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The Bernese Mountain Dog originated in the canton of Bern in the Swiss Alps and belonged to the group called Sennenhund or Swiss Mountain Dogs. The breed is also called Berner, whilst it is known as Berner Sennenhund in his native country. This large-size dog is classified under the Working Breed Group by the Kennel Club.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is known for his gorgeous jet-black coat that takes effort to groom. As a gentle and good-natured dog, the breed is very loving towards his owners and highly tolerant of kids, making him a great family pet.
The Bernese Mountain Dog's existence started 2,000 years ago during the invasion of the Romans in Switzerland. The breed is believed to be a descendant of ancient herding breeds found in the Swiss Alps during Roman times, including the Molosser.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a multipurpose working breed that is mainly used as a farm dog. People also use this large-size dog as a property guard and watchdog. The breed was used to guard the livestock and herd cattle as well, but he is not considered a herding dog.
The Berner's most important ability is his adeptness in pulling carts that are heavier than his weight. Thanks to his powerful hindquarters, this large-size dog can generate a great amount of strength, making him a prized drafting dog.
Called the Berner Sennenhund in German, the Berner is part of the four-dog group called the Sennenhund or Swiss Mountain Dogs.
The other three Sennenhund breeds are the Entlebucher (Entlebucher Mountain Dog), the Appenzeller (Appenzeller Mountain Dog), and the Grosser Schweizer (Great Swiss Mountain Dog). The four breeds were created in different communities in Switzerland to suit the specific needs of the people.
The Sennenhund breeds carry a distinctive black and tan colouring. They also possess white markings on their chests. Some believe that these markings are the representation of the cross found on the Swiss flag.
During parades in Switzerland, the Bernese Mountain Dogs can be found pulling light carts whilst accompanying their owners, who are wearing Swiss national costumes.
Although the Bernese Mountain Dogs were highly valuable for their work versatility, their numbers dwindled in the late 1800s. It was brought about by the lack of purposeful and proper breeding programmes.
Fortunately, Herr Franz Schertenleib, a Swiss cynologist, searched for the remaining Bernese Mountain Dogs in hopes of reviving the breed.
He found some Berners in the Durrbach district located in Berne, Switzerland. Herr Franz Schertenleib worked with Albert Heim, a Zurich professor, carefully breeding the Bernese Mountain Dog.
They crossed Berners with Newfoundlands to enhance the breed's size and temperament. Their efforts to preserve the Bernese Mountain Dog led to the breed's identification. A Swiss breed club was established in 1907, and this was headed by Professor Albert Heim.
This led to the rising popularity of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed again in Switzerland. This large-sized dog was first called Gelbbackler, which means yellow cheeks, or Vieraugler, which translates to four eyes.
However, the Berner was more commonly known as Durrbachler. This nickname was inspired by the inn where the breed was brought to and sold. After the breed club was formed, the Bernese Mountain Dog's name was changed to Berner Sennenhund.
In the end, Herrs Franz Schertenleib and Albert Heim's hard work in ensuring that the breed survives made the Bernese Mountain Dog known not only in Switzerland but also throughout Europe.
The first Bernese Mountain Dogs were taken outside Switzerland after World War I to Holland and then to the US. In the 1930s, British breeders brought the breed to England.
The progress of the Berner breed outside his homeland had been disrupted by World War II but resumed in 1945. Later on, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was founded.
The Bernese breed is currently recognised by major pedigree registries, including the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large attractive dog that has a sturdy and strong overall appearance. The second largest of the Sennenhunds, the Berner stands 58–70 centimetres at the withers and weighs 32–54 kilos.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is similar to the Golden Retriever breed but heavier and stockier. The breed is slow-growing, and it takes about 2–3 years for Bernese Mountain Dog puppies to become fully mature.
The Berner has a strong head with a flat skull, straight muzzle, strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite, and a strong muscular neck. The breed has dark brown, almond-shaped eyes and medium-size triangle ears. This large-size breed's body is compact, finished off with a bushy tail that reaches just below the hock.
What makes the Berner an eye-catcher is his gleaming, gorgeous tricolor coat. His glistening jet-black colour is paired with rich reddish-brown markings over the eyes, cheeks, chest, and legs. Giving him a distinguished appearance is a lovely white blaze and white marking on the chest. His long, silky coat is soft and slightly wavy but not curly.
The Berner possesses a double coat that has a long outer coat and a woolly undercoat. This dog has moderate to high grooming needs because of heavy shedding and susceptibility to mats and tangles.
Although the Bernese Mountain Dog does not need to be trimmed or clipped often, he needs frequent bathing especially if he spends a lot of time outdoors. Daily brushing is necessary too to retain his coat's natural sheen.
The Bernese Mountain Dog sheds all year and heavier during spring and autumn, so more brushing should be done in these seasons.
The Berners that participate in dog shows are generally shown in full coats with slight trimmings only. It is recommended that this is also applied to Bernese Mountain Dogs that serve as family pets.
Shaving the Berner's coat should be avoided as it can cause the fur to grow differently, making it difficult to manage. Moreover, his double coat helps regulate his body temperature during both hot and cold weather. Shaving it off will make the breed highly susceptible to heatstroke and hypothermia.
You may trim the Berner's overgrown hairs on the feet, though. Use straight scissors or electric clippers to remove the fur. Make sure that no hair extends beyond the footpads to prevent trapping too much dirt. It also keeps ice balls from forming between the toes during the winter season.
The Berner's ears should be given extra attention as they are prone to bacteria build-up and yeast infection. Also, keep his nails short—clicking sounds on a hard floor means the nails need trimming. Brush his teeth at least two times a week to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is prone to drooling but not as heavily compared to some breeds. It comes naturally with the breed due to his loose lips. With that said, be sure to keep rags handy to wipe the drool off.
Place a washable towel or mop near your Bernese dog's bowl to quickly remove the slobber. Putting a bandana around your dog is a good idea too. This will absorb the saliva and keep it from falling on the floor.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has an intelligent, tolerant, and affectionate nature. The breed may be big, but he is gentle and calm, making him an excellent family pet for first-time owners as long as they can provide him time for his exercise and grooming.
The Bernese Mountain Dog develops a strong bond with his owners and is patient and playful with children. Be careful, though, as his large size can make him easily knock down young children. Constant supervision is needed during playtime to keep both parties safe from accidents.
The Berner is a joy to be around and can be slow to mature, so be prepared for some silly and childish behaviour, which can be kept at bay with early socialisation and obedience training.
The large Bernese loves being a part of family activities and is best suited for homes that are never empty. There should always be someone to accompany the dog since he can develop separation anxiety.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is not suited for small box apartments due to his large size. He needs ample space to move around.
The Berner is a great buddy for fellow dogs and other pets. However, some male Bernese Mountain Dogs, especially younger ones, may show aggression towards dogs of the same sex. Socialisation at a young age plays a big part in making your Berner pup grow into a friendly and approachable pooch.
The Berner is a cooperative dog that is very easy to train. Take advantage of his strong ability to work and eager-to-please attitude for basic obedience and task-related training. He is known to excel at various dog sports, including agility, obedience, tracking, and carting.
The Berner breed, just like other breeds, has general characteristics, but each dog is unique. His overall disposition and intelligence are affected by environment, training, and socialisation.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a laid-back nature, which means he is not much of a barker. However, if he senses a threat, he will let out a series of barks to ward off the intruder and at the same time alert his owner.
Most Bernese Mountain Dogs love cuddle time with their family. Once a strong bond is formed between a Bernese Mountain Dog and his owner, this dog may not want to leave his master's side.
However, keep in mind that this trait depends on the individual dog and you as an owner. Through proper training, your Bernese Mountain Dog can enjoy cuddling.
A full-grown Bernese Mountain Dog requires 3–5 cups of excellent-quality dry dog food per day. You have to take into consideration his age, size, build, activity level, and metabolism when it comes to quantity and frequency.
Typical daily calorie needs of an adult Bernese Mountain Dog that weighs 43 kilos:
Unfortunately, the Berner breed is prone to quite a few health problems, which is why a diet rich in nutrients and amino acids is important. The best thing to do to reduce the risks of medical issues, especially cancer, is to strengthen the immune system.
Choose high-quality brands for large breed dogs with limited ingredients yet packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The main ingredient should be animal meat and avoid processed grains since they are believed to contain carcinogens.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed that is known to suffer from a lot of health issues with a relatively short lifespan of 6-8 years. Many factors come into play when it comes to the short lifespans of large breed dogs like the Berner.
A study suggests that large-size animals' accelerated growth is coupled with increased free-radical activity.
Adverse effects of selective breeding also have something to do with the accelerated aging in large-breed dogs. In another research, it shows that big dogs age faster than their smaller counterparts. In turn, their quick aging makes them highly vulnerable to various diseases.
To give your Bernese Mountain Dog breed the care that he deserves, it is important to know of the breed's most common health problems.
The Bernese Mountain dog is prone to acquire these bone and joint problems, common in large and giant breed dogs. Hip dysplasia occurs when there is a deformity in the femur bone and hip socket. Meanwhile, the malformation and degeneration of the elbow joints can lead to elbow dysplasia.
Affected Bernese Mountain Dogs will often feel pain and experience difficulty in movement. Exercising and even simple walking can become an arduous task for big dogs. Treatment for both orthopedic problems depends on their severity.
Generally, the Bernese Mountain Dog needs medical treatment, restricted exercise, and weight management to treat mild cases of hip and elbow dysplasia. Severe cases will require surgery.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
PRA in the Bernese breed is a hereditary eye disorder that causes gradual retinal degeneration. This condition can lead to vision impairment, night blindness, and permanent loss of eyesight.
Early onset of PRA often happens when Bernese puppies reach 3 months of age. Late onset of the condition occurs in 3–5-year-old Berners.
This PRA condition in the Berner breed has no known cure. Affected dogs commonly lose their vision within a year of diagnosis. Thus, it is crucial to focus your efforts on making your home safe for your blind dog.
Rearranging furniture should be avoided so that your Berner can easily navigate in your home. Make sure that dangerous places for a blind dog are inaccessible, such as pools and stairs.
The Bernese is prone to this life-threatening gastric condition, commonly known as canine dog bloat (CDB). Gastric torsion happens when a dog's stomach becomes twisted and filled with gas.
Large and giant dog breeds are extremely at risk of developing this condition. Immediate treatment is crucial to saving your dog's life.
Gastric torsion in the Bernese breed can stop blood circulation to the heart and stomach, cause breathing difficulties, and damage internal organs.
If you observe that your Berner has a swollen abdomen and has difficulty eliminating his stool, take him to the vet right away. Emergency surgery will be conducted to ease gas pressure.
It is recommended that the Bernese should undergo hip, elbow, eye, cardiac, and DNA evaluation whilst still a puppy.
The Berner, being a large working dog breed, needs plenty of daily exercise. At least 30 minutes of vigorous activities and playtime in a backyard is needed. Mental stimulation is also important to be able to raise a well-rounded Bernese Mountain Dog.
The large double-coated Bernese generally needs to reside in places with cold climates, as he is prone to heatstroke. Avoid strenuous activities during hot weather, and limit these activities early in the morning or evening. Make sure that there are fans or air conditioning in your home to keep him cool.
A Bernese Mountain Dog can cost anywhere from £500 to £1000. Expect to pay more for a well-bred puppy from a KC-registered breeder.
With the Bernese dog's popularity, some breeders produce low-quality Berners to take advantage of the demand. Make sure to buy from reputable breeders and learn about the potential puppy's health history.
You can also try visiting rescue groups and animal shelters to see if they have Bernese Mountain Dogs up for adoption.
Your Bernese will need basic supplies and equipment such as lead, bed, and food bowls, which will initially cost around £200. Providing your Bernese Mountain Dog with high-quality food and treats will cost as much as £70 per month.
The Bernese will need regular health checks, vaccinations, and boosters, which can add up to £320– £430 annually to your budget.
Health problems of the breed may contribute to costlier veterinary care, especially if long-term treatments are needed. This is the reason why you should get pet insurance. The monthly insurance premium is £50 for basic cover and £100 for a lifetime cover.
Are you sure the Bernese Mountain Dog is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.Dog Breed Selector Quiz
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