Dog Breed Profile: Bernese Mountain Dogs - Lilly Brush
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Dog Breed Profile: Bernese Mountain Dogs

All About Bernese

Bernese Mountain Dogs are well-known as the gentle giants of dog breeds. Many owners claim them to be sweet, low-energy, and big-hearted. While they are a sensitive breed, they’re still strong and loyal. 

The Bernese Mountain Dog was one of four breeds originating from the mountains of Switzerland. Bernese came from nearby the canton (county) of Bern, and helped farmers of this agricultural region by herding cattle, guarding farmland, and being man’s best friend. 

In the late 1800s, the Bernese population was rapidly declining, but thankfully, Swiss fanciers fought to reverse the decline. Bernese Mountain Dogs were brought back strong, and made their way to the U.S. in 1926, beginning their American journey as farm dogs. 

A Q&A with the Lilly Brush Community

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs well-behaved, or mischievous? 

swisskissberner: Bernese, for the most part, are well behaved. It really depends on their owners and how they train them! If you put time, love and energy into them they will be good!

bigmacbernie: Both. At times you get the mischievous side, like when Bernie will just sit down on a walk because he wants to go another way. 

mousse.tracks: Both! Berners are very smart and easy to train but they’re also very stubborn and mischievous when they want to be!

bert_and_bernie_the_berners: With proper and consistent training, a Berner will be well-behaved, but they definitely have a naughty streak, especially as puppies! It all depends on the individual dog, but Berners are known to be sock eaters. Luckily Bert has never chewed up anything he wasn’t supposed to have, but Ernie destroyed a pair of sunglasses and a few pairs of slippers when he was a puppy. He still likes to shred paper sometimes! We’re just fortunate that he doesn’t swallow the things he chews that he isn’t supposed to! 

What should someone know before adopting a Bernese Mountain Dog?

swisskissberner: People should know that these dogs have the biggest hearts in the world and that they are a very sensitive breed. Some people think they are just like tri-colored Golden Retrievers and that simply isn’t true! Also know, that they shed A LOT, they are puppies for two years and they are a dog you need health insurance for.

bigmacbernie: can you live life with endless amounts of hair? It never stops. You find it everywhere, and I mean EVERWHERE!!

mousse.tracks: They are very attached and love to be where you are all the time. You have to be ok with no personal space if you want a Berner!

bert_and_bernie_the_berners: Berners are funny, silly, goofy dogs! I wasn’t prepared for them to be such comedians, but they definitely have a sense of humor that none of the other dogs I’ve owned have had. Berners are also cuddly, loving, and eager to please. Oh, and there’s lots of fur 🙂 

What can Bernie owners do to be the best dog parent possible? 

swisskissberner: I believe every single Bernese owner should take their puppy to puppy obedience classes before the age of 4 months, then do another round of classes when their puppy is over six months old. This helps give them a good foundation because Bernese are BIG dogs, that need big training 🙂

bigmacbernie: Invest in their health. Physically and mentally. Find ways to mentally stimulate them in addition to physical activities. And know that a lot of money and time will go into their health, they have sensitive digestive systems and sometimes a lot of time goes into figuring out what the best diet is for them. 

mousse.tracks: Give them lots of love, attention and be sure to exercise them regularly! Berners are very large dogs and can become overweight, which can be hard on their joints. Helping them maintain a balanced diet and exercising them regularly keeps them happy and healthy, and hopefully help them live forever. 🥰

bert_and_bernie_the_berners: Early socialization and exposure to lots of different types of people, dogs, and environments will set your dog up for success. I try to bring the dogs along whenever I can to give them a chance to see new things and experience new situations. Establishing a strong relationship with a vet you trust is key too.

What makes Bernies unique from other dogs? 

swisskissberner: Bernese are unique because of their sensitivity. They seem to be able to read your emotions unlike any other breed. If you’re sad they will try to cheer you up. If you’re happy they will celebrate with you! They are amazing. Also they are incredible with kids.

bigmacbernie: They have the ability to be majestic and the goofiest dogs! They seriously are the most gorgeous dogs and also will make you laugh every single day. 

mousse.tracks: They’re the gentlest giants and the biggest lap dogs! They are unaware of their massive size and love to sit on you!

bert_and_bernie_the_berners: Berners are versatile dogs that are eager to please, and there are so many different sports and activities they can participate in. The breed originated in Switzerland and is a working group breed – they were bred to pull carts of cheese and milk up and down the Swiss Alps! Draft is a unique dog sport that Berners often participate in, and they can learn to pull a cart and maneuver it safely. The sad part about having a Berner is that they often don’t live as long as other breeds. There is an old Swiss saying about this: “Three years a young dog, three years a good dog, three years an old dog, and the rest is a gift.” We are so fortunate to have a non-profit organization called Berner-Garde established as a free online health-records sharing group to advance the longevity and health of the breed. The Berner-Garde Foundation has been supporting scientific research to benefit Bernese Mountain Dogs for more than 25 years!

Is there anything else you think people should know about Bernese Mountain Dogs?

swisskissberner: Bernese Mountain Dogs from reputable breeders generally have year or two long waitlists. Please don’t be deterred by this! Support preservation breeders who test for OFA hip, elbows, heart, eyes and DM!

bigmacbernie: Be prepared to be stopped constantly during your outing. They are like celebrities. Everyone loves them!

mousse.tracks: Berners tend to have shorter life expectancies (avg 6-8 yrs though we’ve seen some live to be 10-12). Males tend to be larger than females. They also have very sensitive stomachs! Despite their health issues, life with a Berner is well worth it – they are the sweetest, gentlest, silliest and most affectionate pups and bring so much joy to the entire family. Once you have a Berner, you won’t want to live without one!

bert_and_bernie_the_berners: These big goofballs are often portrayed as calm, gentle giants, but they have rowdy and energetic periods just like other breeds do!