Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Information for You

November 25, 2023
Annette Thompson

The Bernese Mountain Dog, with its majestic tri-colored coat and impressive size, is the epitome of strength and elegance. This gentle giant is renowned for its loving and caring nature, making it the perfect companion for those dedicated to serving others.

With their intelligence and trainability, Berners excel in activities such as obedience and agility, always eager to learn and please their owners. While they have moderate exercise needs and require regular brushing to manage shedding, their unwavering loyalty and affection make it all worth it.

However, it’s important to note that the Bernese Mountain Dog is a large dog prone to certain health issues, like hip and elbow dysplasia, and has a relatively shorter lifespan. Nevertheless, this versatile working dog brings immense joy and companionship to those lucky enough to call them family.

Dog Breed Overview

The Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its strong and sturdy build, making it a versatile working breed. Berners are large dogs with a height ranging from 23 to 27.5 inches, depending on their gender. They’ve a thick, medium-length double coat that comes in black, rust, and white or black, tan, and white colors.

Berners (German: Berner Sennenhund) are very popular as family dogs in German-speaking countries, where they are the 11th most popular dog breed.  It’s possible that the four Swiss Sennenhund breeds (Appenzeller Sennenhund, Entlebucher Sennenhund, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Berner Sennenhund) developed as crosses between farm dogs from the Swiss Alps and the Mastiff-type dogs that the Romans brought when they invaded the Alps in the first century B.C. In the early 1900s, breeders exhibited the few examples of the large dogs at shows in Berne, and in 1907  some breeders from the Burgdorf region founded the first breed club, and wrote the first Standard which defined the dogs as a separate breed. In 1937, the American Kennel Club recognized Bernese Mountain Dog as a breed.

The Bernese Mountain Dog, also known as the Berner, isn’t only physically impressive but also possesses a good-natured personality. They’re gentle and eager to please, which makes them excellent house dogs and affectionate with their families. This breed is well-suited for those who desire to serve others. They make good watchdogs, though some bark too much.

To keep a Berner happy and healthy, they require a moderate amount of exercise, consistent training, socialization, and grooming. It’s important to note that Bernese Mountain Dogs shed quite a bit and may drool occasionally. However, their loyalty and love for their owners make up for these minor inconveniences.

Unfortunately, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a relatively short life span of 7 to 10 years. They’re prone to certain health issues, including hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, blood disorders, cancer, and progressive retinal atrophy. Regular veterinary check-ups and a well-balanced diet are essential to ensure the well-being of this breed.

Characteristics & Temperament

What makes the Bernese Mountain Dog stand out from other breeds? This beloved working dog has a number of distinctive characteristics that set it apart. Here are three key traits that make the Bernese Mountain Dog a unique and valuable companion:

  • Gentle and Affectionate Nature: The Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its good-natured and gentle temperament. This breed is incredibly affectionate, forming strong bonds with its family members. Whether it’s snuggling on the couch or greeting you with a wagging tail at the end of a long day, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s loving nature brings joy and comfort to those around it.
  • Versatility: Berners are versatile dogs that excel in a variety of roles. They aren’t only excellent house dogs, but also skilled working dogs. From pulling carts to participating in obedience and agility competitions, Bernese Mountain Dogs are eager to please and quick to learn. Due to their intelligence and willingness to work, they can be trained for a wide range of tasks, making them valuable in various service roles.
  • Stunning Appearance: With their thick, medium-length double coat and distinctive black, rust, and white or black, tan, and white markings, Bernese Mountain Dogs are truly a sight to behold. This breed’s striking appearance has made it a favorite among dog enthusiasts worldwide. However, it’s important to note that their beautiful coat requires regular grooming to keep it healthy and free of mats.

Care Requirements

A Bernese Mountain Dog requires regular exercise to stay healthy and happy, needing daily walks and playtime. As a large breed and working dog, the Berner has a lot of energy that needs to be channeled in a productive way. Providing ample opportunities for exercise is crucial for their overall well-being.

Daily walks are essential for a Bernese Mountain Dog. This not only helps them burn off excess energy, but it also allows them to explore their surroundings and engage their senses. A brisk walk or jog around the neighborhood is a great way to keep them physically active. Additionally, playtime in a secure, fenced-in area is highly recommended. This can include games of fetch, tug-of-war, or even agility exercises. These activities not only provide physical exercise but also stimulate their minds.

It is important to note that the amount of exercise required may vary depending on the individual dog. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs may have higher energy levels and require more exercise than others. It’s crucial for owners to pay attention to their dog’s behavior and adjust the exercise routine accordingly.

In addition to exercise, consistent training and socialization starting when a puppy are necessary for a Bernese Mountain Dog. They’re intelligent dogs and thrive on mental stimulation. Training sessions should be positive, reward-based, and consistent. Socialization is also important to ensure good behavior and a well-rounded temperament. Exposing your Berner to different people, animals, and environments from a young age will help them become confident and well-adjusted adults.


Originating in the Swiss Alps, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a rich history as versatile working dogs. Descended from Roman mastiffs, this breed has been a loyal companion to Swiss farmers for centuries.

Here are a few key points about the history of Bernese Mountain Dogs:

  • Berner Heritage: The Bernese Mountain Dog, also known as the Berner, hails from the canton of Bern in Switzerland. These dogs were bred to assist farmers in various tasks such as herding cattle, pulling carts, and guarding the homestead. Their strength, intelligence, and gentle nature made them indispensable on Swiss farms.
  • Breed Recognition: The Bernese Mountain Dog’s popularity soared in the early 20th century, and in 1907, the Kennel Club first recognized it as a distinct breed. This recognition solidified the Berner’s place among the world’s most popular dog breeds. Today, they’re cherished for their beauty, loyalty, and versatility.
  • American Presence: The Bernese Mountain Dog made its way to the United States in the early 20th century, where it quickly gained a following. In 1937, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was established to promote responsible breeding and educate owners about the breed’s unique needs. This club continues to serve as a valuable resource for Berner enthusiasts across the country.

The history of Bernese Mountain Dogs is a testament to their enduring qualities and their ability to adapt to various roles. From working on Swiss farms to becoming beloved family pets and show dogs, the Berner’s versatility is unparalleled. Today, they continue to serve others through their unwavering loyalty and dedication.


Continuing from the previous subtopic, it’s important to address the health concerns of Bernese Mountain Dogs. Unfortunately, this breed has a relatively short life expectancy of 7 to 10 years. Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to several health issues that owners should be aware of.

One common health concern in Bernese Mountain Dogs is hip and elbow dysplasia. This is a genetic condition where the hip or elbow joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to pain, lameness, and arthritis. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian and monitoring for any signs of discomfort are essential.

Blood disorders, such as mast cell tumors, are also a concern for Bernese Mountain Dogs. These tumors can be malignant and require immediate medical attention. Regular check-ups and early detection are crucial in managing these conditions.

Another health issue to be aware of is progressive retinal atrophy. This is a hereditary disease that causes degeneration of the retina, leading to vision loss and eventual blindness. Regular eye examinations by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help detect and manage this condition.

To ensure the overall health and well-being of a Bernese Mountain Dog, it’s important to provide them with a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet and access to fresh water at all times. Regular exercise, consistent training, and socialization are also essential for their physical and mental well-being.

Notable Bernese Mountain Dogs

One notable Bernese Mountain Dog has achieved fame for its heroic actions in saving lives. Nico, an adopted Bernese Mountain Dog, demonstrated immense bravery and loyalty when he rescued two individuals from a rip current. This incredible act highlights the breed’s innate protective instincts and unwavering devotion to their human companions.

  • Nico’s courageous rescue serves as a testament to the Bernese Mountain Dog’s exceptional bravery, making them one of the most notable breeds in terms of heroic actions. Their natural instinct to protect and their strong swimming abilities make them well-suited for water rescues.
  • Another notable Berner is Hercules, the beloved pet of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Although not involved in any life-saving endeavors, Hercules has gained recognition for his gentle and friendly nature. He brings joy and comfort to his family and serves as a reminder of the Bernese Mountain Dog’s loving and loyal character.
  • In recent years, Bernese Mountain Dogs have become prominent in search and rescue operations. Their size, strength, and exceptional scenting abilities make them valuable assets in locating missing individuals. Their unwavering determination and focus allow them to excel in these critical and life-saving missions.

These notable Bernese Mountain Dogs exemplify the breed’s remarkable qualities and their ability to make a significant impact in the lives of others. Whether it’s saving lives, providing comfort, or participating in search and rescue missions, Berners continue to prove themselves as exceptional companions and valuable contributors to society.


Bernese Mountain Dogs have been involved in numerous rescues, showcasing their bravery and dedication to saving lives. These gentle giants have proven to be reliable and courageous when it comes to assisting in rescue operations. Due to their strong build and intelligence, Berners are often chosen for search and rescue missions. Their history as working dogs on Swiss farms has honed their natural instincts for rescue and herding.

In addition to their physical capabilities, Bernese Mountain Dogs possess a nurturing and supportive nature that makes them well-suited for rescue and support tasks. Their role as therapy and assistance dogs for individuals with disabilities highlights their ability to provide comfort and aid to those in need.

When it comes to larger dogs, Berners stand out for their agility and versatility in rescue operations. Their strength and potential for rescue activities are showcased through tasks such as cart pulling. These tasks not only demonstrate their physical prowess but also their willingness to serve others.

Berner owners often marvel at the dedication and loyalty of their furry companions. These dogs are known for their unwavering loyalty, making them reliable partners in rescue efforts. Whether it’s searching for missing persons or providing emotional support in times of crisis, Bernese Mountain Dogs consistently exhibit the qualities needed for successful rescues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Bernese Mountain Dog a Good House Dog?

Yes, a Bernese Mountain Dog can be a good house dog. They are gentle, eager to please, and with proper training and socialization, they can get along well with other pets. They do require regular exercise and grooming.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs High Maintenance?

Yes, Bernese Mountain Dogs are high maintenance. They require regular grooming, exercise, and training challenges. Additionally, they are prone to health issues and need proper socialization. Owners must be dedicated to meeting these needs.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Bernese Mountain Dog?

A Bernese Mountain Dog has its pros and cons. On the positive side, they are gentle and versatile working dogs, providing companionship and emotional support. However, they have health concerns, exercise requirements, grooming needs, and training challenges to consider.

Why Is Bernese Mountain Dog so Expensive?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is expensive due to high breeding costs, strong demand and popularity, extensive health testing, specialized training, and genetic predispositions. These factors contribute to the overall price of the breed.

What Should I Consider Before Getting a Bernese Mountain Dog?

Before deciding to get a Bernese Mountain Dog, it’s important to understand their needs and characteristics. These dogs are known for their friendly temperament, making them great companions. However, potential owners should be prepared for their size and strength, as well as their slow maturation process. Daily brushing is recommended due to their amount of shedding, and they thrive in environments where they can engage in dog sports and activities. Their friendly nature makes them suitable for families with young children.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good for Dog Parks and Socializing?

Yes, Bernese Mountain Dogs are typically friendly dogs that enjoy socializing at dog parks. They are known for their gentle and sociable temperament, which makes them great for interactions with other dogs and people. However, it’s important to note that individual dogs may vary in their social preferences. Regular visits to dog parks can also help in managing their weight easily, as they are active dogs who need regular exercise.

What Are the Key Physical Features of Bernese Mountain Dogs?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are purebred dogs recognized by their distinctive markings: a white chest, white blaze on the face, and a tri-color coat. They are large and strong, which is a key consideration for potential owners. Due to their size, these dogs need space to move around and exercise.

How Do I Find a Reputable Bernese Mountain Dog Breeder?

Finding a reputable breeder is crucial when looking to acquire a Bernese Mountain Dog. Reputable breeders prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs and can provide information about the lineage of the dogs, ensuring they are purebred. They are also knowledgeable about the breed’s specific needs and health issues. Rescue organizations can also be a good source for finding Bernese Mountain Dogs in need of a home.

What Health Issues Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Prone To?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to certain health issues, including mast cell tumors. Owners should be aware of this risk and regularly check their dogs for any signs of health problems. Regular veterinary check-ups are important, as early detection can lead to other health interventions that can prolong the dog’s life and improve its quality. Their size and weight also make them susceptible to joint problems, so maintaining a healthy weight is crucial.

How Is the Temperament of a Bernese Mountain Dog?

The temperament of a Bernese Mountain Dog is generally friendly, gentle, and affectionate. They are known for being good with families, including homes with young children. However, as with all breeds, temperament can vary among individual dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs are also known for being slow to mature, retaining a playful, puppy-like demeanor for longer than some other breeds.


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