Dog Profiles - Description of Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

Description: The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the oldest, most beautiful breeds of working dog recognized by the kennel club's of the world, yet also one of the most fragile in certain ways. In its short life, the dog provides its owners with a sense of beauty and loyalty not often equaled by other breeds. Bernese Mountain Dogs are gentle, loyal dogs above all. The fragility of the breed isn't readily apparent from its appearance, but years of isolated environments and inbreeding to keep the Bernese Mountain Dog's genetic line pure have also given it its share of problems and shortened the breed's average lifespan considerably in recent years. Perhaps it's a necessary trade-off. The Bernese Mountain Dog's excessive degree of loyalty and beauty, the product of dedicated breeding and preservation for centuries in the Swiss Alps, may have been paid for by its short life.

Height: 23-28 in (58-71 cm)

Weight: 80-110 lbs (36-50 kg)

Colors: Tricolor (Black/Tan/White or Black/Rust/White)

Coat: The Bernese Mountain Dog's coat is thick, moderately long, and shiny. According to breed standards, this coat should be trimmed as little as possible. The dog's distinctive markings include a white tail and a white inverted cross on its chest (when the dog is viewed from the front.)

Temperament: These cheerful dogs love children. They are very intelligent, easy to train and are natural watchdogs, but not overly dominant. A friend for life. Self-confident, alert and good-natured. Socialize well as a puppy. Slow to mature, acting like a puppy longer than other breeds. Rather friendly with strangers, and are generally good with other pets and dogs. The Bernese needs to be with people and not confined to the backyard or a kennel.

Care and Exercise: Daily to weekly brushing of the long thick coat is important, with extra care needed when the coat is shedding. Bathe or dry shampoo as necessary. This breed is a seasonal, heavy shedder.

Training: These dogs are sensitive and should be trained firmly, but gently. Owners will only run into issues with this dog if they are not displaying a natural leadership towards the dog, treating him more like their baby and lacking in the knowledge as to what dogs instinctually need to be stable minded. Owners who fail to convince the dog humans are alpha may find themselves with a totally different dog than what is described above. For a dog to feel secure they need to clearly know the rules so they can follow them, thriving in structure, along with a daily pack walk to satisfy their instinct to migrate. The Bernese Mountain Dog was bred for draft work and can be trained to pull a cart or wagon.

Activity: Large active dogs such as these need regular exercise, which include a long daily walk.

Living Environment: Bernese Mountain Dog are not recommended for apartment life. They are relatively inactive indoors and will do best with at least a large, fenced-in yard. Because of their thick coats they are sensitive to the heat and would much rather be in cold temperatures.

Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Gastric Torsion, Cancer

Life Span: 6-8 years

Litter Size: 8

History: The Bernese Mountain Dog has had a long history in Switzerland, with images of the dog (incorporated into allegorical religious paintings) appearing as early as the mid-17th century. The dog began to appear in written descriptions of the area somewhere in the mid-19th century, described as a traditional farm and herding dog used throughout the Alps. The dogs became increasingly popular as the popularity of professional dog breeding and showing rose throughout the start of the twentieth century, and the Bernese Mountain Dogs were one of the earlier breeds recognized by many kennel clubs around the world thanks to the efforts of a number of Swiss "Sennenhund" enthusiasts. Yet the longevity, purity, and early popularity of the dogs for professional breeders has led to dramatic problems for the Bernese Mountain Dog in recent years. Pproblems related to heredity and inbreeding, including a genetically induced propensity for cancer have conspired to shorten the lifespan of this once-hardy breed.