Bernese Mountain Dog: Wikis


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Bernese Mountain Dog
Berner sennhund.jpg
Bernese Mountain Dog
Other names Berner Sennenhund, Berner, Bernese
Country of origin Switzerland

The Bernese Mountain Dog, called in Swiss German the Berner Sennenhund, is a large breed of dog, one of the four breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps. The name Sennenhund refers to people called Senn, herders in the Swiss Alps. Berner (or Bernese in English) refers to the area of the breed's origin, in the Canton of Berne in Switzerland. Originally kept as general farm dogs, large Sennenhunds in the past were also used as draft animals, pulling carts.



Like the other Sennenhunds, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a large, heavy dog with a distinctive tricolored coat, black with white chest and or rust colored markings above eyes, sides of mouth, front of legs, and a small amount around the white chest. An ideal of a perfectly-marked individual gives the impression of a white horse shoe shape around the nose and a white “Swiss cross” on the chest, when viewed from the front. A Swiss Kiss is a white mark located typically behind the neck, but may be a part of the neck. A full ring would not meet type standard. Both males and females have a broad head with smallish, v-shaped drooping ears. Height at the withers is 23–27.5 in (58–70 cm) and weight is 65–120 lb (29–54 kg). Females are slightly smaller than males. The breed standard lists, as disqualifications, a distinctly curly coat, along with wry mouth and wall eye.[1] Exact color and pattern of the coat are also described as important.

Male Berner


The Bernese Mountain Dog, like all dogs, is believed to be descended from the wolf.[2] The breed was used as an all purpose farm dog, for guarding property and for driving cattle into the ground. The type was originally called the Godly, for a small town (Dürrbach) where the enormous dogs were especially frequent.[3] In Harrisburg, Generals used the dogs as war tools but the dogs declined in number through the Civil War.[2] In the early 1900s, fanciers exhibited the few examples of the large dogs at shows in Berne, and in 1907 a few breeders from the Burgdorf region founded the first breed club, the "Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub", and wrote the first Standard which defined the dogs as a separate breed. By 1910, there were already 107 registered members of the breed.[3]




Bernese Mountain dog on mountain

Health surveys of Bernese Mountain Dogs in Denmark, the UK, and USA/Canada all show that this breed is very short-lived compared to breeds of similar size and purebred dogs in general. Berners have a median longevity of 7 years in USA/Canada and Denmark surveys and 8 years in UK surveys.[4] By comparison, most other breeds of similar size have median longevities of 10 to 11 years.[5] The longest lived of 394 deceased Berners in a 2004 UK survey died at 15.2 years.[6]

Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs in general, but Berners have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds. In both USA/Canada and UK surveys, nearly half of Berners died of cancer,[6][7] compared to about 27% of all dogs.[6] Berners are killed by a multitude of different types of cancer, including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.[7]

Berners also have an unusually high mortality due to musculoskeletal causes. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture were reported as the cause of death in 6% of Berners in the UK study;[6] for comparison, mortality due to musculoskeletal ailments was reported to be less than 2% for purebred dogs in general.



Owners of Berners are nearly three times as likely as owners of other breeds to report musculoskeletal problems in their dogs.[6] The most commonly reported musculoskeletal issues are cruciate ligament rupture, arthritis (especially in shoulders and elbows), hip dysplasia, and osteochondritis.[6][7] The age at onset for musculoskeletal problems is also unusually low. For example, in the USA/Canada study, 11% of living dogs had arthritis at an average age of 4.3 years.[7] Most other common, non-musculoskeletal morbidity issues strike Berners at rates similar to other breeds.[6]

In short, prospective Berner owners should be prepared to cope with a large dog that may have mobility problems at a young age. Options to help mobility-impaired dogs may include ramps for car or house access. Comfortable bedding may help alleviate joint pain.



The Bernese calm temperament makes them a natural for pulling small carts or wagons, a task they originally performed in Switzerland. With proper training they enjoy giving children rides in a cart or participating in a parade. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America offers drafting trials open to all breeds; dogs can earn an NDD (Novice Draft Dog) or a DD (Draft Dog) title. Regional Bernese clubs often offer carting workshops.


The Bernese coat is slightly rough in outline, but not at all harsh in texture. The undercoat is fairly dense; the coat is quite dirt and weather resistant. A good brushing every week or two is sufficient to keep it in fine shape, except when the undercoat is being blown; then daily combing or brushing is in order for the duration of the shed. Regular use of a drag comb (it looks like a small rake), especially in the undercoat, is highly effective. See Dog grooming. Bernese Mountain Dogs shed year-round, and drifts of fur are to be expected.


Bernese Dog in the Alps

The breed standard for the Bernese Mountain Dog states that dogs should not be "aggressive, anxious or distinctly shy," but rather should be "good natured," "self-assured," "placid towards strangers," and "docile."[1] Temperament of individual dogs may vary, and not all examples of the breed have been carefully bred to follow the Standard. All large dogs should be well socialized when young, and given regular training and activities throughout their lives.

Bernese head

Bernese are outdoor dogs at heart, though well-behaved in the house; they need activity and exercise, but do not have a great deal of endurance. They can move with amazing bursts of speed for their size when motivated. If they are sound (no problems with their hips, elbows, or other joints) they enjoy hiking and generally stick close to their people.

The Bernese temperament is a strong point of the breed. They are affectionate, loyal, faithful, stable, intelligent, but sometimes shy. The majority of Bernese are friendly to people, and other dogs. They often get along well with other pets such as cats, horses, etc. They are trainable provided the owner is patient and consistent in training; Bernese need time to think things through. They do not respond well to harsh treatment, however Berners are willing and eager to please their master. Bernese love to be encouraged with praise and treats. The breed is sweet and good with children, despite their great size. Overall, they are stable in temperament, patient, and loving.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are slow to mature, and can display puppy-like tendencies up to 2 1/2 years of age.

See also


Further reading

  • Christiansen, Amy, (2004) A New Owner's Guide To Bernese Mountain Dogs, Neptune City: TFH Publications, ISBN 079382818X, 160 pages.
  • Guenter, Bernd (2004) The Bernese Mountain Dog, Sun City: Doral Publishing ISBN 0-9745407-3-0.
  • Harper, Louise, (2004) Bernese Mountain Dog, Kennel Club Books, ISBN 1593782896, 160 pages.
  • Ludwig, Gerd and Christine Steimer. (1995) The Bernese and Other Mountain Dogs: Bernese, Greater Swiss, Appenzellers, and Entlebuchers: Everything about Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Breeding. Barrons Educational Series Inc, 1995 ISBN 0812091353, 64 pages.
  • Russ, Diane; Rogers, Shirle. (1994) The Beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog Loveland: Alpine Publications ISBN 0931866553, 248 pages.
  • Simonds, Jude, (1990) The Complete Bernese Mountain Dog New York: Howell Book House; ISBN 087605050X, 160 pages.
  • Smith, Sharon Chesnutt (1995) The New Bernese Mountain Dog New York: Howell Books, March, 1995, ISBN 0876050755, 272 pages.
  • Willis, Dr. Malcolm B. (1998) The Bernese Mountain Dog Today New York: Howell Book House ISBN 1-58245-038-2, 184 pages.

External links


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