Information on Bernese Mountain Dog


Even though we are based in Cork, Ireland, the Bernese Mountain dog has only been in Ireland since the 1970’s. I hope you find the following information helpful !

The Bernese Mountain Dog was developed as a companion dog and does best when integrated into a family’s home and lifestyle. These dogs are often very dependent on their owners and some can be come difficult to manage if left unattended for long hours everyday. Bernese puppies require several months of extensive attention to housebreak and train. An owner can count on about six to twelve months of time to be devoted to house breaking and teaching a puppy basic dog manners. Bernese Mountain Dog pups can be very destructive if left to their own devices. Safe toys should be provided to accommodate the puppy’s desire to chew during the teething stage. The use of a good sized dog crate will prevent destructive habits from developing and potentially can save a dog’s life. Bernese puppies should not be left unattended for long hours. The early development of a good working relationship and trust between dog and owner will lead to a rewarding life together. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large dog. The breed is not well suited to environments or owners where exercise is not possible or convenient. These dogs were developed as working farm dogs, not as lap dogs. Even so, most Bernese Mountain Dogs will be delighted to make a visit to their owner’s lap when invited. Exercise requirements for the breed are somewhat variable, depending on the Bernese Mountain Dog’s temperament and energy level. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day will keep most Bernese Mountain Dogs in good physical condition. Some dogs will require three times that amount of exercise to be satisfied and kept in shape. Bernese Mountain Dogs need exercise through out their lifetimes. Bernese puppies should never be forced to exercise for long periods nor should they be kept from walking or running under safe, supervised conditions.

Bernese puppies should NEVER he allowed to roughhouse with older dogs, as permanent injury to growing bones, joints, muscles and ligaments may occur. Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally good-natured. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs can be reserved and even fearful of strangers. Some Bernese Mountain Dogs can be dog aggressive which makes them unsuitable for multiple dog households. The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the most enjoyable of the large breeds. The devoted loyalty, sense of humor, easygoing, quiet natured, strong will to serve and affectionate qualities make the breed a good family pet. Bernese Mountain Dogs are typically excellent with children, as they tend to recognize a child and immediately quiet all actions. While some Bernese Mountain Dogs may be aloof with strangers, this should not be confused with shyness. When company visits your home, many Bernese Mountain Dogs will watch the situation for a little while before coming to accept a visitor with a quiet approach followed by leaning into the visitor’s leg. This is how Bernese became know as ‘leaners’, which is especially true of the males. A must for all Bernese is socialization and training. Attending puppy socialization classes, and at a minimum beginning obedience classes at a local kennel club or private dog training facility are highly recommended to maximize a BMD’s chances of becoming a canine good citizen. Many Bernese do very well in advanced obedience courses, conformation, drafting, tracking, agility, etc. Owners should look forward to a lifetime of training and working with their BMD. Most Bernese do best when trained with enthusiasm and a kind but firm hand. Most are very willing to please but some can be quite stubborn. Some Bernese are very smart and want to do things their own way which provides their owners with training challenges. Hard hands and harsh training methods can easily break the spirit of many Bernese Mountain Dogs. The Bernese Mountain Dog carries a heavy coat requiring considerable grooming. When Bernese cast off their coats, daily brushing may be required to keep hair to a minimum in a home environment. Removal of hair coat as it is being shed is also necessary for the dog to maintain healthy skin condition. Count on grooming and vacuuming often (daily) to keep floors, furniture and the children free of Bernese Mountain Dog fur. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with Bernese Mountain Dog health issues, discussed later.

The #1 cause of death in all domestic dogs is US: people! About a third of the dogs born never see their second birthday. They are euthanized as unwanted, abandoned or lost dogs in shelters; others die getting hit by a car when running loose. The cheapest form of health insurance is buying a lead, learning how to use it, and training your dog.

The Swiss have a saying about the lifespan of Bernese Mountain Dogs…
They say, ‘three years a young dog, three years a good dog, three years an old dog … all else a gift from God’. At this time, the average age of a Bernese Mountain Dog at death is about 7 years, though many books say the average life span is 10 to 12 years.

Structural problems can afflict our dogs. Hip dysplasia (HD) is a progressive, degenerative disease involving malformation of the hip socket joint. HD ranges from very mild with no apparent effects, to severe requiring surgical correction or euthanasia. Hip dysplasia appears to have both genetic and environmental causes. The term ‘hips clear* is often utilized to imply a dog is structurally sound. Hips aren’t the only boney structure that can be unsound. Current data suggests that in BMDs, there may be more elbows dysplasia (ED) and OCD of the shoulders than there is HD. Soft tissue injuries to ligaments and muscles can result in lameness as can Panosteitis, a developmental condition that causes pain in long bones during growth. Any persistent lameness requires examination by a veterinarian.

The oldest organization for evaluating joint status is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Radiographs (X-rays) of a dog’s hips or elbows are analyzed by radiologists to determine the presence or absence of orthopedic disease. Hips or elbows deemed free of dysplasia will get a numbered OFA certificate with a rating of Fair, Good, or Excellent. If there is evidence of dysplasia, no number is assigned. An OFA # on a parent does NOT necessarily mean the offspring will have good joints, but breeding from parents not affected by orthopedic disease is important to conscientious breeders. PennHIP also evaluates hip status. Breeders should provide evidence their dogs have been screened for orthopedic disease.

Bernese Mountain Dogs have a body type which makes them susceptible to bloat, which can be a life threatening emergency medical situation. This can run in families.

Individual dogs can be affected by a variety of ailments that affect longevity and quality of life. Among the most common problems are cancers, autoimmune disorders, hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, thyroid disorders, bowel disorders, torsion and bloat, eye disorders including PRA, cataracts and entropia. It is always best to inquire with individual breeders as to what health problems may be more or less prevalent in the families of dogs from which their breeding stock comes. No family of Bernese Mountain Dogs is free from health problems typically seen in the breed. Most breeders conduct genetic testing on dogs they are using for breeding purposes. Most breeders pay very close attention to selection of breeding pairs to minimize the occurrence of health problems. No breeder can offer you a 100% guarantee that the pup you get will not face health challenges.

Many Bernese can live long healthy lives. But, awareness of health issues by both breeders and owners is essential to enhance management and improve the quality of dog’s lives. Genetics and health are interlocked in many cases so breeder understanding of health issues that exist in families of Bernese is essential if improvements in health and soundness are to be made over generations of breeding.
Berner-Garde maintains an open data base of health and orthopedic information for the Bernese. Berner-Garde ( resources are accessible by contacting either BernerGarde or through any club.


  • Provide safe nurturing conditions for their dogs and for any dogs they place with other owners – Because the welfare of BMDs should be the paramount goal of any breeder.
  • Learn about your interests and goals in dog ownership – Because if the breed or individual dog and its owner aren’t well suited to each other, the dog could develop behavior or health problems causing the owner and the dog to be discontented.
  • Know their family of dogs well and will not place a dog before they know if a dog is a good match with the lifestyle and expectations of the buyer – Because every family of dogs possesses unique traits and has its own particular management concerns which affect the dog’s suitability for its owner.
  • Be committed to developing and sharing information on BMD health and management issues – By having a resource, who can offer valuable dog management advice, you can save time and money, and maximize your effectiveness training and—caring for your dog.
  • Believe it is important to have extensive information on the health, structure and character, plus any other useful information about their dogs and those dogs’ ancestors, before undertaking any breeding – Because you are more likely to get a dog that will live a long life in good health, if breeding dogs are paired to maximize family strengths and minimize family weaknesses
  • Will never tell you that their dogs come from pedigrees with no health problems – The fact is, ALL BMD pedigrees contain dogs with good and problematic traits. A breeder who is able to assess and represent an accurate picture of their breeding program is realistic and honest
  • Will try to gather and share pertinent genetic information on their breeding dogs, which includes providing, upon request, copies of certifications for hips, elbows, eyes, heart, thyroid, and von Willebrands disease as issued by recognized registries such as OFA, GDC, CERF, etc… – When dogs produced, from a well executed breeding strategy, undergo genetic screening, the information can be applied by the breeder to make breeding choices that minimizes faults in ALL dogs, both future breeding animals as well as those placed as non-breeding pets.
  • Will not sell breeding/show stock to owners who are not seriously interested in pursuing those objectives – Breed/show stock often cost more and require a considerable commitment of time and resources by both the breeder and the owner
  • Provides you with a pedigree of the puppy, including health, structure and temperament information on the parents and ancestors – Because the depth of pedigree information that a breeder has and provides allows both the breeder and you to have a firmer grasp of what can be expected in Bernese puppies and adult dogs
  • Provides you with a written contract before there is any exchange of money, including a deposit – It is important for you to have a written record outlining the breeder’s and your responsibilities, including definition of what kind of dog and services you are paying for.
  • Will clarify, to your satisfaction, any unclear contractual obligations or any notable conditions which could act to nullify or change any guarantees – Allows you to be assured that the contract you will sign, at the time you get your dog, is a workable and acceptable agreement between you and the breeder.
  • Provides you with copies of IKC registrations for both the sire and dam – Proves your puppy is a purebred BMD,
  • Takes pride in how their dogs are kept and will have no problem with you scheduling a visit to their property .. -Allows you to meet the dogs and their owners so you can see the conditions and assess the character of the breeder and their dogs
  • Will never sell pups or dogs to agents, brokers or pet shops – Because the resellers’ focus is not the welfare of dogs but is for the resellers’ financial gain Accept lifetime responsibility for dogs they place, including assisting in re-homing a dog if necessary – No breeder should ever be responsible for adding to society’s burden of unwanted, homeless animals.
  • Will provide veterinary references and/or references of people who already own dogs from the breeder. – Vet references or references from people who have actually bought dogs from the breeder allows you to get someone else’s view of that breeder.

All dogs for breeding should be:

  • All Bernese puppies should be Offered optimal conditions conducive to their survival and adjustment from birth until they are ready to be adopted by their new family.


  • Breeders engaged in perpetuating any breed should take the breeding of dogs seriously. The decision to produce offspring from a carefully selected breeding pair requires that both breeder and stud dog owner make every effort to ensure that progeny will be good examples of the breed. – Breeders also make special efforts in selecting homes for their pups so they will live happy lives with people who appreciate their value and will provide necessities for the pup to develop and maintain a good life.
  • Open, honest sharing of facts concerning health, structure, temperament and type characteristics of BMDs is essential. Every breeding dog came from a family of dogs. Understanding all assessable traits possessed by families of dogs, in addition to accurate evaluation of traits possessed by individual dogs used for breeding is critical to insuring a promising future for the breed.
  • Bernese puppies should be carefully evaluated and placed by the breeder.
  • Effort should be made to determine that the owner’s management and home will be adequate to meet the dog’s needs and NOT result in the dog becoming a public burden or nuisance.

Though initially BMDs may appear to be the ideal pet there are disadvantages!
The following are some points that require thought and considerations before you bring a BMD into your home:

Before bringing a BMD into your family, every family member should be willing to accept responsibility for the needs of the dog. We believe owning a BMD is for life – if you think they are disposable, please consider buying a stuffed animal.

BMDs are a large breed. Males range in height from 24″-27.5″ at the shoulder and weigh from 85-120 pounds. Females stand from 23″- 26″ and weigh between 65-100 pounds. BMDs have active tails that can make clean sweeps of tables. Uncluttered houses and yards are a must.

BMDs need human companionship
They can not be confined in isolation for long periods and must be made a part of the family.

Due to their size and heavy black coat, BMDs require shelter from inclement weather (hot summer sun for example) ~ a shady retreat with plenty of fresh water at all times is a must if the BMD is to spend any time outdoors.

BMDs need consistent daily exercise (30 minutes a day is usually sufficient). If not they may have trouble in adjusting to the calm house pet role that most owners expect. Remember if you are looking for a dog to jog with you 365 days a year this is not the breed for you.

BMDs are long and double coated and blow their coats usually twice a year. Because of their coat brushing every few days is to your advantage. Bathing, brushing their coat and teeth, and trimming nails are basic regular requirements. If you require a fastidiously kept house, don’t get a BMD. There will ALWAYS be dog hair around, especially on rugs, furniture and, oh yes, in your food! All family members should visit with BMDs before bringing one into your home to make sure no one is allergic to BMD fur.

Health and Care
Hip and elbow dysplasia and cancer are concerns for all BMD owners. Most breeds have some of these conditions, and some BMDs will never have these problems; but we think it best for you to know the worst. If you want more information about these conditions, please contact us and we will help you. Veterinary care is important with yearly routine examinations, yearly vaccines, heartworm and parasite checks and heartworm preventative medication. Feeding one dog for a year will cost approximately $300 to $400 or more, depending on the type of food and any supplementation provided. Veterinary expenses for the first year (puppy) will be between $100 and $400, depending on the veterinarian chosen and the locale. Though many expenses are hidden in other bills (food, dishes, leashes, collars, treats, brushes, shampoos, training classes and toys), they exist!

Everyone owning a Bernese Mountain Dog should make their dog a good canine citizen. Moreover Bernese Mountain Dogs’ tend to be sensitive or soft in many situations They must be handled carefully with a loving, firm but nonetheless gentle hand. An obedience course is a must for a dog of this size, but it must be one that focuses on positive reinforcement – not harsh corrections.

Though Bernese Mountain Dogs may bark and growl defensively it is not instinctive for them to attack. Bernese Mountain Dogs can be protective of family and property, but if you are looking for a vicious guard dog, look to another breed. Fencing – A fenced garden is ideal with fencing at a minimum of four to five feet high. A Bernese Mountain Dog should not run at large and become a public nuisance.

Very few people own only one Bernese Mountain Dog. We simply find them habit forming. They are not cheaper by the dozen, however, and two BMDs cannot live as cheaply as one, and so on, and so on.

On the breed

  • The Bernese Mountain Dog (Cochrane)
  • The Bernese Mountain Dog (Crawford)
  • Bernese Mountain Dog (Ostermiller)
  • The Beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog (Russ & Rogers)
  • The Complete Bernese Mountain Dog (Simonds)
  • The New Bernese Mountain Dog (Smith)
  • The Bernese Mountain Dog Today (Willis & Davenport)

On showing and breeding

  • Born to Win (Craig Trotter)
  • About Dogs and Dog Shows (Stern & Stern)
  • Junior Showmanship from Hand to Lead (Miller)
  • Show Me! A Dog Showing Primer (Coile)
  • The Winning Edge (Alston)
  • Canine Reproduction & Genetics
  • Canine Reproduction (Holst)
  • The Whelping and Rearing of Bernese puppies (Lee)
  • Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders (Willis)
  • Control of Canine Genetic Diseases (Padgett D.V.M.)


  • Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (Pitcairn and Pitcairn)
  • Pet First Aid (Mammato, DVM)
  • Taking Care of Your Dog (Gerstenfeld,DVM)
  • Holistic Guide to a Healthy Dog (Volhard and Brown)
  • Give Your Dog a Bone (Billinghurst)

Obedience Training/Behavior

  • Canine Good Citizen (J. Volhard, W. Volhard)
  • Training Your Dog – The Step-by-Step Manual(Volhard & Fisher)
  • Best Foot Forward, Successful Obedience Handling (Handler)
  • Good Owners Great Dogs (Kilcommons, Wilson)
  • Positive Results (Pivar & Nelson)
  • Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence (Benjamin)

‘Old saying’
The Swiss saying “Three years a puppy, three years a good dog, three years an old dog and the rest is a gift” is an accurate description of the Bernese Mountain Dog. Bernese Mountain Dogs will continue to lay down bone, put on width and substance, and heads will continue to broaden well into the second and third year of life. Young dogs are rarely as together structurally, appearance or behavior wise as mature three or four year olds. By the time individual dogs in this breed reach 5-7, they should be in glorious in coat; their structure set; they should be calm and self assured; they are in full body and are, ideally, in the prime of life.