Everything you need to know about the Bernese Mountain Dog: a great life companion and guard dog, a docile dog that adapts very well to family life.
The Bernese Mountain Dog, known for its striking appearance and gentle disposition, hails from Switzerland, specifically the Canton of Bern. This breed is one of four Swiss mountain dogs, with the Bernese being the only one characterized by its distinct tri-color coat: black, rust, and white.
Originally, Bernese Mountain Dogs were versatile working dogs, serving as farm helpers for Swiss farmers. They were used for herding livestock, pulling carts, and even as watchdogs. Their strength and endurance made them valuable assets in the demanding alpine terrain.
The breed’s origins trace back to the Roman times, and they were likely brought to Switzerland by the invading Roman armies. Over time, they interbred with native Swiss dogs, resulting in the breed we know today.
The Bernese Mountain Dog’s sweet temperament and loyalty made it a beloved family pet, and its striking appearance drew attention to the breed’s potential as a show dog. It was officially recognized by the Swiss Kennel Club in 1907 and made its way to the United States in the early 20th century. Now it is a relatively widespread and popular breed in America and is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a breed.
The original name in German is Berner Sennenhund.
History of the Bernese Mountain Dog
The history of the Bernese Mountain Dog is shrouded in some uncertainty. There is a belief that this breed might share distant ancestry with the St. Bernard dog. Its origins remain a subject of debate, as it’s unclear whether the breed is indigenous to the region or if it was introduced by the Romans during their conquest.
This hypothesis gains support from the discovery of ancient Roman vases that depict a dog remarkably similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog. Regardless of its origins, the breed’s initial role was as a shepherd dog. It diligently accompanied and tended to livestock, providing invaluable assistance to farmers in their daily work.
After a period during which the breed faced the risk of extinction, it was saved thanks to the efforts of a dedicated breeder, Mr. Schertenleib. The first breeding farms emerged in the Burgdorf region around 1907. In the 1940s, through carefully planned crosses with Newfoundlands, the breed’s characteristics were stabilized, and it eventually conformed to the standards we recognize today.
Bernese Mountain Dog: physical characteristics
The Bernese Mountain Dog is renowned for its distinct physical traits:
- Size: This breed boasts a substantial build. Males typically stand 64-70 cm tall at the withers, while females are slightly smaller, ranging from 60-63 cm.
- Weight: Bernese Mountain Dogs are no lightweight canines. Males typically weigh around 55 kg, while females usually fall within the range of 40 to 50 kg.
- Body: Their bodies are muscular and well-proportioned. Their backs are broad, contributing to their robust appearance. The overall physique is imposing and sturdy.
- Head: Their head is notably large, and it exudes a commanding presence. The eyes are dark and almond-shaped, with a prominent black nose.
- Ears: Bernese Mountain Dogs have distinctive, triangular, and drooping ears that frame their face.
- Coat: The coat of this breed is tricolor, characterized by a stunning combination of black, brown, and white. The brown is most concentrated on their face, chest, and limbs, creating a striking contrast with the abundant white markings that adorn parts of their muzzle, chest, and feet. The coat itself is smooth, thin, long, and abundant, contributing to their majestic appearance.
- Gait: Despite their size, Bernese Mountain Dogs have an elegant gait that is not clumsy. They can demonstrate remarkable agility when needed, and they are known for their endurance and stamina, making them well-suited for active lifestyles.
These physical characteristics, combined with their friendly and gentle temperament, make Bernese Mountain Dogs both an impressive and beloved breed, suitable for various roles, from working dogs to cherished family companions.
Bernese Mountain Dog: temperament
The Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its loving, loyal, and family-oriented temperament. They thrive on human interaction and make excellent companions for those who can provide them with the attention and care they need. Here are some key aspects of their temperament:
- Gentle and Friendly: Bernese Mountain Dogs are typically gentle, friendly, and affectionate. They are known for their kind and sweet disposition, making them excellent family pets.
- Loyal: These dogs are highly loyal to their owners and become deeply attached to their families. They are often referred to as “Velcro dogs” because they like to be close to their human companions.
- Good with Children: Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally good with children and can be very patient and protective. They tend to form strong bonds with kids and are often considered excellent family dogs.
- Social: They are social animals that enjoy the company of people and other pets. They usually get along well with other dogs and animals, and they tend to be welcoming to visitors.
- Alert and Watchful: While they are not aggressive guard dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs are alert and watchful. They will bark to alert their owners to any unusual activity or strangers.
- Easygoing: They have a generally easygoing nature and are adaptable to various living situations, whether in the city or the country, as long as they receive adequate exercise and attention.
- Intelligent and Trainable: Bernese Mountain Dogs are extremely intelligent and can be trained easily. Positive reinforcement training methods work well with them. However, they may have an independent streak, so consistent training is essential.
- Sensitivity: They are sensitive dogs, and harsh training methods or negative reinforcement can be counterproductive. Positive and gentle training approaches are more suitable for their temperament.
Bernese Mountain Dog Care and Maintenance
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a relatively short lifespan, typically around 8 years, if healthy and well cared for.
Here are some useful guidelines for appropriate care:
- Provide high-quality dog food appropriate for their age, size, and activity level. Consult your veterinarian for guidance on portion sizes and dietary recommendations.
- Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick, long coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and to keep it clean. Brush them several times a week to remove loose fur and dirt. They may shed more heavily during seasonal changes.
- Bathe your Bernese Mountain Dog as needed, typically every 2 to 3 months or when they get particularly dirty. Be sure to use a dog-specific shampoo to maintain their coat’s health.
- Regularly trim their nails to prevent overgrowth, which can cause discomfort and affect their gait. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, a professional groomer or veterinarian can help.
- Brush their teeth regularly to prevent dental issues. You can use a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Dental chews and toys can also help maintain oral hygiene.
- Last, but not least, exercise. Bernese Mountain Dogs have moderate energy levels and require daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. Regular walks, playtime, and even short hikes can provide the necessary physical and mental stimulation.
Educating a Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy
This task involves a combination of training, socialization, and care. Here’s a list of principles to help you with the education of your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy:
- Early Socialization: Proper socialization is of paramount importance for a youn Bernese Mountain Dog. Expose your puppy to various people, including different ages, genders, and ethnicities. This helps them become comfortable with a diverse range of individuals.nAllow controlled interactions with other dogs and pets to foster positive social behaviors.
- Basic Training Commands: Start with basic commands using positive reinforcement techniques. Consistency is key in reinforcing good behavior. Introduce leash training early to encourage walking politely on a leash.
- Positive Reinforcement: Reward good behavior with treats and verbal praise. Positive reinforcement helps your Bernese Mountain Dog associate desired actions with positive outcomes.
- Obedience Training: Establish consistent rules within the household to provide structure for your puppy.
- Crate Training: Introduce the crate as a safe and comfortable space for your puppy. Crate training aids in housebreaking and provides a secure environment.
How much does a Bernese Mountain Dog cost?
The price of a Bernese Mountain Dog can vary significantly based on several factors, including the dog’s lineage, breeder reputation, location, and whether the dog is being sold as a pet or for breeding/show purposes. On average, you can expect to pay between $1,500 to $3,500 for a Bernese Mountain Dog from a reputable breeder. However, prices can go higher for dogs with exceptional pedigree and show potential.
It’s essential to choose a responsible breeder who conducts health screenings for common Bernese Mountain Dog health issues, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. A good breeder will also provide proper care for the puppies and socialize them before they go to their new homes.
Alternatively, you might consider adopting a Bernese Mountain Dog from a rescue organization or shelter. Adoption fees are usually lower than purchasing from a breeder, and you’ll be providing a loving home to a dog in need.
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