Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, fluffy dogs that were bred to be hard workers but also love to spend time relaxing with their family. First bred in Switzerland as farm dogs, they can handle the cold and spending time working outdoors.
Today, these dogs are more known for their calm personality which makes them a loving pet.
They don’t reach maturity until around 3 or 4 years old, so they have an extended “puppyhood.” During this time, your pup may be extra rambunctious and playful, but you’ll get to learn the loving personality of this fluffy breed.
Also Known As... (Nicknames)
Berner. BMD. Berner Sennenhund (German). "Look at that dog! It's like if a St. Bernard dressed up as a burglar!"
Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred in Switzerland, in the region of Bern, as all-around farm dogs. They are one of four breeds of the “Sennenhund” type. This name derives from the German “Senne” (“alpine pasture”) and “Hund” (“dog”). They herded cattle, pulled milk carts, and were watchdogs for the Swiss farms.
It is thought that Bernese Dogs are descended from local farm dogs bred with mastiff-type dogs that came to Switzerland with Roman armies. The dogs almost disappeared during industrialization, but were then revived during the 20th century to become companion dogs. The AKC first recognized the breed in 1937.
Male Bernese Mountain Dogs are between 25 and 27.5 inches and female are between 23 and 26 inches on average.
Male Bernese Mountain Dogs are usually between 80 and 115 pounds, while females are usually between 70 and 95 pounds.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are very calm dogs who bond with their family. With proper early socialization, they grow up to be very easy-going dogs. Though they are calm, they were originally bred as working dogs, so they need proper exercise and outdoor time to stay happy. They are playful and can be a fun partner for kids to play with, but aren’t overly energetic.
They can be a bit shy around new people and tend to be protective of their family, but overall they can be well-adjusted if exposed to many experiences at a young age. Without proper socialization, they may be a bit shy and cautious and might become anxious around loud noises.
However, with lots of early experiences, your Bernese Mountain Dog can grow up to be a well-adjusted and calm adult.
Intelligence / Trainability
Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally intelligent dogs who know how to complete a task. It is this trait combined with their desire to please their owners that makes training a relatively easy process for this breed. They were bred as working dogs, so they know how to focus on what they need to get done and how to listen to the commands of their owner.
Best Training Techniques For Bernese Mountain Dogs
Berners don’t respond well to harsh training methods and instead thrive when trying to please their owners. They may become intimated and have their feelings hurt when you scold them. Instead, positive reinforcement will help your Bernese Mountain Dog learn the behaviors that you want to be repeated in the future. They will work hard to make you happy, so training should be relatively painless; you just need to be clear what you want from them.
It is important to start training early in life, as they become harder to control once they reach their full size, if they are not well-trained.
Bred in Switzerland, this breed is happiest in cold weather. They enjoy snowy weather and may have a hard time adjusting to hotter temperatures. If your Bernese Mountain Dog lives in a warmer climate, they should be brought outside during the cooler parts of the day and should always have ample water and a cool place to relax. Other than climate, Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally farm dogs and thrive best in a home where they can spend time outside and have room to play.
Good For Families And Kids?
Berners are great pets for families because of their patient personality. They make a great play buddy for kids and would love to join their family in group outdoor activities. They are affectionate family members who may become attached to one particular member of the family.
Because Bernese Mountain Dogs are such large dogs, they could unintentionally hurt small children while trying to play with them. For this reason - and many others! - it's important to supervise any playtime between your Bernese Dog and small children (which, of course, is true of all dog/small children interactions). Young pups may also nip while trying to play, so it’s important to watch out for these behaviors.
On average, Bernese Mountain Dogs live between 7 to 10 years.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have some health issues that should be looked out for. Some cancers are more common in BMDs than in other dogs. In addition, they may have elbow dysplasia, blood disorders, and progressive retinal atrophy. Like most large dogs, they are also susceptible to bloat, which is a sudden, life-threatening condition. Owners should be aware of the signs, so they can make sure their dog stays healthy. Vets should perform regular hip, elbow, eye, and heart evaluations in order to catch early signs of these possible health issues.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have relatively high energy levels and need moderate exercise everyday in order to stay happy and healthy. This breed likes to spend time outdoors with their family and can make a great companion for long walks and hikes. They’re also happy to join on camping trips. Though they are energetic dogs, they also have a calm personality and enjoy relaxing with their family at the end of an exciting day.
Friendly With (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Most Bernese Mountain Dogs are happy to be around other dogs, if they were properly socialized when they were younger. Some male dogs may be aggressive to other male dogs, but overall this breed is easygoing.
Just as Bernese Mountain Dogs are good with other dogs, they're often good with strangers. Some Berners like to be watchdogs and may let you know someone strange is around, but they will usually stay calm in the process. Some other Bernese Mountain Dogs may have a bit of anxiety and will stay aloof around strangers, but most are calm and happy to meet new people.
Because of the calm, laidback personality of a Bernese Mountain Dog, they can often get along with cats and other pets. The most important thing that determines the outcome of a cat and dog together is how well they are socialized beforehand. Because Berners are so big, make sure that they are getting along with the cat, as they could accidentally hurt one another.
Coat & Grooming
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a double-layer coat that keeps them warm. The top layer is longer while the undercoat is woolly. This breed shed regularly, but sheds even more twice a year during shedding season. Weekly brushing can help keep the shedding under control by removing loose hair. Their ears are floppy, so they should also be cleaned regularly to make sure no infections develop.
Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred to pull carts and today they can still enjoy this ability. Sometimes they give kids rides in small carts. Some regional Bernese clubs offer carting workshops and may hold carting competitions for this breed.
Toys Bernese Mountain Dogs Would Like Best
Dog toys are an important item for your Bernese Mountain Dog. They take longer to mature into adults than other dogs and their puppy tendencies to chew on things can persist for awhile. If they become anxious, they may chew on your furniture or shoes, so having heavy-duty Super Chewer Toys ready for them can give them a good outlet for their chewing energy.
Tug Toys are also a great option. It is a fun way for Bernese Mountain Dogs to bond with their owners and show how strong they can be. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs will also enjoy chasing smaller toys, like balls or stuffed toys. A fun game with Fetch Toys in the yard can keep them busy and running around.
If you're looking for a more extensive list, check out the following post: 23 Heavy-Duty Dog Toys For Monster Chewers
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Bernese Mountain Dogs can experience obesity, so it’s important to watch what your dog is eating. Nutritious meals will keep this energetic pup happy to fuel them throughout their working day. In addition, joint supplements are a good addition to your dog’s diet. Bernese Mountain Dogs have the potential to develop hip, elbow, and joint problems, so these supplements are a great way to focus on your dog’s health.
As always, consult a vet before administering supplements.
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Berner with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
After a long day of hard work, it’s important to give your Bernese Mountain Dog a comfy place to relax. An orthopedic dog bed is the perfect way to keep your dog happy. Big dogs may develop joint issues later in life, so having a comfortable place is important to keeping your pup happy.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup's tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Bernese Mountain Dog Of Your Dreams
- BFW Rescue Inc.
- Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America Inc. Regional Rescue Groups
- Adoptable Bernese Mountain Dogs on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Bernese Mountain Dogs
***Looking for a gift to blow your Bernese's mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <-- This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! :)
Featured image via Pudge.The.Berner/Instagram