The Bernese mountain dog has something for everyone
Published September 13, 2019.
Canadian Kennel Club Conformation Judge
The Bernese mountain dog is a large-size breed with a dense coat and a lovable nature. Bernese mountain dogs are intelligent and want to please their owners, and are therefore generally easier to train than other breeds. Discover this charming dog breed!
The Bernese mountain dog is a large, stocky dog with a dense distinctive tricoloured coat—black with white chest and chestnut markings on the cheeks, over the eyes, above the front legs and on all the legs between the black of the upper limbs and the white of the feet.
Its thick coat, which is moderately long and sometimes wavy, though never curly, has a natural sheen. The soft, weather-resistant coat is easy to maintain and does not tangle easily.
Bernese mountain dogs have a rather square silhouette from the shoulders to the ground and the shoulders to the tail head. Males measure 62 to 70 cm (24.4 to 27.6 in.) and females, 58 to 66 cm (22.8 to 26 in.), at the shoulders. Their weight ranges from 35 to 55 kg (80 to 120 lb) for males and from 35 to 45 kg (75 to 100 lb) for females.
Life expectancy and health
The Bernese mountain dog is a short-lived dog breed compared with other breeds of similar size and purebred dogs in general. Its average life expectancy is approximately 7 to 8 years, while other similar size dogs have median longevity of around 10 to 11 years.
This dog breed is prone to multiple health issues, although conscientious breeders take measures to detect them to avoid breeding individuals that carry or are affected by these problems. Hip and elbow dysplasia, blood disorders, some forms of cancer, panosteitis, hypothyroidism and progressive retinal atrophy are just some of the health problems to which the breed is prone. Like all large dog breeds, Bernese mountain dogs are susceptible to gastric torsion, a sudden and serious condition that is often fatal if not treated promptly.
Level of energy and temperament
Bernese mountain dogs need at least a half-hour of moderate exercise daily to stay healthy and happy. They enjoy outdoor activities and are excellent companions on long walks or hikes.
They are also affectionate, loyal and sensitive. They do not respond well to severe correction or negative training methods.
Bernese mountain dogs want to be with their family most of the time, and undesirable behaviour can arise quickly if they are left alone for long periods of time.
The Bernese mountain dog has a double coat, with a longer guard coat and a woolly undercoat. It loses a great deal of hair throughout the year, and even more so during shedding periods, generally twice a year, when seasons change. Weekly brushing—daily during shedding periods—helps remove loose hair and keeps the dog’s coat looking good. It is also important to regularly trim the fur around the feet and the nails.
Origins of the Bernese mountain dog
Of Swiss origin, the Bernese mountain dog was used as an all-purpose farm dog for guarding property and driving cattle long distances from the farm to the alpine pastures. Farmers used Bernese mountain dogs to transport their carts of milk and cheese, and were known by the locals as “cheese dogs.”
In 1907, with the cooperation of a few breeders from the region of Burgdorf in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland, the first breed club, the Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub, was founded under the direction of professor Albert Heim. These breeders then wrote the first breed standard, which defined the dogs as a separate breed.
By 1910, there were already 107 registered members of the breed. The history of the breed in North America dates back to 1926, when a farmer from Kansas imported a pair of Bernese mountain dogs as general-purpose farm dogs.
The Bernese mountain dog is a breed that is really worth learning about. An intelligent, affectionate and active breed, it is easy to train and can be an ideal companion.
The Bernese mountain dog: a breed to discover
For more information, contact a registered breeder at the Canadian Kennel Club, who can answer all your questions. You can also contact the organization for information on breeders and the various breed clubs in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.