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Bernese Mountain Dogs: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Bernese Mountain Dog temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Bernese Mountain Dog breed

The Bernese Mountain Dog is steady-tempered and easygoing.

However, his calmness and willingness to laze about doesn't mean he can be cooped up without exercise. Indeed, the Bernese loves getting out, especially in cool weather. With his thick black coat, he doesn't do well in hot climates. Romping in the snow is a favorite form of recreation for this Alpine breed, and pulling carts and sleds is a wonderful source of exercise, especially if it involves children.

His attitude toward strangers varies from friendly to aloof, but a good Bernese should remain poised and hold his ground. The most common temperament fault is excessive shyness, sometimes toward everyone, sometimes focused on one group of people, such as men with beards. A Bernese Mountain Dog puppy needs lots of socialization so that his natural caution does not become timidity.

Most Bernese Mountain Dogs are peaceful and sociable with other animals. But some Bernese males are aggressive toward other male dogs.

Responsive to obedience training in a slow, good-natured way, this sensitive breed should be handled kindly, with much praise and encouragement. However, they're not complete pushovers to train. Some can be a little bit hardheaded and dominant, especially males, and especially during adolescence when they're "feeling their hormones."

There is great variability in size in this breed. Some individuals are medium/large and quite athletic, while others are huge and ponderous (especially males).

If you want a dog who...

  • Is large, heavy, and powerful
  • Has a thick furry coat that does well in cold climates
  • Is gentle-natured, polite, and non-aggressive
  • Is usually peaceful with other pets
  • Loves pulling carts and sleds and romping in cold weather
  • Is responsive to training in a slow, good-natured way

A Bernese Mountain Dog may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • A bulky dog who takes up a good amount of space in your house and car
  • "Separation anxiety" and destructiveness when left alone too much
  • Fearfulness or timidity in some lines, or when not socialized enough
  • Some stubbornness and/or dominance problems, especially in young males
  • More than average shedding
  • Potential for slobbering/drooling in individuals with loose lips
  • High price tag
  • Serious health problems and a short lifespan (see below)

A Bernese Mountain Dog may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Bernese Mountain Dog

If I was considering a Bernese Mountain Dog, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing sufficient exercise. Bernese Mountain Dogs definitely don't need or want jogging exercise. But they do need a decent-sized fenced yard where they can romp about at will.
  2. Potential separation anxiety. Bernese Mountain Dogs need a great deal of companionship and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing.
  3. Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Bernese Mountain Dogs need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become shyness, which is difficult to live with.
  4. Strong temperament in some males. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs, particularly young males, are willful and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. Some Bernese males are also dominant or aggressive toward other male dogs.
  5. Shedding. A big Yes! Bernese Mountain Dogs shed a goodly amount.
  6. Potential slobbering. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs, especially those with massive heads and loose lips, slobber and drool, especially after eating and drinking.
  7. Potential health problems. The Bernese Mountain Dog has a wonderful personality, yes. But pause for a moment.... because their serious health problems are a major drawback that you must consider before committing to this breed. Their average lifespan is shorter than other breeds in their size range because so many of them are crippled by hip and elbow dysplasia, or succumb to inherited cancers, heart disease, or epilepsy at 5-7 years of age. Read more about Bernese Mountain Dog Health.

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.

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