Bernese Mountain Dogs


Bernese Mountain Dogs

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Breed Notes

The Bernese Mountain Dog is native to the Berne region of Switzerland. He is also known as the Berner Sennenhund. He is probably descended from dogs introduced to Switzerland by the Roman legions to guard their supply stations and then later crossed with native flock-guarding dogs which added the ability to withstand the climate of the Alps. He has also been used as a draft animal for pulling carts for farmers and weavers. He is a hardy dog with great strength and endurance. The breed was introduced to the United States in 1926 and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a sweet, happy temperament. He is a superb family dog and requires human companionship. He will not do well in a kennel situation. He can be trained to many tasks. He does require plenty of exercise.
The Bernese Mountain Dog's skull is broad and flat on top with a slight furrow between the eyes. He has a well-defined drop off (stop) between the skull and muzzle. The muzzle is strong and straight to a black nose. The bite is scissors. The eyes are dark brown and slightly oval. The ears are set high on the head, triangular shaped and hang close to the side of the head. The top of the ear folds level to the top of the skull. The neck is strong and muscular and the chest is deep. The legs are straight and strong. The back is level and broad. The croup is slightly rounded at the tail set. The tail is long and carried low. It is bushy, covered with long coat hair. The coat is of medium length and may be either straight or slightly wavy but never curly. Coat color is shiny black with tan markings on the cheeks, chest, front part of the legs and a small spot above the inside point of each eye. White hair is preferred on the chest, the feet below the pasterns and the tail tip. There is also a white blaze on the forehead. Average height is between 23 and 27 1/2 inches and weight between 85 and 90 pounds.


Name withheld by request of New York writes:

Selection and ownership of a Bernese requires careful research and education.
I agree that Bernese are wonderful dogs; they will steal your heart as mine have done. They can also break your heart. As puppies they are all cute, fuzzy, loving and cuddly but this is a breed that can be prone to particular health problems such as hip dysplasia, cancer, bloat and autoimmune problems, some of which may be genetic in origin. I'm sharing what I've learned through the experience of buying my first Berner several years ago. I own three Bernese now and although one can never predict the future, I have followed my own advice and am far more confident in my second and third choices.
When buying a Bernese Mountain Dog it is imperative that you buy a puppy or adult dog from a responsible breeder who knows the health history of your dog's parents and other relatives. Buying from a broker, pet shop, dealer or auction only perpetuates health and behavioral problems that often occur as the result of indiscriminate, poorly researched breeding. Expect your breeder to have proof of various health-related tests on the parents &shyp; tests that, when applied to breeding decisions, will help ameliorate potential problems in this breed: x-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia, eye examinations by a certified veterinary opthamalogist for possible eye disorders, thyroid testing, and genetic testing for vonWillebrand's, a blood clotting disorder. Expect your breeder to also be able to provide as much of this health information as possible on three to four generations in your dog's pedigree. (Some tests currently performed by breeders have not always been readily available or certifiable through independent certifying agencies.) Expect that your breeder participates regularly in dog shows, specifically conformation. If you intend to participate with your dog in obedience, agility, tracking, herding or drafting, also look for a breeder who participates in similar events. If you are new to Bernese Mountain Dogs, look for and expect your breeder to serve as a mentor to you as you learn how to live with your growing "bear." Many challenges will crop up that require an experienced hand. Having the backing of years of breed knowledge of a reputable breeder eases a lot of fears of the first time owner. Realize however that mentoring is time-consuming and some breeders may not be able to devote as much time as they would like to this service. In addition, if this is your first Bernese, expect to wait sometimes more than a year or two for your puppy! Responsible breeders have a commitment to improving the breed, not to making a living off their dogs. They will not breed their dogs every season, nor will they breed simply because they have people on a waiting list. However, the wait is worth it in the satisfaction you will derive, knowing that your breeder has made the best possible breeding choices with regard to health, temperament, and conformation.
A responsible breeder will also ask for a commitment from you, often in the form of a written contract which spells out your obligations (and of course states what they will provide). Most will expect, if not require, that you attend a puppy obedience class. It's vital with Bernese Mountain Dogs, as with all large breeds in particular. Bernese are gentle, sensitive dogs but need the structure and boundries, self-confidence and socialization that a well run course can provide.
Buying a Bernese with an unknowable history or a dog of questionable parentage leads, more often than not, to heartbreak in the form of acute and chronic health problems as well as temperament issues. Those people who have gone "shopping" for a Berner puppy before doing thorough research on the breed often find it difficult to pry those rose-colored glasses off and walk away from "that doggie in the window." Read and learn all you can before going for "just a look." Attend dog shows and talk to the Berner owners,but especially contact people committed to the conscientious breeding of Berners such as members of the national breed club, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America. Speaking as someone who is head over heels about my breed, your time and efforts will be well-rewarded.


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