or attentive, raise the rear of the base and leave the leading edge supported.
  • Nose-frontal depression (stop): it is evident, but it is not too pronounced.
  • Jaws: The bite is powerful, complete and scissor-like, although there are also some specimens of this breed that sometimes have a pincer bite.
  • Neck: It is strong, muscular and has a medium length.
  • Chest: deep and wide, in the front part it reaches the height of the elbows and has a long rib cage. The belly rises slightly from the end of this rib cage to the posterior quarter.
  • Forelimbs: they are straight, parallel and are rather separated from each other. 
  • Shoulders: The scapulae or shoulder blades are strong, long and set obliquely, so that they form a not too obtuse angle with the arm. The shoulders are close to the body and well muscled. The forearm is strong and straight, while the arm is long and obliquely positioned. The elbows are well attached to the body, they are straight, without deviating inwards or outwards.
  • Hind limbs: straight and parallel, they are not very close together, and if they present dewclaws, these are usually eliminated (in those countries where such practice is allowed). Their legs are long and oblique, they have long, broad and strong thighs, with good muscles. The knees are clearly angulated and the hocks are strong and well angulated.
  • Feet: they are short, rounded and straight, as they do not twist inwards or outwards. They have well-curved fingers that are very close together. The hind feet are slightly less arched than the fore feet.
  • Tail: it is long, reaching at least the hock joint, and it is well covered with hair. At rest it hangs down, but when the dog is in motion it waves at the same height as the back or a little higher.
  • Hair: long, straight, or a little wavy, and very shiny.
  • Color: basically, the background color is very bright jet black, but the Bernese Mountain Dog specimens also have reddish-brown spots, the so  called color or tan , very well defined and distributed almost always in the same way; on the cheeks, on the eyes, on the legs and on the chest. They also show clean, symmetrical white markings that start on the head, widen on both sides of the nose, and stain the muzzle white. A moderately wide white patch also runs from the throat to the chest. Finally, there are other traces of white on the tip of the tail and on the feet.
  • Movement: the dog covers the surface well in any step it takes, and the advance is uniform, with a free step and endowed with good thrust on the part of the hindquarters. In the trot the limbs remain in a straight line seen from the front and the back.
  • FCI Classification: FCI No. 45 Group 2. Pinscher and Schnauzers, Molossians, and Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs. Section 3 – Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs.

Bernese Mountain Dog puppies

If you are reading this article with information about the Bernese Mountain Dog, you may be considering the adoption or purchase of a Bernese Mountain Dog. But there are a number of aspects that you must take into consideration before making the big decision.

For example, puppies of this breed have a fairly slow maturation. The work of socialization, which must be done with all races, in this case has to be extended a little more in time.

In the same way, you must make sure that they receive adequate nutrition for their needs for growth and development of all their muscles and skeleton. The vet will always be by your side to advise you and do the proper follow-up.

Education and training of the Bernese Mountain Dog

As for how to educate a Bernese herdsman, the most important work that needs to be carried out with the Bernese herdsmen is thorough socialization.

It has to start in the puppy stage and go on for a long time, due in part to the slow maturation of the breed, which behaves as if it were a puppy for several years, far beyond what is normal in other breeds.Therefore, you need incentives to undertake activities. It is satisfied with a few good walks and with some time of free expansion in a safe area, but it can also be pulling a sled or a small car.

On the other hand, it is not advisable to enrol them in activities where speed or speed is given primacy, since this is precisely the most agile or lightest of dogs.

In fact, despite being very well adapted to work in the valleys of its region, for the steepest areas of the country it was common to choose a similar but much lighter type, such as the Appenzell or Entlebuch sheepdog.

In addition to being sure that they will be able to offer this exercise and outdoor recreation so necessary for their physical and mental balance, future owners of a Bernese mountain dog should also consider whether they will be able to provide their pet with the environment suitable for living.

Today, this is a very popular breed internationally, thanks mainly to its extraordinary character and its qualities as a companion animal.

Also for its abilities as a great tracker, shepherd and rescue dog. In addition to being an excellent guardian and competing at a good level in obedience championships.

Feeding of the Bernese Mountain Dog

As for how to feed a Bernese Mountain Dog, the level of energy expenditure of this dog is generally low, so you have to be very careful when providing a diet.

This has to contain the necessary nutrients to keep such a large figure active, but, at the same time, it must have the right caloric concentration so as not to cause obesity.

One of the fundamental workhorses faced by dog ​​owners of all breeds. Likewise, it is advisable to divide the daily intake into two doses to avoid the appearance of the annoying, dangerous and very unpleasant stomach torsion.

Fortunately, today, both in specialized pet stores and online you can easily buy dog ​​food of these characteristics.

Health and diseases of the Bernese Mountain Dog

Choosing a specimen of this breed only for its physical appearance or for the benefits of its temperament can become a tragic mistake if, for example, the place where you live is not taken into account.

Large in size and with abundant and extraordinarily insulating hair, for a Bernese mountain dog, daily life in hot climates can be torture.

No matter how hot or cold it is, you should exercise daily to avoid serious health problems that would further shorten your limited longevity.

And is that one of the biggest disadvantages that potential owners of this breed face is its short life expectancy . As with many other breeds as large as this one, it is much smaller than in medium and small breed dogs. Already, which stands at an optimistic average of about 8 years .

In addition, its health problems have increased since it stopped being a purely utilitarian dog and became a companion animal.

In addition to the sedentary lifestyle that was associated with this change in life, many breeders developed an inordinate desire to obtain larger specimens, with more hair and better staining. More beautiful in short, without taking into account that the first thing that defines a breed is its functionality.

For example, cancer is the main cause of death in this breed , a disease that currently affects all breeds of dogs, but which occurs in a much higher proportion than the average.

Other typical conditions of dogs of this size are:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia.
  • Eye diseases
  • Stomach twisting.
  • Skin problems

In any case, although it is highly advisable that the owner of a Bernese mountain dog is aware of the risks it faces when owning a specimen of this breed, it does not have to obsess over it at all.

The best advice is to try to keep your pet in perfect health by building a solid and trusting relationship with your veterinarian and always allowing yourself to be guided and advised by them.

This will establish a routine schedule of annual vaccinations and revaccinations against the most common diseases. Whether they are infectious or seasonal in nature and will impose a pattern of external and internal deworming .

Likewise, in the periodic check-ups, they will examine the condition of the animal’s hair, weight, mucous membranes, eyes, ears and mouth to prevent the appearance of any more serious condition.

Caring for the Bernese Mountain Dog breed

As for the hygiene and care of the Bernese Mountain Dog, as this dog has long and thick hair, it needs specific care, especially during the molting season, which is abundant and occurs once or twice a year.

In those periods it is advisable to brush it every day to speed up this process and prevent the house from being invaded by hairs. The rest of the year a couple of weekly brushings are sufficient using a metal rake and a good long-bristle brush.

It is possible that in some areas it is necessary to help with the hand to open the hair well and get to work it from the roots.

As for how often the Bernese Mountain Dog should be bathed , the bath is reserved only for when the animal is dirty. It is always carried out after having brushed the coat well and having left it free of knots.

Sometimes special emphasis must be placed on areas of white fur. Already, they get dirty more than necessary, and it is essential to insist on the need to rinse the hair very thoroughly. To avoid the appearance of dryness and flaking.

It is also recommended to take advantage of the time of the bath to trim the nails of the dog , being careful not to reach the fleshy part. And, finally, you have to dry it very well with a powerful air dryer, in addition to the typical towels, paper, etc.

Due to the few and simple care it requires, its great storage capacity and, above all, its excellent character, the Bernese Mountain Dog stands as a perfect companion dog. It can be a very good choice for an inexperienced family, as long as you are willing to give it the right dedication.

All its owners will find in it an affectionate and trustworthy animal, from which much benefit can be obtained with very little effort.

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