Bernese Mountain Dogs: Big, Beautiful, and the Perfect Family Pet

bernese mountain dog

You’ve probably seen photos of big, beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs before. Their distinctive black, white and rust-colored fur makes them stand out! If you’re thinking about adding one of these gentle giants to your family, you’re in for a treat. These dogs may look imposing, but they make for the perfect family pet. Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their affectionate and eager-to-please temperament. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this breed so lovable.

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Overview

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a gentle giant that makes a wonderful family companion. Originally from Switzerland, these striking tri-colored dogs were bred as versatile farm dogs in the Swiss Alps. If you’re looking for a patient, devoted and charming canine companion, the Bernese Mountain Dog could be the perfect breed for you.

Bernese Mountain Dogs, often called “Berners,” have a long, silky coat that comes in a combination of black, white and rust colors. They stand 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 70 to 115 pounds. Don’t let their large size intimidate you – Berners have a very easygoing and affectionate temperament. They tend to be playful, energetic and eager to please, but also calm and patient. Berners are usually good with children and other pets, especially if properly socialized from an early age.

While Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t require a ton of exercise, they do need daily activity and attention from their owners. A long walk, playtime in the yard, or a game of fetch are perfect ways to keep a Berner stimulated. They are intelligent dogs and will appreciate interactive dog toys to keep them mentally engaged. Berners can live up to 10 years, so they are a long-term commitment.

Before getting a Bernese Mountain Dog, make sure you understand their needs. Berners require frequent grooming to keep their coat clean and tangle-free. They also may drool and shed heavily, so be prepared for some mess! Reputable breeders screen their dogs for health issues common to the breed like hip dysplasia, certain cancers and heart disease. Ask any breeder about the health of their dogs and genetic testing.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a charming breed with a sweet temperament and striking good looks. If you can provide this gentle giant with love, attention, exercise and high-quality care, a Berner will make a wonderful lifelong companion. Their playful and affectionate nature makes them ideal family dogs and true “heart dogs.”

Appearance and Size of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is an impressively large breed, known for their distinctive tri-colored coat and sturdy stature.

Coat and Coloring

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a thick, double coat to withstand cold mountain temperatures. Their coat is predominantly jet black, accented with rust and white markings. They have a white blaze, white paws, and often white on their chest. Their rust-colored markings are found above their eyes, on their cheeks, and on their legs.

This distinctive coloring and patterning is unique to the breed. Their thick coat requires frequent brushing and grooming to minimize shedding and keep their coat clean and tangle-free. During seasonal changes when they “blow” their coat, daily brushing is typically needed.


Bernese Mountain Dogs are one of the larger breeds of dog. Males typically stand 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh 80 to 115 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, standing 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weighing 70 to 95 pounds.

Despite their formidable size, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a gentle giant. However, due to their large size, they require patient, positive training from an early age to ensure they develop good behavior and manners. Their large size also means they need space, so they are best suited to homes with yards rather than apartments.

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s combination of size, coloring, and sweet temperament gives them a striking and memorable appearance. However, it is important to consider their grooming needs and space requirements before getting one of these big, beautiful dogs as a family pet.

Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament and Intelligence

When it comes to temperament, Bernese Mountain Dogs are gentle giants. They are typically friendly, easygoing, and playful dogs that thrive on human companionship. These good-natured dogs are affectionate and patient, especially with children and other pets. However, their size alone means they require early socialization and positive training to learn appropriate behavior.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent dogs and eager to please, although they can be independent at times. They tend to respond best to positive reinforcement training with rewards, play, and praise instead of harsh discipline. Early training and socialization are important to help these large dogs learn proper behavior and manners. With patient, consistent training, Bernese Mountain Dogs can become well-behaved and trusted companions.

While Bernese Mountain Dogs make great family pets, they may not be suitable for families with very young children due to their large size. Proper supervision is important, especially during play. Bernese Mountain Dogs have a gentle temperament, but may accidentally knock over small children in play or excitement. For families with older, more responsible children, Bernese Mountain Dogs can make wonderful playmates and protectors.

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s intelligence and desire to please means they can excel in various dog sports and activities when properly trained. They enjoy activities such as carting, herding, tracking, and agility. Mental stimulation and tasks that engage their natural working abilities can help keep Bernese Mountain Dogs happy and well-adjusted.

Overall, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a sweet temperament and moderate energy level that makes them appealing to many owners. However, their large size and tendency toward certain health issues mean they require dedicated owners who can properly care for them. For the right owner, a Bernese Mountain Dog can make a delightful, gentle companion.

Activity Needs and Health of the Bernese Mountain Dog

As a large breed, the Bernese Mountain Dog has certain activity needs to stay happy and healthy, though they are generally easygoing dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs require daily exercise, but are usually content with a few walks, playtime, and training each day. Too little activity can lead to boredom, excessive barking, and destructive behavior. At the same time, overexercising this breed, especially in hot weather, can be dangerous due to their thick coat and size.

Providing mental stimulation with interactive dog toys, training, and quality time with their owners is also important for the Bernese Mountain Dog. Though intelligent, this breed can be independent at times, so positive reinforcement training from an early age is recommended. Basic obedience training and socialization with people and other dogs should start as early as possible to help ensure a well-rounded, sociable temperament.

Due to their large size, Bernese Mountain Dogs can be prone to certain health issues like hip and elbow dysplasia, heart disease, and some cancers. Reputable breeders will screen their dogs for genetic diseases and only breed those with good health clearances. As an owner, be sure to schedule regular vet checkups, keep your Bernese Mountain Dog at a healthy weight, and watch for early signs of health problems. The typical lifespan of a Bernese Mountain Dog is 7 to 10 years, so quality veterinary care and nutrition are important for maximizing their time with you.

Providing the proper amount of activity, mental stimulation, training, nutrition, and veterinary care will help keep your Bernese Mountain Dog happy and healthy for life. Though their lifespan may be shorter than some breeds, with the right care and environment, the Bernese Mountain Dog can make a wonderfully loyal and loving family companion.

The History and Popularity of the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a long and storied history in its native Switzerland. For centuries, these gentle giants were valued as versatile farm dogs in the Swiss Alps, where their size, strength, and amiable temperament made them ideal for tasks like herding cattle, pulling carts, and guarding homes.

Originally known as “Dürrbachler” after a village in the Canton of Bern, the Bernese Mountain Dog was officially recognized as a breed in 1907 and given its current name. The breed grew in popularity through the early 1900s but nearly died out in Europe during World Wars I and II. Thankfully, a few devoted breeders were able to preserve the line.

Bernese Mountain Dogs first arrived in the United States in 1926 and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937. However, they remained relatively rare until the 1980s, when their popularity surged. Today, the Bernese Mountain Dog ranks as the 45th most popular breed in the US according to the AKC, due in large part to their striking tri-colored coats, gentle temperament, and loyalty as companions.

Unfortunately, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s rise in popularity has led some breeders to prioritize quantity over quality. Reputable breeders focus on health, longevity, and temperament, using genetic testing to screen for issues like hip dysplasia, heart disease, and certain cancers that the breed can be prone to. They also place equal importance on finding the right homes for their puppies to ensure they receive the love, attention, exercise and proper care this breed needs to thrive.

When obtained from a responsible breeder and given a loving home, the Bernese Mountain Dog can make an amazing family pet. However, prospective owners should be aware of the breed’s relatively short lifespan of 7-10 years on average as well as its susceptibility to certain health issues. With proper care and nutrition, some Bernese do live up to 12-14 years, but they are still considered a giant breed with a tragically short life expectancy compared to other breeds.

If you have the time, patience, and means to properly care for a Bernese Mountain Dog, they will reward you many times over with their affection, loyalty and comedic antics. But do your research to find a reputable breeder and be ready to commit to caring for this gentle giant for life.


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