1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
3. Looking for a Bernese Mountain Dog ?
8. Intelligence / Trainability
9. Children and Other Pets
11. Caring for a Bernese Mountain Dog
15. Average Cost to keep/care for a Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog hails from Switzerland where they are highly prized as working dogs. They are true gentle giants and make wonderful family pets and companions as long as owners have enough time to spend with them. Always eager to please, the BMD is known to be good around children, they are loyal and affectionate characters by nature and boast being among the most intelligent dogs on the planet.
They are a great choice for first time dog owners, but they do need to be given lots of daily exercise as well as mental stimulation to be truly happy, well-balanced characters. Then there's the cost of keeping a Bernese Mountain Dog which works out more expensive than other breeds all thanks to their large size.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is thought to have an ancestry that dates back to Roman times when this type of dog was used to herd cattle through the Alps. They belong to a group of dogs called “Sennenhund”. There are three others in the group with the BMD being the second largest of their kind. As these dogs became popular in different regions of their native Switzerland, each community developed a specific type of dog to suit their needs. As such the four types of Sunnenhund were created which are the Entlebucher, the smallest dog of this type, the Appenzeller which is slightly bigger, the Bernese and lastly the Great Swiss Mountain Dog.
Early in the 20th century, Professor Heim a huge fan of the breed worked hard to establish the dogs we see today stating that "the Bernese Mountain Dog is the loveliest dog to be found anywhere" all thanks to their loyalty, alertness and affectionate natures whether in a working or home environment.
Height at withers: Males 64 – 70 cm, Females 58 – 66 cm
Average weight: Males 35 – 55 kg, Females 35 – 45 kg
Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, being the second biggest of the four Sunnerhunds working dogs. They are quite similar looking to a Golden Retriever only heavier and they boast a stockier build. They are attractive dogs with a personality that matches their sturdy good looks. However, it's their lovely colouring that really makes these dogs stand out from the crowd.
These dogs boast striking features with a well-defined stop over a straight, strong muzzle. Their eyes are almond-shaped and dark brown in colour. Ears are medium in size and triangular in shape and they are set high on a dog's head. When relaxed their ears lie flat, but when alert or excited, dogs raise them slightly pointing forward.
A Bernese boasts a strong jaw line with a perfect scissor bite where they upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are muscular and strong being medium in length. Forequarters boast being well-muscled, long with sloping shoulders which are at a very distinct angle. Their front legs are straight and well boned. These dogs are compact looking with shorter rather than longer bodies. They boast a broad chest and a nice deep brisket with well-defined ribcages and strong, powerful loins and a firm and level back going to a smooth, well-rounded rump.
Their hindquarters are strong and broad being well-muscled and their back legs are well developed. Their feet are compact, short and round in shape. The Bernese boasts a bushy tail which they raise when working or alert, but which they never curl over their backs.
When it comes to their coat, Bernese Mountain Dogs boast a silky and soft coat that has a natural sheen. Their hair is long and slightly wavy showing no curl at all. As previously mentioned, the BMD boasts a smart and attractive coat which is jet black with dogs having reddish markings on their cheeks, over their eyes as well as on their chests and all four legs. They also have a very striking white blaze and white markings on their chests giving them a very distinguished look. Dogs also have white paws although some don't which is also acceptable as a breed standard.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is known to be a highly intelligent character and one that is a pleasure to be around. They are a good choice for first time owners as long as people have the time needed to spend with these dogs because they need a lot in the way of exercise, mental stimulation and grooming. Being such large dogs, the BMD also needs to have the space to move around and they do not tolerate being left on their own for long periods of time especially when still young.
Bernese Mountain Dogs usually reach their adult height when they are around 15 months old, but they take a lot longer to reach full maturity which can take anything from 2 to 3 years. They are known to be fun-loving characters, but if not well socialised at a young age and trained correctly, they can become a little boisterous and unruly, behaviours that can be hard to correct further down the line.
However, when well-handled and correctly trained, these dogs boast calm and even temperaments showing a lot of loyalty and affection as well as patience towards their owners and more especially towards younger members of a family. These dogs relish being part of the family and like nothing more than to be involved in everything that goes on in a household.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is intelligent and they always like to please which makes them quite easy to train, but their education needs to start really early because if left until a dog is older, it can result in a Bernese being a little too boisterous and unruly making it harder to handle such a large dog. Puppies have to be well socialised from a young age too for them to grow up to be confident characters.
As previously mentioned, the Bernese Mountain Dog is known to be a real gentle giant, always calm and placid especially when children are around. They adore the company of people and this includes kids. However, because of their large size, it's always best to make sure any interaction between a dog and children is supervised by an adult so that things don't get too boisterous which could result in a toddler getting knocked over.
In general, the BMD tolerates other animals and is good around them, rarely do these dogs show any sort of aggressive behaviour. However, they do need to be well socialised from a young age to be truly well-rounded so they get on with cats and other small pets commonly kept in the home.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is between 7 to 8 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality, well-balanced diet to suit their ages.
In general, these dogs are healthy characters, but like so many other pure breeds, the BMD is prone to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning to share your home with one of them. The health issues most commonly seen in the breed include the following:
As with other breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and so they don’t put on too much weight. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality, well-balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives. The other thing to bear in mind is that the cost of looking after a Bernese Mountain Dog is a lot higher than that of many other breeds thanks to their larger size.
To keep a BMD’s coat looking good takes a bit of work which means it's important to set up a grooming routine for them. The earlier a puppy is taught that being brushed is a nice experience, the easier it is to keep on top of things when they are adult dogs. As such, these dogs need grooming at least once a week, but ideally they need to be brushed more often to prevent any knots and tangles forming in their coats. Like other breeds, the BMD sheds more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is necessary to keep on top of things and any loose hair off the furniture.
It's also important to keep an eye on their ears because air cannot circulate as well as it should. Moisture tends to build up in a dog's ear canal, creating the perfect environment for a yeast infection to take hold. This type of infection can be notoriously hard to clear up.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large and athletic character which means they need a good two hours’ exercise on a daily basis. They also need to be given lots of mental stimulation because keeping their minds busy will fend off the chance of boredom setting in. It's important to remember they are highly intelligent dogs which in short means they need to be kept busy both mentally and physically to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs.
However, the BMD is a relaxed character and not demanding which means that if they are only taken on a shorter walk from time to time, they would be perfectly okay with things. However, these dogs do not do well when left to their own devices for too long. Puppies only need a little exercise to begin with and it's important not to overdo things because too much exercise puts extra strain on their joints, ligaments and bones which are still developing. This could cause problems further down the line when these dogs are older.
With this said, the breed is prone to obesity which means keeping a careful eye on a dog's waist line and to feed them according to the amount of exercise they are given to ensure they never carry too much weight.
If you get a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop a digestive upset in the process and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their diet again.
Mature Bernese Mountain Dogs need to be fed a good quality, well-balanced diet and it has to be one that suits the different stages of their lives. However, contrary to what you may think, they don't need to be fed vast volumes of food once they have matured. Over-feeding a dog would lead to obesity and this could shorten their already short life spans considerably.
If you are looking to buy a Bernese Mountain Dog, you would need to pay anything from £500 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a 3-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog in northern England would be £53.69 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £102.04 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Bernese Mountain Dog and this includes their initial vaccinations, their boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to over a £1500 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Bernese Mountain Dog would be between £120 to £200 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.
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