Choosing a Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese mountain dog is an ancient breed that was used for cow herding and as a draft dog in Switzerland. The breed is becoming popular in the United States.

History and Origin

The Bernese mountain dog is one of the four Swiss mountain dog breeds, which include the Greater Swiss mountain dog, Appenzell cattle dog and Entlebuch cattle dog. The Bernese mountain dog is the only one with a long silky coat. It is thought that the breed originated when Roman soldiers brought mastiffs to Switzerland. These mastiffs were then bred to native flock-guarding dogs, resulting in a dog that had protective and guarding qualities and was able to withstand the cold Swiss environment. Over time, however, the Bernese mountain dog was almost driven to extinction in the 1800s.

In 1882, a few dedicated dog breeders took it upon themselves to rescue the Bernese mountain dog from oblivion. They were able to find several remaining dogs and began an intense breeding program. By 1907, a special club had been formed. In 1926, the first Bernese mountain dog was brought to the United States. In 1937, the American Kennel Club recognized the Bernese mountain dog in the working breed class.

Appearance and Size

The Bernese mountain dog has a short, massive head, dark eyes and V-shaped ears. The tail is covered with long hair and the body is strong and muscular. The coat is tri-color with double thickness. The coat is shiny, smooth, long and wavy. The color is mostly black with patches of brown just above the feet and above the eyes. There is also white on the chest, face, feet and sometimes at the tip of the tail.

The adult Bernese mountain dog is a large, sturdy, powerful dog that stands 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weighs 85 to 110 pounds.


The Bernese mountain dog is an intelligent, beautiful dog that is sweet and loving. Most members of this breed are outgoing and love people.

Home and Family Relations

The Bernese mountain dog is an alert, energetic and loyal companion dog. They love to play and run with children or just hang out and keep a watchful eye open. The Bernese mountain dog gets along with other household pets. They become very attached to their families, and after 18 months of age have trouble adjusting to a new family.


The Bernese mountain dog needs to be socialized and should begin basic obedience training at a very young age. They become well adjusted to most situations with proper training. This breed is intelligent and learns quickly.


The Bernese mountain dog needs daily brushing to keep the coat clean and free of tangles or mats.

Special Care

The Bernese mountain dog prefers cooler climates. When exposed to hot and humid environments, this breed is prone to overheating.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the Bernese mountain dog is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Gastric torsion (bloat) is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Elbow dysplasia is the abnormal development of certain parts of the elbow joint during the growing phase.
  • Osteocondrosis of the shoulder is congenital problem that causes degenerative joint disease of the shoulder joint.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Heat stroke can occur when dogs are exposed to excessively high environmental temperatures and do not have the ability to dissipate heat, often due to a thick hair coat.

    In addition, although these occur infrequently, the following disorders have also been reported:

  • Color dilution alopecia is a disease that causes hair loss.
  • Nasal Depigmentation is the loss of normal pigmentation over the nose region in some dogs. Seasonal depigmentation is also seen in this breed.

    Life Span

    The life span of the Bernese mountain dog is approximately 8 to 10 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.