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Bernese Mountain Dog: Breed Characteristics, Care & Nutrition

Bernese mountain dog breed

  • Breed: mountain dog
  • Origin: Switzerland
  • Weight: 36 to 50 kg
  • Height at the withers: 58 to 70 cm
  • Life expectancy: 6 to 9 years
  • Fur: long, dense
  • Colour: black-white-brown
  • Temperament: affectionate, attentive, loyal, relaxed, peaceful

Bernese Mountain Dog: History

The Bernese Mountain Dog originally comes from Switzerland. His stocky build and good-natured nature made him the ideal working dog, so he was used in the rural foothills of the Alps and in the Swiss midlands as a guard dog and as a draft animal.

In 1907, the Swiss Dürrbach Club (Dürrbach = place in the canton of Bern) established breed characteristics for the Bernese Mountain Dog for the first time, which is why it initially bore the breed name “Dürrbächler”. The Dürrbach Club began pure breeding the powerful dog breed, which soon became increasingly popular in neighboring Germany.

The Bernese Mountain Dog belongs to FCI Group 2, Section 3. The Swiss Mountain Dog Association for Germany e. V. looks after all four mountain dog breeds (Appenzeller, Bernese, Entlebucher, and Swiss mountain dog).

Bernese Mountain Dog: breed characteristics

Essence and temperament

Bernese Mountain Dogs are good-natured, affectionate, and very alert dogs with an even temperament. Their typical traits include alertness and fearlessness. They behave peacefully and confidently towards strangers, but also announce visitors loudly. The breed is known for its good behavior. Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally easy to train, although this should be done consistently with male dogs.

The big dogs still like to work and enjoy sporting activities as well as training as a companion dog or tracking dog. In addition to daily exercise, they also need playful activities, close family ties, and lots of attention.

Its keen sense of smell makes the Bernese Mountain Dog a reliable rescue dog.

To ensure that the four-legged friend also receives the best medical care for large and small emergencies, the DFV dog health insurance provides up to 100% reimbursement of costs for illness and surgeries. For the smaller and larger mishaps of the faithful four-legged friend, the dog owner’s liability insurance of the DFV offers worldwide reimbursement of costs for personal injury, property damage, and financial losses. So you are really covered for all skins and can discover the world together carefree.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is visually characterized by a medium-sized, strong stature. Males reach a height of 64 to 70 cm, females 58 to 66 cm. The weight is between 40 and 50 kg.

The fur is three-colored, long, shiny, and slightly wavy. The largest areas such as the neck, head, body, and tail are black, while the area of ​​the nose up to the forehead, parts of the chest and the paws are white. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs also have a white tail tip. There are brownish spots above the eyes. He is also equipped with brown fur in the cheek area, on the legs, and in small areas above the eyes.

The head of the Bernese Mountain Dog is strong, arched at the front, and has a small central furrow. They have a clear stop, a medium-length muzzle, and high, slightly rounded ears.

Education of the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy

Consistency is key when training the Bernese Mountain Dog. If you follow this principle, this four-legged friend is easy to train compared to other breeds.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are particularly willing to learn and have a strong sense of justice. They therefore also expect their owner to treat them fairly. You are also said to have a certain stubbornness. If you learn to deal with this, nothing stands in the way of a good life together.

Education should begin with learning the name. Always call the name when the dog associates something positive with it. If he lives up to his name, he should be given plenty of praise. Once the Bernese Mountain Dog listens to its name well, you can start learning more commands.

Due to the pronounced growth, the training with the puppies should be approached carefully. At the beginning, only short training sessions of a few minutes at a time are recommended. The animal should be able to move as naturally as possible. Climbing stairs or steep terrain is not healthy for puppies of this dog breed. As soon as the young animal shows signs of fatigue, they prefer to break off and let it rest. This protects the still soft joints.

At the beginning, only one reference person should take care of the training of the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. Many different people confuse him too much. After a few weeks, other family members can also devote themselves to the upbringing. However, they should give the same commands and orders as the primary caregiver. This gives the dog security and leads to success faster.

To get the puppy housebroken, you should take him outside immediately after every time he eats, drinks, plays, and wakes up from a nap, or generally schedule a walk every two hours. It is best to always be in the same place and always with a tow line. In this way, the dog gets to know walking as a ritual and knows that he will be praised for it.

Until the puppy actively announces itself, it is important to observe it closely. As soon as the dog sniffs the ground or turns around, this is a sure sign that he needs to defecate. The more mindful you are, the faster the Bernese Mountain Dog will become housebroken.

Puppies should be taught from the start that unnecessary barking will not be tolerated. If the dog signals a stranger, that’s fine, but then it should obey the command “out” or “quiet.” However, if the Bernese Mountain Dog gets too little exercise, it can start barking out of frustration to get its owner’s attention. In this case, however, you should not give it to him. Once the dog has calmed down, you can keep him busy. If you give him something to do in general and enough exercise, he won’t even think of barking unnecessarily.

Puppies should be introduced to being alone very slowly. Always say goodbye to the little four-legged friends with the same command like “stay” or “good” before you leave the room. If the dog is still in its place after a few minutes when you re-enter the room, give it plenty of praise. If he is no longer in place, he is ignored. You should always extend the period of absence by a few minutes. By the time the dog is a few months old, he should be left alone for an hour or two with no problem.

Activities with the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog enjoys physical work very much, which makes it an ideal draft dog and tracker, which is particularly valuable as a rescue and disaster dog. In addition, this dog breed enjoys popular sports. However, it is less suitable for sports such as agility, as this demands a high level of mobility and agility from the animals. Intense dog sports that require speed, dexterity, and agility are generally not suited to the Bernese Mountain Dog.

Sports for the Bernese Mountain Dog


The dog sport of obedience originated in Great Britain and was first introduced by the British German Shepherd Dog Breeding Club. Finally, in mid-2002, examination regulations for obedience (translated “obedience”) were laid down in Germany.

A well-rehearsed dog-human team is a prerequisite. Otherwise, any dog, regardless of size, breed, parentage, and age, can take part in the training sessions and obedience tournaments. In addition to obedience, social compatibility with other people and dogs also plays an important role. The dog should carry out all exercises quickly, precisely, and with joyful zeal.

Obedience is divided into four performance levels: beginner class, class 1, class 2, class 3. Each level includes ten different exercises of increasing difficulty, in which u. fetched flawlessly and the position had to be changed. It is not about speed, but about concentrated and precise work as well as feeling and harmony between man and dog. The basics of obedience are the well-known commands “sit”, “down”, “stay”, and “heel”.

Clicker training

With clicker training, dogs are motivated to behave in the desired way by an acoustic signal (click) and the associated reward. The principle is based on findings from behavioral research.

All you need for clicker training is treats (preferably healthy) and a clicker. The clicker produces a neutral sound that is uncommon and, unlike the human voice, devoid of emotion. The actuation of the clicker is also much faster than a spoken command or praise. The short “Knick-Knack” is intended to give the dog a precise signal that it has done its job well and is receiving a reward for it.

In order for this link to work, the dog must learn that a tasty reward follows the click. So he first goes through the “classical conditioning”. The clicking sound acts as a “secondary reinforcement” that heralds the “primary reinforcement” (the treat). The combination of both reinforcers should lead to a desired action of the dog.

You can use the clicker for practical dog training exercises as well as for sporting activities.

A particularly popular clicker exercise is target training. The dog learns to touch a pointer (target) or the finger of the holder with its nose and to follow it.

Draft dog sport

The draft dog sport has its origins in the sled dog sport of Siberia and even today sled dogs are still an important means of transport in some regions of Siberia. In Switzerland, the mountain dogs pulled milk churns by wagon to the cheese dairy on their own.

Nowadays, the dog pulls the owner either directly on a leash (canicross) or on a vehicle. The vehicle can be the traditional dog sled, a bicycle, a handcart, or a similar combination.

Before the first training, the dog should be accustomed to the vehicle and harness. At the same time, he should be trained to listen to the commands “Start”, “Stop”, “Right/Left” and “Faster/Slower”. So that he understands the commands, you can, for example, call out “Left” and clearly move to the left.

As a rule of thumb, a suitable dog should have a shoulder height of 50 cm and a weight of 25 kg. Accordingly, the Bernese Mountain Dog is ideally suited.

Bernese Mountain Dog: grooming

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s coat should be brushed out at least every two days. In the change of coat, daily grooming is recommended, preferably with a wide-toothed comb. Brushing promotes blood circulation and prevents tangles. Eyes, ears, mouth, and paws should also be checked regularly for abnormalities. Brushing your teeth with a dog toothbrush is also important. The Bernese Mountain Dog only needs a bath in exceptional cases.

Bernese Mountain Dog: Nutrition

The following applies in particular to puppies of large dog breeds: the food should not be too high in protein, as this can promote diseases during growth.

Rearing food is recommended up to the age of around 20 months. The entire organism as well as the bones are optimally cared for, so that young dogs can develop well and do not grow too quickly.

For large dogs such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, foods with large kibble are suitable.

The right dog food should:

  • essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as vitamin C, copper, zinc, and valuable fatty acids
  • consist of high-quality ingredients of natural origin
  • do not contain any synthetic additives such as colorings, flavorings, or preservatives
    be highly digestible.

Bernese Mountain Dog: Typical diseases and breed-related problems

Kidney diseases (chronic renal failure, CRF):

In the Bernese Mountain Dog, genetic components, immunological factors, tumors, or even inflammation of the urinary tract can contribute to the development of chronic kidney failure. The symptoms are varied and are expressed, among other things, by nausea, vomiting, bad breath, or diarrhea. In addition, high levels of urea in the blood can lead to apathy, muscle spasms, seizures, or coma.

In the case of pre-existing kidney disease, a diet feed should be administered to support kidney function. This has a low protein content without creating a deficiency and is also low in phosphorus and sodium. By adding certain raw fibers and buffer salts, toxins are already trapped in the intestine. Antioxidants such as vitamin C or E, taurine, or carotenoids can intercept and neutralize free radicals.

Hip Dysplasia (HD) and Elbow Dysplasia (ED):

Many large dog breeds suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia. With these diseases, there is either deformation of the hip joint or a change in the elbow joint.

Although these breed-specific diseases are genetic, they can be influenced by a healthy diet. In the growth phase in particular, young animals should be given food with an adapted energy content in order to prevent them from growing too quickly. The calcium and phosphorus content also has an influence on bone health and thus on the development of the Bernese Mountain Dog.

In adult dogs, it is important to avoid obesity through proper nutrition and plenty of exercises, as this puts additional strain on the joints.

Is the Bernese Mountain Dog right for me?

Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large dog breed and do well in an environment appropriate to their size. A small apartment is, therefore, less suitable than a large house with a garden.

In addition, you should spend enough time on employment and care. In most cases, a full-time job in the office is difficult to reconcile with the training and occupation of a large dog. The Bernese Mountain Dog needs a lot of exercises and is a persistent walker.

Before purchasing, the cost factor regarding food, veterinarian, and insurance should also be considered. Depending on the type of feed, you have to reckon with 100 to 150 euros per month for food alone.

Is the Bernese Mountain Dog a family dog?

The patient, loyal and harmonious nature of the Bernese Mountain Dog makes it the perfect family dog. For the four-legged friend, the family is like a pack in which he thrives when he is integrated into all activities. Representatives of this breed are protective of children and are also quite patient with them. Nevertheless, small children should never be left alone with a dog.

When dealing with other dogs or other pets in the family, the Bernese Mountain Dog is almost always completely relaxed, which is mainly due to its high stimulus threshold.

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