A Bernese Mountain dog encapsulates the idea that you reap rewards when you invest time and energy into an endeavor, because the breed requires a high level commitment from its owner. While it may not be the most ground breaking advice, as any pure bred dog owner knows, it requires a great deal of work to care for any animal, but it may be the type of work you are interested in investing that differentiates your dog selection, and in the case of the Bernese Mountain dog, exercise, training, grooming and quality family time are the elements you will need to balance, along with managing a potentially degenerative health profile in the aged pet common to a large breed.
The Bernese Mountain dog, like most breeds, resulted from the combination of two other breeds that had desirable traits for the people who cared for them. According to most accounts, the Romans brought the large Mastiff to Switzerland and bred it with a smaller lower Alps Swiss herding dog, yielding the tri-colored, hardy and mild-tempered Bernese Mountain dog. A working dog at heart, the dog was bred to pull carts on a farm, a skill that is rarely utilized today. In order to still direct and exercise its need for physical accomplishment, an owner must train and exercise a Bernese Mountain dog, or use its strength recreationally, in pulling a sled, for example. Its pulling weight capacity is estimated at between 1,000 and 2,200 pounds.
The Bernese Mountain dog is as tall as many other large breed dogs, measuring as high as 27 inches at the shoulder, but its weight can be proportionately greater due to the weather protective fat layer built in to its physiology. At 70 to 120 pounds, it outweighs a Labrador Retriever by as much as 30 percent. What this means for an owner is a significant amount of food, exercise, training, grooming and maintenance to ensure the large and significant family pet is fully cared for.
- It requires a large outdoor space to roam, but has a sensitive personality and should reside indoors with the family to avoid depression.
- Puppy training can last for as long as a year. The Bernese Mountain dog is an eager but slow learner, and will need patient and routine correction to control its large physique, instinct to herd and roam and occasionally wayward tail that can sweep a table in a single gesture.
- A cold weather climate is ideal, which mimics the snowy, mountainous conditions of their native Switzerland.
- Family friendly is key here, however, the Bernese Mountain dog prefers to play with other dogs, and bonds with humans by leaning on and interacting alongside of them.
- Some rescue dogs are available, but the majority are sold by breeders. A large dog comes with health risks, such as joint degeneration, and a good breeder will offer transparent documentation that realistically portrays a puppy’s potential health profile.
- The two-layered coat sheds considerably during season changes and a daily brushing is essential to avoid matting. Otherwise, grooming is relatively low maintenance and requires about two hours per week. Frequent vacuuming will be an additional task.
- The estimated costs associated with owning a Bernese Mountain dog are the following: puppy purchase: $1,000 to $2,000; food: $400 per year; veterinary and other expenses: $400.
A Swiss proverb regarding the lifespan of a Bernese Mountain dog says, “Three years a young dog, three years a good dog, three years an old dog … all else a gift from God.” In other words, a large breed may infuse a grander scale of life into an owner-pet relationship, but it also retires earlier, and the average eight to 10 year life expectancy could be a deterent for the tender-hearted.
The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America website is a comprehensive resource that answers frequently asked questions and the staff can respond to specific inquiries related to the Bernese Mountain dog.