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Honest FAQ for Bernese Mountain Dogs (2021)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Bernese Mountain Dog

Some people today are breeding Bernese Mountain Dogs with spooky temperaments. If you're looking at a litter, make sure BOTH parents (and preferably grandparents and other relatives) are calm and confident.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Bernese Mountain Dog have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Bernese Mountain Dog temperament and behavior are:

good-natured, easygoing, sensitive, affectionate, responsive, loyal

I give you my honest opinions about Bernese Mountain Dog temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

Where did the name Bernese Mountain Dog come from?

The Bernese is one of four Swiss sennenhunds,  which means "dogs of the Alpine herdsmen." The Bernese is named for the Swiss canton of Berne.

What were Bernese Mountain Dogs used for?

The Bernese Mountain Dog, like the other sennenhunds, drove cows to and from pasture, pulled milk carts to the dairy, and guarded the family farm.

What traits would help Bernese Mountain Dogs accomplish their work? That's right... strength and endurance, tolerance of the cold harsh climate, trainability, and loyalty to their family.

How big are Bernese Mountain Dogs? Height and weight?

Size varies a lot in this breed. Some lines are huge and some are more medium in size. Males are especially likely to be large and somewhat ponderous – these dogs are also the most likely to slobber/drool. Many females are smaller and more athletic.

So what's the size range? About 23-28 inches at the shoulder, and 65-120 pounds, which puts them in the LARGE or GIANT category.

What colors do Bernese Mountain Dogs come in?

A very striking tricolor, which is mostly black, with white markings on his face, chest, feet, and tail tip, and tan or rust markings over each eye, on his cheeks, chest, legs, and under his tail.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs come in different "types"?

To me, the large variation in height and weight seem like different "types".

Owners who prefer giant dogs might look for a breeder who produces large, heavy Bernese akin to Saint Bernards, and would probably choose a male.

Owners who prefer medium-to-large dogs might opt for a female Bernese from a breeder with more balanced, more athletic lines.

How much exercise do Bernese Mountain Dogs need?

Moderate exercise. This big breed doesn't need or want hours of running. He's satisfied with an hour of brisk walking, plus a decent yard for an occasional vigorous romp – especially in cold weather. Bernese Mountain Dogs do poorly in hot climates, but love the snow and cold.

You should also provide physical and mental stimulation to a Bernese by teaching him to pull carts and sleds, and also to play controlled tug-of-war (taught in my training books).

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs need a fenced yard?

Yes. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs easy to train?

I would say Moderate. Bernese Mountain Dogs do want to please and are responsive to training in a slow, good-natured way – use lots of cheerful praise and encouragement.

During adolescence and young adulthood, some male Bernese may sometimes "test" whether you mean what you say. So don't get one unless you know how to establish the right leader-follower relationship with a large, powerful dog.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs easy to housebreak?

They're average, no issues.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs friendly with people?

Some Bernese Mountain Dogs are outgoing with almost everyone, but most are either polite or standoffish. Some Bernese are a bit timid, while others are terribly shy. A Bernese should never be aggressive toward anyone.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs good with children?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally good-natured with children. However, some Bernese are extra-sensitive and should not be subjected to young children or rough older children.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs good with other dogs?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are usually good-natured with other dogs. But some male Bernese are pushy toward strange dogs of the same sex.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs good with cats?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are usually good-natured with cats.

How much do Bernese Mountain Dogs shed?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are average to heavy shedders. Their silky coat sheds a great deal in the spring and fall, and some hair the rest of the year.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. Bernese Mountain Dogs are not hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do Bernese Mountain Dogs need?

Brush his thick silky coat once a week, daily during seasonal shedding.

What's a good training schedule for training Bernese Mountain Dog puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Bernese Mountain Dogs: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to have?

Well, if you make the mistake of leaving a young (or bored) Bernese loose in the house instead of safely crated/penned... you can expect to find things chewed up. Puppyhood and adolescence are when you must teach calmness, establish the right leader/follower relationship, and respond properly to behavior problems. Then a Bernese is very easy to live with.

The most common behavior problems I see in Bernese are jumping on people, and pulling on the leash... very simple things to stop.

More difficult to solve are separation anxiety and submissive/excitable urination:

  • Separation anxiety can occur when you have (accidentally) encouraged your Bernese Mountain Dog to be overly dependent on you. This is especially common with a young female Bernese who has attached herself to just one person in the family. Then when that person leaves, the dog grows more and more anxious and stressed, which she tries to relieve through barking and destructive chewing. If you need to be away from home much, I don't recommend a Bernese Mountain Dog.
  • Submissive/excitable urination. An excited or submissive dog doesn't always have complete control of his bladder. If he's very happy to see someone, his bladder might leak (or gush!). If he's a very sensitive, soft-tempered pup and you bend over him, or reach toward him, he might crouch and release a little urine, which is a canine social signal that says, "Don't hurt me. I accept your superiority." Submissive urination is most common in young and adolescent dogs, and in gentle, soft-tempered dogs.... such as Bernese.

What health problems might Bernese Mountain Dogs have?

Sadly, this breed is very unhealthy and can have a very short lifespan. Inherited cancer, crippling joint diseases, bloat, epilepsy, heart disease, eye diseases, autoimmune diseases... you should have deep pockets or a strong pet insurance policy before bringing home a Bernese Mountain Dog.

What breeds are similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog?

Obviously the other three Swiss Mountain Dogs!

  • If you want smaller than the Bernese, that would be the Appenzeller or Entlebucher. Both breeds are FAR more energetic than the Bernese and require much more exercise and challenging activities to keep them satisfied.
  • If you want larger than the Bernese, that would be the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This lovely but powerful breed can be headstrong – not recommended for beginners or easygoing owners.

A large, tricolored Australian Shepherd can look like a small female Bernese, but beyond the appearance, the two breeds are nothing alike.

Where can I buy a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy?

From a show breeder is best. Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Bernese Mountain Dog?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Bernese Mountain Dog. Which pages should I read first?

  • Bernese Mountain Dog Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Bernese Mountain Dogs, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Bernese Mountain Dogs have pros and cons, and female Bernese Mountain Dogs have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Bernese Mountain Dog puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Bernese Mountain Dog breeder would ever place one of their Bernese Mountain Dog puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Bernese Mountain Dog puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Bernese Mountain Dogs?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Bernese Mountain Dog to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Bernese Mountain Dog until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Bernese Mountain Dog, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Bernese Mountain Dogs that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.