Bernese Mountain Dogs are friendly, affectionate dogs who thrive with constant company. They're playful, energetic, and good-natured, but are calm and quiet when well exercised. They're happy-go-lucky dogs with an eagerness to please. Berners are social by nature and dislike being left alone. These working dogs will find a job to do if one isn't provided—their favorite task is watching over the family. Berners are goofy and will often repeat a behavior if they notice it gets a laugh. Though they are agile dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs can be clumsy until they've grown out of puppyhood.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is also known as Swiss Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog, Berner, and Bernese.
The Bernese Mountain Dog's double coat is long and thick, and may be either straight or wavy. Tricolor markings in black, rust, and white, or black, tan, and white are the two standard coat colors.
Average Height: 25-28 inches
Male: 86-110 pounds
Female: 79-110 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a well-balanced large breed dog with a sturdy appearance. They are slightly longer than they are tall. The head is flat and broad with a strong muzzle. Triangular, medium-sized ears are high-set and hang, and large eyes offer an intelligent expression. The tail is long and bushy, not carried across the back or docked. The body is strong with a deep chest. Strong, muscular legs allow the Bernese Mountain Dog to move with agility and purpose. A long, thick tri-color coat may be black, rust, and white, or black, tan, and white, with symmetrical markings over the eyes, around the mouth, and on the chest. The tail is white-tipped and the feet are white. The Bernese Mountain Dog is alert, confident, and friendly without aggression or shyness. – AKC Breed Standards
The Bernese Mountain Dog was developed in the Swiss Alps as a farm and drover dog. They are one of four Swiss Mountain Dog breeds—dogs likely developed from Mastiff-type dogs brought to Switzerland from Rome 2,000 years ago—and the only Swiss Mountain Dog variety with a long coat. They are called Berner Sennenhund in Switzerland, named for the Canton of Bern where they were developed.
The breed was most commonly used to herd livestock and pull carts loaded with cheese to market, but were also admirable watchdogs, tasked with guarding the farm or pasture.
When agriculture became less common in Switzerland, the breed made the leap from farm dog to family dog, watching over children and even pulling them in carts. They later entered the European show dog circuit—the Berna dog club was formed in 1899 and the breed earned the name "Bernese Mountain Dog" in 1904.
The Bernese Mountain Dog came to England and America in 1936, and was recognized by the AKC in 1937.
While both World Wars slowed the breed's spread in America , the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America formed in 1968 and the breed's popularity as a companion dog grew. The AKC adopted the current breed standard in 1990.
AKC Breed Category
The even-tempered Bernese Mountain Dog is calm, friendly, and often playful with family. He is an intelligent dog—eager to please and easy to train. The gregarious Berner desires plenty of time with people, and likes to be part of every activity. He is loyal and affectionate, never malicious, and does not display shyness or aggression. Positive reinforcement is important, as the breed is sensitive and prone to upset if punished or corrected in a harsh manner.
Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good with Kids? The gentle, loving Bernese Mountain Dog is a wonderful choice for households with kids. He loves children and often takes it upon himself to watch over them. He usually gets up and walks away if play becomes too rambunctious, as he would if he needed a break from misbehaving puppies. His large size and adolescent clumsiness should be considered, as he may knock over a small child during play.
Though the breed is large and sturdy, children should never be allowed to climb or ride on a Bernese Mountain Dog or any other breed, as it may injure the dog or instigate a bite.
Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Good with Other Pets? Bernese Mountain Dogs get along well with other dogs in most households, and are often compatible with cats.
Because he was bred to protect farms and pastures, the Bernese Mountain Dog makes an admirable watchdog. He tends to protect his family and territory and will bark to alert of intruders, but is not aggressive. He may be standoffish with strangers, but will accept them once his owner reassures him.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a high level of energy, but is a calm and quiet companion if given enough opportunities to run and play.
- Craves lots of attention
- High daily exercise requirements
- Considerable health concerns
- Short lifespan
- May bark
- May dig or chew if bored
Bernese Mountain Dogs are social companion animals who relish time indoors with family members. They are energetic and require a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day—more than an hour is even better. WIthout enough exercise, they may develop destructive behaviors or barking. They aren't a common choice for apartments or city life due to their size and exercise requirements, but can adapt with enough attention and exercise.
This sturdy working dog has become a friendly companion dog through breeding, so he should not be expected to spend extended periods of time outdoors without company. He needs plenty of time outdoors to run and play, but may overheat, so exercise due diligence in hot weather. He is well suited to colder climates.
Berners are an energetic breed who love to play. They require an hour or more of exercise each day. Warm climates can be difficult as hot weather may cause the Bernese Mountain Dog to overheat. Overeating and obesity can be a concern for this breed; regular exercise will help maintain a healthy weight.
While strong and energetic, the Bernese Mountain Dog is not a high-endurance breed. Though they need over an hour of exercise per day, this should be split between a few treks outdoors throughout the day, as they do not have the stamina for long periods of strenuous activity. They are prone to heatstroke and may overheat if the weather is hot or humid.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Healthy, well-conditioned Bernese Mountain Dogs may be able to run up to four miles in cool weather, but hot weather is not ideal for running long distances. To prevent bone, joint, and ligament damage, this slow-growing dog should avoid excessive running until he is fully grown—around two years old.
- Hiking Miles: The Bernese Mountain Dog is a willing companion for hikes and may be able to trek up to 10 miles in cool weather, but his tendency to overheat means he's not built for the summertime trail.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is prone to overeating. The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed is three to five cups of food per day. This amount should be split between two or three meals, or can be offered in a food-dispensing puzzle toy. Bernese Mountain Dogs may suffer from gastric dilatation volvulus, or bloat. Small meals given multiple times per day and limited exercise after feeding can help prevent the condition.
Bernese Mountain Dogs do not tend to guard their food, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
Berners are loyal dogs who become attached to their family. They prefer to spend time with their people, but with enough exercise and mental stimulation may be left home alone for five to eight hours. They can develop destructive behaviors when lonely, so crate training may be necessary.
Health and Grooming
The long, double coat of the Bernese Mountain Dog sheds heavily, but doesn't require excessive maintenance. Weekly brushing and occasional baths help keep the Berner's coat and skin healthy and minimize shedding. Daily brushing may be necessary during seasonal shedding of the undercoat, in the fall and spring. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or even breaking them. Bernese Mountain Dogs require regular ear cleaning to prevent ear infections.
Common Health Issues
Bernese Mountain Dogs are a breed with a short life span and often suffer from breed-specific health concerns, including:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Arthritis, early onset
- Joint diseases
- Eye disease
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Bernese Mountain Dog by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is easy to train and learns basic obedience without trouble. He responds best to positive reinforcement. Early training is important for a Berner to help socialize and teach limits. Puppyhood lasts longer in this slow-maturing breed, so patience and consistency are key. Because they were originally bred to pull carts on a farm, Berners can pull a lot of weight. It is important to leash train them from an early age to prevent pulling when they're bigger and stronger.
Intelligent Bernese Mountain Dogs can learn advanced tricks and shine in obedience competitions and agility. They are eager to please and work diligently to learn new things. The mental stimulation provided by advanced training may be helpful to prevent destructive behaviors caused by boredom.
Bernese Mountain Dogs can be used in search and rescue. Their friendly nature and love of people makes them ideal animal-assisted therapy dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs compete in draft testing, or cart pulling. They may be trained to watch over farm animals and herd animals.
Berners grow slowly, and agility training should be undertaken in a slow and steady manner to prevent injuries to growing bones and joints.
Sporting Dog Training
Bernese Mountain Dogs can be trained for use in tracking, and often compete in AKC tracking events. These skills may make them useful as hunting dogs, but they may not have the stamina or attention span common in sporting dog breeds.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are an affectionate breed, and they show their love through physical contact. They're likely to sit on your feet, place their paws on your chest, give hugs, and rest their head on you whenever the opportunity arises. Physical contact is an important part of bonding for Berners.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a slow-growing breed that doesn't reach its full size—or mental maturity—for three years. There is a Swiss saying that applies to Bernese Mountain Dogs: "Three years a puppy, three years a good dog, three years an old dog." The breed reaches full size before growing out of puppyhood, so he may be rambunctious even at a few years of age. Polite behavior and gentle play are important skills to teach a growing Berner.
Historically, Berners were used as cart dogs, so they've got impressive pulling power. Bernese Mountain Dogs can pull up to 1,000 pounds. Berners love to compete in the sport of carting or drafting. To prevent injury, Bernese Mountain Dogs must be fully grown—around two years old—before pulling any weight.