Uncovering the Charms of the Bernese Mountain Dog: Breed Characteristics and Care Tips

Bernese Mountain Dog - Featured Image

Did you know that Bernese Mountain Dogs are not only strikingly beautiful but also possess a loving and gentle nature?

In this blog post, we will dive deep into the world of these majestic canines, exploring their unique characteristics, fascinating history, and essential care tips for the Bernese Mountain Dog. Get ready to fall in love with this amazing breed!

Key Takeaways

  • The Bernese Mountain Dog is a tricolor breed known for its gentle nature and majestic appearance.
  • With proper nutrition, grooming, and socialization, they make great family pets with strong protective instincts.
  • They have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years but are prone to cancer and musculoskeletal issues. Adoption or purchase from reputable breeders should be considered when obtaining one.

Bernese Mountain Dog Traits and Appearance

a Bernese Mountain Dog standing on field

Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their large, robust frame and tricolor coat featuring black, rust, and white markings. Their size is indeed one of the most notable physical characteristics of this breed. The distinctive coat pattern, combined with their gentle nature, contributes to the Bernese Mountain Dog’s majestic appearance.

Males typically weigh between 80 and 115 pounds, while females weigh between 70 and 95 pounds. However, unlike many other breeds of similar size, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s lifespan tends to be shorter, typically ranging between 6 and 8 years.

These dogs, also known as Swiss Mountain Dogs, are considered high-maintenance due to their shedding and size. Some care tips for Bernese Mountain Dogs include:

  • Regular brushing is required to keep their coat healthy and prevent matting.
  • Those that are prone to drooling may require a slobber rag to keep their drool under control.
  • Care should be taken to prevent any damage to people or furniture because of their size.

Unique Coat Patterns

The Bernese Mountain Dog is characterized by its tricolored coat, comprised of black, rust, and white markings, with the notable “Swiss cross” adorning the chest. This Swiss cross pattern is a unique coat pattern found on Bernese Mountain Dogs, characterized by a white marking on the chest that typically forms an upside-down cross, thus helping to differentiate Bernese Mountain Dogs from other breeds.

Feeding them high-quality dog food and grooming them regularly are key to maintaining the health and appearance of their coat.

Size and Weight Differences

The size and weight distinctions between male and female Bernese Mountain Dogs are similar to those of other Swiss mountain dog breeds, such as the Appenzeller Mountain Dog. Males are generally larger and heavier than females. When considering the Bernese Mountain Dog size, females stand 23–26 inches in height and weigh 70–95 pounds, while males stand 25–27.5 inches in height and weigh 80–115 pounds.

Bernese Mountain Dogs attain their complete size and weight between the ages of 2 and 3 years, which is an important consideration when looking at Bernese Mountain Dog puppies.

Notable Physical Features

Key physical features of the Bernese Mountain Dog include:

  • Body shape
  • Head
  • Ears
  • Teeth
  • Legs
  • Tail

The head of a Bernese Mountain Dog is strong yet not overly massive, in proportion to the size of the dog. Their ears are pendulous and lie alongside their heads.

Having 42 teeth typically means regular brushing and providing dental chews are crucial for their optimal dental health.

Personality and Temperament

a Bernese Mountain Dog with toy in its mouth

Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their:

  • Gentle, affectionate, and protective nature
  • Friendliness and nurturing behavior when interacting with children
  • Loyalty, gentleness, and eagerness to please
  • Calm and tolerant disposition

These qualities make purebred dogs ideal family dogs.

When adequately socialized, Bernese Mountain Dogs:

  • Get along well with other pets
  • Typically develop a strong connection with their one owner or family
  • Often tend to be distant and disinterested towards unfamiliar people
  • Have been known to vocalize loudly and have a propensity for barking

Affectionate and Docile

In this Bernese Mountain Dog overview, we’ll explore the key characteristics of these gentle giants, including their Bernese Mountain Dog personality. Bernese Mountain Dogs possess the following characteristics:

  • Good-natured, gentle, and affectionate personalities
  • Suitable family pets
  • Patient and generally accept children climbing over them
  • Relish cuddling and seek out human contact
  • Savor being in the company of their family members

Their placid temperament and craving for companionship make them ideal pets for families.

Protective Instincts

Bernese Mountain Dogs possess strong protective instincts, acting as natural watchdogs and barking to alert their family of potential intruders. Although they may be initially aloof with strangers, they are not aggressive and will accept them once their owner has provided reassurance.

Their natural dog instinct to defend and fight for their family and property, to a certain extent, makes them loyal and protective of their families.

Socialization Needs

To ensure Bernese Mountain Dogs become well-rounded and well-behaved pets, early socialization and training are necessary. It is recommended to begin basic obedience and socialization with a puppy, teaching them to respond to commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “lie down”.

Berners are typically very responsive to positive reinforcement training techniques. Clickers are a great way to use this type of training.

Origins and History

a Bernese Mountain Dog lying on grass

The Bernese Mountain Dog breed, where Bernese Mountain Dog originated, comes from Switzerland, where they were initially bred to serve as working dogs in the Swiss Alps, primarily utilized for cart-pulling and farm duties. The name “Sennenhund” comes from the German language. It is composed of “Senne” (alpine pasture) and “Hund” (hound or dog). These dogs were used to work with alpine herders and dairymen known as Senn. The breed was formally established in 1912, and the Swiss Kennel Club acknowledged Bernese Mountain Dogs as a breed in 1902.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is gaining in popularity, being placed in 32nd position by the American Kennel Club in 2013. Their striking appearance, gentle nature, and fascinating history as Swiss farm dogs have contributed to their rising popularity in the United States and around the world. This growth in interest has also led to the establishment of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club, a national breed club that aims to connect enthusiasts and promote responsible breeding practices.

Swiss Farm Dog Roots

The development of the Bernese Mountain Dog as an all-purpose farm dog in Switzerland involved general farm work as well as draft work, such as pulling carts. Their hardworking nature and versatility made them indispensable on Swiss farms.

These traits, combined with their good-natured and gentle personalities, continue to make them popular working dogs and companions today.

Recognition and Popularity

The Bernese Mountain Dog:

  • Was initially acknowledged by the American Kennel Club in 1937
  • Now ranks 22nd in global popularity, according to the AKC
  • Has an amiable and affable disposition
  • Has a striking appearance
  • Has a history as working dogs on farms

These factors have contributed to their increasing popularity.

Health Concerns and Life Expectancy

a Bernese Mountain Dog with its tongue out

Bernese Mountain Dogs face common health issues such as a higher risk of cancer and musculoskeletal problems, which have contributed to their shorter Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan compared to other breeds of similar size. The average lifespan of Bernese Mountain Dogs is between 7 and 10 years. The results of a 2004 UK survey showed that the longest-lived Bernese Mountain Dog passed away at the age of 15.2 years. This was out of 394 deceased dogs surveyed.

Cancer is the predominant cause of mortality for Bernese Mountain Dogs. Lymphoma, or lymphosarcoma, a type of cancer, is the most prevalent in this breed. Degenerative joint disease, spinal disease, and malignant tumors are also usual causes of mortality in Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Common Health Problems

Cancer and musculoskeletal issues are known to be prevalent in Bernese Mountain Dogs, resulting in a comparatively high mortality rate. Lymphoma, or lymphosarcoma, is the most prevalent type of cancer in these dogs. The mortality rate of Bernese Mountain Dogs due to health problems is not specified in the search results.

However, it is mentioned that cancer is a leading cause of death in Bernese Mountain Dogs, and they have a higher rate of fatal cancer compared to other breeds.

Lifespan Expectations

The average lifespan of Bernese Mountain Dogs is typically between 6 to 8 years, which is shorter than that of many similar-sized breeds. Factors that can impact the lifespan of a Bernese Mountain Dog include:

  • Genetics
  • Procuring a puppy from a reputable breeder
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Providing an appropriate diet and exercise
  • Regular veterinary examinations
  • Addressing any genetic conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia

By considering these factors, you can help ensure a longer and healthier life for your Bernese Mountain Dog.

Activities and Exercise

a Bernese Mountain Dog hiding behind grass

Bernese Mountain Dogs require activity and exercise, yet they do not demonstrate a great deal of endurance. They possess tremendous power to move rapidly. When motivated, they can move at amazing speed for their size. As adults, the Bernese Mountain Dog needs daily exercise. It usually requires about an hour.

They are not suitable for apartment or condo life and necessitate a home with a large, securely fenced yard.

Physical Activity Needs

Regular exercise and activity are crucial for Bernese Mountain Dogs to maintain their physical and mental health. As a puppy, it is recommended that they are walked for approximately 5 minutes for each month of age. As they age, it is necessary to provide them with between 1 and 1.5 hours of exercise daily to ensure their contentment and well-being.

As they mature, adjusting their exercise schedule is necessary to ensure they receive the correct amount of physical activity.

Suitable Activities

Activities that are well-suited for Bernese Mountain Dogs include:

  • Cart pulling
  • Herding trials
  • Outdoor play
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Playing with other dogs
  • Tug of war
  • Cart pulling
  • Playing hide-and-seek with toys or treats

These activities are recommended for Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Additionally, obedience training and engaging in playtime with puzzle toys are also beneficial for them.

Grooming and Maintenance

The grooming requirements for Bernese Mountain Dogs include coat care, ear cleaning, and nail trimming. They should be bathed approximately once a month, depending on the level of dirtiness. Grooming is vital for maintaining the appearance of their thick, tricolored coat and preventing matting and tangles.

Coat Care

To maintain the Bernese Mountain Dog’s thick, tricolored coat, regular brushing is essential. You will need the following tools:

  • Slicker brush
  • Pin brush
  • Metal comb
  • Undercoat brush

Using these tools as necessary can help keep their coat in great condition.

Bathing should be done approximately every two to four months, depending on the dog’s level of dirtiness.

Ear Cleaning and Nail Trimming

For the overall health and well-being of Bernese Mountain Dogs, regular ear cleaning and nail trimming are vital. To clean their ears, gently wipe the visible part of the ear with a cotton ball or soft cloth using a gentle ear-cleaning solution specifically designed for dogs. Inspect their nails monthly to determine if they require trimming.

Regular teeth brushing is also important to avoid the accumulation of tartar, which can result in gum disease.

Diet and Nutrition

Feeding recommendations for Bernese Mountain Dogs are based on factors such as age, size, and activity level. Generally speaking, a healthy Bernese Mountain Dog should consume between 3-6 cups of high-quality food each day. The caloric intake may vary depending on the size, activity level, and age of the dog.

Typically, less active Berners may require around 1,500 calories daily, while those that are moderately active may need approximately 1,800 calories per day.

Feeding Recommendations

Feeding recommendations for Bernese Mountain Dogs should consider factors such as age, size, and activity level. Generally speaking, a healthy Bernese Mountain Dog should consume between 3-6 cups of high-quality food each day. The caloric intake may vary depending on the size, activity level, and age of the dog.

Typically, less active Berners may require around 1,500 calories daily, while those that are moderately active may need approximately 1,800 calories per day.

Preventing Joint Problems

A balanced diet is essential for Bernese Mountain Dogs to reduce the likelihood of joint problems. Some beneficial ingredients to incorporate into their diet include:

  • Papaya
  • Alfalfa
  • Celery
  • Ginger
  • Fish oil
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Nutrition is integral to sustaining joint health in Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in supplements and some dog foods, are natural anti-inflammatories and help to nurture the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.

Adopting or Buying a Bernese Mountain Dog

a Bernese Mountain Dog flashing its puppy eyes

Possibilities for procuring a Bernese Mountain Dog include local shelters, breed-specific rescues, and reputable breeders. The average price range is between $2,000 and $3,000, and thus it is paramount to locate a reliable breeder.

To ensure the puppies are healthy and well-socialized, and the breeder has screened for any health issues, finding a reputable breeder is crucial.

Adoption Options

Acquiring a Bernese Mountain Dog from a rescue organization or a local shelter is an excellent choice for those wishing to welcome a Bernese Mountain Dog into their home. Organizations such as:

  • BMDCA’s Rescue & Rehome Committee
  • BFW Rescue Inc
  • Local Bernese Mountain Dog clubs

can provide you with relevant information and assist you in locating a Bernese Mountain Dog requiring a home.

Purchasing from Breeders

Selecting a reputable breeder is a must if one decides to purchase a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. Prioritizing the health and temperament of their dogs should be a top priority for any reputable breeder. Additionally, it is important to ensure that necessary health screenings are conducted and a nurturing environment is provided for the puppies.

The typical cost of acquiring a Bernese Mountain Dog from a breeder is approximately $2,000 to $3,000.


In conclusion, Bernese Mountain Dogs are a unique and majestic breed with a rich history and loving nature. Their striking appearance, gentle temperament, and protective instincts make them a wonderful addition to any family.

By providing proper care, grooming, nutrition, and exercise, you can ensure a happy and healthy life for your Bernese Mountain Dog. So why not consider welcoming this beautiful, affectionate, and loyal companion into your home?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Bernese Mountain Dog a good house dog?

Yes, a Bernese Mountain Dog is an excellent house dog, as they are very devoted to their family and crave human companionship.

Are Bernese mountain dogs high energy?

Bernese mountain dogs are moderately energetic, requiring about 30 minutes of daily exercise. Though they may develop destructive behaviors without enough activity, they are generally friendly and affectionate with strangers, children, and other pets. They make loyal, loving companions who enjoy a calm evening as much as they do a playful one.

Why are Bernese so expensive?

The high cost of Bernese Mountain Dogs is due to their popularity, quality breeding, grooming expenses, and training. Adopting from a rescue group or animal shelter offers a more affordable and ethical option.

Is a Bernese Mountain Dog high maintenance?

Yes, the Bernese mountain dog is a high-maintenance breed due to their shedding, size, need for human interaction, and grooming needs. They do shed heavily, and their heavy coats make them ill-suited for hot weather. Owners must frequently brush their coats and look out for signs of knocking over furniture or people.

How big is a full-grown Bernese Mountain Dog?

A full-grown Bernese Mountain Dog typically stands between 23-27.5 inches tall and weighs between 70 and 115 pounds, with males usually larger than females.