Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a beautiful breed which appeals to families everywhere.


The Bernese Mountain Dog (BMD) originates in the remote region of the Swiss mountains and valleys. They can be traced back to around 1000 AD when farmers kept large Swiss working dogs to guard their fields. The poorer farmers kept smaller dogs as they were more economical to keep. The role of these mountain dogs ranged from herding cattle to protecting property and people. Later on, around 1850, these sturdy dogs were given a new task: they were kept by the owners of cheeseries and were used for pulling carts loaded with dairy supplies. With no established name for these dogs, the farmers began to name them according to their markings, for example, those with little white facial markings were known as "Bari" dogs, which means "little bear".

The mountain dogs became popular in their region because they were so useful for these tasks. Despite this the breed remained fairly obscure, firstly because it was only found in remote regions and secondly because there was another hugely popular large breed at that time: The St. Bernard. It wasn't until 1892 that an innkeeper called Franz Schertenleib managed to renew people's interest in the farmer's dogs by starting to actively breed them. Around 1902, these "Durbach" dogs (named after the main breeding hub in their region) finally came to the attention of the Swiss Kennel Club thanks to a small group of fanciers. A breed club was formed soon afterwards, and the mountain dogs were renamed the Berner Sennenhund which roughly translates as "the Bernese alpine herdsman's dog". Over time, the breed club managed to establish a set of differences to define the breed against other Alpine mountain breeds and over the next few decades breeders set about refining the traits and temperament of the breed.


The Bernese looks a bit like a large teddy bear and he has an endearing personality to match. He is quite a confident, calm and collected dog which makes him a very pleasant family pet. Within the family unit or "pack", he tends to be loyal, protective and affectionate. These dogs can be aloof with strangers, so adequate exposure to lots of different people is essential during puppyhood. Despite the fact that the Bernese Mountain Dog has a long heritage as a working dog, he makes a fantastic family pet and is happiest when around human companions. When indoors, he is quite calm and docile which makes him easy to have around the house. In addition, he makes a good guard dog and is always alert to changes in his environment, becoming quite protective (though never aggressive) at times. Because of his working heritage, he craves physical and mental challenges and needs to be given plenty of games and tasks to nurture his herding instincts. A large garden is a must for this breed.

Finally, this lovable mountain dog adores children but because of his size and his physical strength, he is probably not suitable to keep if you have very young children.


The Bernese Mountain Dog has a low life expectancy when compared to other breeds, and will usually live for between 7 and 10 years. One of the reasons for this is that he is prone to cancer, so you will need to pay extra attention to any symptoms that arise in your dog. Other illnesses that the breed can be prone to include bloat (which can cause a fatal twisting of the stomach), eyelid problems, and hip and elbow dysplasia. In addition, the Bernese can have trouble with weight gain, so exercise and diet must be given special attention. Lastly, the thick warm coat that gives the Bernese his wonderful fluffy appearance can cause him to overheat in hot weather, so he must never be left unsupervised in the sun.


The Bernese has a magnificent double thickness coat that is long and silky. However, it does shed quite a bit, so be prepared to keep on top of this. Ideally you should groom him several times a week to get rid of the excess fur and keep the coat in top condition. In general, if it is a period of heavy shedding then you will need to increase the frequency of your grooming sessions. Use a soft bristled brush and be sure to get down to the soft undercoat, which needs to be kept free from matts. When your Bernese Mountain Dog gets particularly mucky or starts to give off a doggy odour, you can give him a bath but only when absolutely necessary. Bathing such a large dog is no easy task!


Exercise is a hugely important part of this lovable dog's lifestyle, for health reasons (to avoid weight gain) and

because he needs mental stimulation. His working heritage means he needs to feel like he's being productive and he loves being challenged. If you enjoy backpacking and hiking, your Bernese will be delighted to join you. If there are any carting or weight pulling events where you live, you also have the perfect candidate in this dog! Obedience and agility classes are also great ways to keep your Bernese occupied and happy. If you volunteer, think about enrolling him as a therapy dog – his calm nature and gorgeous appearance will bring a smile to many faces. Ideally, you should give this breed at least an hour of exercise a day and you will also need a garden so he has plenty of space.

Gallery of Bernese Mountain Dog