Bernese Mountain Dog breed characteristics, origin and care

Bernese Mountain Dog breed characteristics

  • Size: Large
  • Traits: Affectionate, Intelligent, Energetic
  • Maintenance: High - one to two brushings a week, monthly nail clippings.
  • Best Suited To: Experienced Dog Owners

Where I'm From

It’s believed that the Bernese Mountain Dog, also known as the Berner or Berner Sennehund in their homeland of Switzerland, was developed from the cross breeding of Swiss Alps farm dogs and Molosser or Mastiff-type dogs that were brought to Switzerland by the Romans when they invaded in the 1st Century B.C. The Bernese originally worked on Swiss farms, pulling carts (with the ability to pull up to 10x their body weight), herding livestock and standing guard of their family. The breed almost became extinct in the 20th century when other forms of transportation became available for farmers, however a handful of breeders chose to preserve the breed. From 1902, the breed began appearing in dog clubs and international dog shows and in that same year the Swiss Kennel Club formally recognised the breed.

What I Look Like

As well as their large, muscular build, the Bernese Mountain Dog are highly recognisable by their luscious tricoloured coat that typically features a white Swiss-looking cross. Males typically range from 25 to 28 inches in height and can weigh anywhere from 80 to 115 pounds, while females can range 23 to 26 inches in height and can weigh between 70 and 95 pounds.

How I Act

The Berner is known for being loyal, affectionate and intelligent and loves to be included in family activities.

Their large size means early training is highly advised to ensure they know how to act properly around people and in the house and maintain a good temperament. Being intelligent, they can be an easy breed to train but they tend to be slower to mature than other breeds and can have a softer personality. This means you may notice they show puppy-like behaviour for longer and that you need to take a more gentle training approach.

While they can be protective, they also have a tendency to be shy so ensure to socialise them with other dogs and people while they’re young.

While their personality may seem attractive to first time dog owners, their large size and energy can make them difficult to handle if proper attention isn’t given. They’re also best suited for homes with plenty of yard space rather than an apartment. They also have a tendency to shed and drool.

Looking After Me

Due to their large size, the Bernese tend to have a shorter life span than some other breeds, though this has gone up in recent times from 6 to 8 years to 10 years.

While they have a beautiful coat it is also prone to shedding, particularly during the warmer months. Brushing them several times a week can help with shedding and also ensure their coat stays clean and knot free.

Due to their small gene pool and inbreeding, they can be prone to a variety of health problems.

Something to discuss with your vet is hip dysplasia. This is an inherited condition in which the dog’s thighbone doesn’t fit properly into their hip joint. Some dogs may display symptoms such as lameness on one or both rear legs and show outward signs of pain, but others may not display any symptoms. Having intermittent X-rays at your vet can help detect the issue.

Another common concern for the Berner breed is Von Willebrand’s Disease. This disorder affects the blood’s ability to clot. Dog’s may show symptoms such as bleeding gyms, nosebleeds, prolonged bleeding after surgery or during their heat cycle or blood in their stool. This disorder usually occurs when the dog is between 3 and 5 years of age and unfortunately there is no cure. It can however be treated by avoiding certain medications or ensuring your dog has a blood transfusion before any surgery.

Am I the pet for you?

If you have a home with plenty of space and time to help unleash their energy and properly train them, the Bernese Mountain Dog can be a great family pet.


  • The Bernese intelligence makes them easy to train.
  • The Berner’s affectionate nature makes them great for families - they love to be included in all your activities!


  • Their small gene pool and history of inbreeding can make them prone to health issues.
  • While beautiful, the Berner’s long coat does require regular attention.
  • Their big build doesn’t make them suitable for all living situations, especially apartments.
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