The Bernese Mountain Dog is a very impressive dog, whose huge size is matched only by its great kindness and gentleness. Historically used as a herding dog, mountain dog, and draught dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog has gradually become more well-known as a popular family pet.

A Brief History

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a very old dog breed. Some believe that it is descended from the Tibetan Mastiffs used by the Roman army, some of which were crossbred with local dogs in Switzerland. Others believe the Bernese Mountain Dog is a descendant of Swiss farm dogs present in the region for millennia. In any case, it is widely agreed that the dog breed as it's known today originated in the Swiss canton of Berne, from which it takes its name. There, it was developed as a draught dog and general farm dog, herding sheep and cattle and also pulling milk and cheese carts.

In 1907, a few breeders united to found the first breed club.  Little by little, the Bernese Mountain Dog became a more versatile dog; used as a guard dog, herding dog, but also a guide dog and even search and rescue dog. Today, however, this dog breed is mostly found as a family dog; it is especially popular in German-speaking countries.

Physical Characteristics

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a giant dog breed. In adulthood, these dogs reach an impressive size.

Body: The body is massive but well proportioned. It is compact rather than long, with a broad chest.

Head: Like the body, the head is huge and compact. It is strong with a flat skull and a well-defined stop. The nose is black.

Ears: The ears are medium-sized, triangular, and set high on the head. They lie flat in repose and are brought slightly forward and raised when alert.

Eyes: The eyes are medium-sized, almond-shaped, and dark brown.

Tail: The tail is bushy and set high. It is raised when alert but never carried over the back.

Coat: The coat is long, slightly wavy, and silky.

Colour: The Bernese Mountain Dog has a tricolour coat: jet black with rich reddish-brown on the cheeks, eyes, legs, and chest, and white markings on the head and chest. White markings are also preferred on the paws and tip of the tail.

Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament

The Bernese Mountain Dog's temperament is beloved by all different types of families. Sweet and kind, these doggies are devoid of aggression, but do have a protective instinct. They make good guard dogs, who are not afraid to intervene if they sense their family in danger. Bernese Mountain Dogs are patient with children, for whom they make great playmates.

Intelligent and sensitive, these dogs mature late, which needs to be taken into account when considering their training. They also develop very close bonds with their masters and don't handle being alone very well. If left alone for a long time, their unhappiness could manifest as barking and destructive behaviour. Pay close attention to your dog's behaviour, and avoid letting them become too attached to you, as this could lead to them developing separation anxiety.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Get Along Well with Others?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is the very definition of a good dog! Not at all aggressive, they get along very well with other dogs. These are not hunting dogs - they don't have any semblance of a hunting instinct and won't present any danger to your cat or exotic pet. Nevertheless, you should never leave your dog alone with a much smaller animal. Accidents can happen. With kids, Bernese Mountain Dogs will always be patient and docile, but again, always be sure to monitor them, and intervene if you spy any issues.

Is a Bernese Mountain Dog the Right Dog for Me?

Thanks to their pleasant, easy-going temperament, the Bernese Mountain Dog is well suited to all different types of owners, on the condition that you have enough time to devote to them each day. Despite their large size, these dogs are not particularly athletic. However, they do need regular physical and intellectual activity. The Bernese Mountain Dog is good for first-time owners and beginners at dog training.

Bernese Mountain Dog Health Issues

Unfortunately, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a short life expectancy of between and 6 and 9 years. This is usually the case with giant dog breeds, who live much shorter than smaller breeds. As such, the Bernese Mountain Dog has relatively fragile health and is subject to certain diseases that it's important to know about. They are especially prone to hip dysplasia and twisted stomach, the latter of which can be fatal if not caught early enough. The breed is also subject to progressive renal atrophy (PRA) and very aggressive forms of cancer, which affect the Bernese Mountain Dog more than other dog breeds. You can try to extend your dog's lifespan and preserve their health by taking care of their diet, prioritising good dog training, and taking them for regular vet check-ups.

Ideal Living Conditions for a Bernese Mountain Dog

The ideal living conditions for a Bernese Mountain Dog would be a large house with a garden, in the mountains or countryside, where your dog can flourish freely. Nonetheless, city living isn't completely out of the question. Bernese Mountain Dogs can live happily in apartments under certain conditions: their owner needs to spend lots of time with them and take them out regularly to stretch their legs. For these dependent dogs, a present owner, who works at home, is ideal. Having children, cats, or other pets at home will not be a problem for your Bernese Mountain Dog.

Bernese Mountain Dog Training

The Bernese Mountain Dog is well known for its intelligence. Training these dogs is facilitated by their desire to learn, as well as their close relationship with their owner, who they always want to please. However, their training should not be neglected. The Bernese Mountain Dog matures late, both physically and mentally. This is a very sensitive dog, who will be strongly affected by any form of violence, either physical or verbal.

Begin training your dog as soon as you bring them home. Teach them the basics as early as possible, focusing on positive experiences. You also need to teach your pooch to be alone, to avoid them developing an excessive attachment to you. Start by leaving the house for a few minutes, then gradually increase the time. Never leave your dog alone for more than a few hours at a time. Teaching your dog to walk on a lead and come when you call should also be a priority. Adapt your training routine to your dog's personality. If you're afraid of making mistakes, don't hesitate to call a professional dog trainer or behaviourist.


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Diet: What to Feed Your Bernese Mountain Dog

Choosing the right diet for your Bernese Mountain Dog is crucial. It plays a vital role in their health and, as such, must be able to meet all their nutritional needs. A poor-quality diet will inevitably have repercussions on their health in the long term. One of the golden rules of dog food is to avoid the industrial dog food found in supermarkets, as much as possible. This is because it tends to be very low in quality and made using primarily plant protein, which is incapable of meeting your Bernese Mountain Dog's nutritional requirements. Remember that dogs are opportunistic carnivores who need animal protein to be in perfect health. 

Good-quality dog food does not necessarily have to cost more than shop-bought dog food. Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog and be sure to choose a healthy composition, without added preservatives or sweeteners. Take into account the fact that your dog's dietary needs are likely to change over time, depending on their age and health condition. A young puppy will need a different diet from an older or sick dog.

If you want to avoid industrial dog food, opt for a tailor-made service like Hector Kitchen. You can choose between feeding your pooch dry dog food, wet dog food, or a mixture of the two. Or, if you have the time and want to control all the ingredients you offer your Bernese Mountain Dog, you can try feeding them homemade dog food or a BARF diet! Homemade dog food consists of making your dog's meals yourself, from a mixture of cooked meat and vegetables. The BARF diet, on the other hand, is a diet of mainly raw meat with a few cooked vegetables. Please note: You should never implement a BARF diet without first speaking to your vet. You could end up doing more harm than good.

Bernese Mountain Dog Care and Maintenance

  • Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters

  • Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food

  • Monthly budget: minimum £105 per month

Grooming your Bernese Mountain Dog should never be overlooked. The health of your furry friend depends on it! You should brush their coat once or twice per week in normal periods. During moulting periods, in spring and autumn, you will need to brush your Bernese Mountain Dog daily, because they shed a lot of hair. While brushing, take the time to inspect your dog's skin, and check that parasites haven't nested there. Clean their eyes and teeth regularly, and check the ears, to ensure that your pooch is in great health. Don't forget to trim their nails! Too-long nails can injure your dog in the long run, and prevent them from walking correctly. Finally, keep all their vaccines up to date, as well as deworming and antiparasitic treatments to combat ticks and fleas.

Bernese Mountain Dog Price

The average price of a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy is between £2000 and £3800. This price varies according to several criteria. Some breeders ask for higher prices if the animal is intended for exhibition or reproduction, or if it comes from an exceptional line. Demand for the breed can also influence the price. The more popular the breed, the fewer puppies there are available for adoption. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a relatively popular breed. In general, there are more requests than offers, so breeders can afford to charge more. Older dogs are usually cheaper than puppies because it's more difficult for them to find a family. But they have just as many great qualities as the pups! Consider adopting an adult dog when researching the breed.

Bernese Mountain Dog Sleeping Habits

All dogs need sleep to recover. Sleep is particularly important for puppies because the bulk of their growth occurs during periods of rest. It is, therefore, necessary to choose an adequate dog bed for your Bernese Mountain Dog. Your dog's bed should be proportional to their size, as well as their personal preferences. Your pooch may prefer a dog bed with raised edges or a big, flat pillow. Material-wise, plastic is very convenient, easy to clean, and prevents the spread of parasites, like mites. It is also more robust than fabric or wicker. Bernese Mountain Dogs prefer to sleep in your home, alongside their family, but they can also sleep outside, provided you buy them a kennel adapted to their needs and size. Opt for a wooden kennel, which is sturdier, but also more insulated against the cold and heat.

Games and Physical Activities for Your Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog may not be as energetic and athletic as other dog breeds, but they still need lots of activity. Your four-legged friend will need at least one long daily walk of about 1.5 hours, plus some shorter walks during the day to allow them to do their business. The Bernese Mountain Dog is not cut out for activities that require a lot of energy. Don't count on them to accompany you on your jogs, for example, or to participate in canine activities like agility. On the other hand, they will appreciate draught activities: they were historically used to pull milk carts after all.

At home, make sure you have enough games and toys to occupy your pooch in your absence. The Bernese Mountain Dog is an intelligent dog breed. Brain games, such as Kongs or puzzles, are ideal for occupying your pooch and preventing them from sinking into boredom. Choose sturdy toys, as Bernese Mountain Dogs are strong and may risk breaking smaller objects and swallowing the debris, which could prove dangerous in the long run.

Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Bernese Mountain Dog

Pet insurance is not obligatory for your Bernese Mountain Dog. However, taking out a pet insurance policy for your dog helps to cover you in the event of accident or illness. Even if your dog is not aggressive by nature, accidents can happen quickly and you would be held responsible for any damage or harm caused to a third party by your dog. Pet insurance is a great way to make sure you're not hit with any nasty surprises. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. You can also purchase third party public liability dog insurance, which provides additional protection.

Pet insurance for dogs is also a great way to make sure your Bernese Mountain Dog gets the healthcare they deserve throughout their life. This dog breed is prone to certain diseases and, as vet fees are not standardised in the UK, veterinary costs can be very high. Health insurance for your Bernese Mountain Dog works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses. In any case, before deciding on a particular contract, make sure to shop around for quotes and assess which best suits your circumstances. Then, take the time to read the fine print to ascertain the type of services offered, as well as the reimbursement rate, limits, and eligibility or exclusion clauses.

Some insurance companies may refuse to insure dogs that are too old, too young, or already sick. So don't wait for your Bernese Mountain Dog to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance for them, or you may risk them not being properly taken care of. Insurance companies may also refuse to reimburse costs incurred for certain diseases, genetic or hereditary diseases in particular. Read your contract carefully before signing and don't hesitate to ask your vet for advice.

The average cost for pet insurance in the UK in 2020 worked out at £436 per year or just over £36 per month. Certain criteria, such as where you live or the age and breed of your dog, may cause prices to vary. Lifetime dog insurance is more expensive but also provides the most comprehensive cover. This usually costs closer to around £80 per month.

Bernese Mountain Dog Size and Weight

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a giant dog breed. Adult males measure between 64 and 70cm at the withers, while females are usually between 60 and 66cm. There is a notable difference in their weight. Adult males weigh between 50 and 60kg, with females weighing between 40 and 50kg.

The Kennel Club classifies Bernese Mountain Dogs in the Working breed group, which consists of dogs that were selectively bred to become guards and search and rescue dogs.