By Gary Walker
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a Swiss breed and is named after the city of Berne, Switzerland.
Bred originally to do farm work, these large, affectionate dogs are extremely versatile and can do a number of jobs, including herding and protecting livestock, and pulling carts. They were also once used by the Romans as fighting dogs, which is rather surprising given their amiable, laid-back personality.
The first “Berner Sennenhund”, to give the breed its German name, was brought to the United States in 1926, and gained recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1937.
The Bernese is a handsome, distinctive looking dog with a heavy coat that is primarily black, offset with white and rust marks on the face and chest. The lower legs are rust colored, and the paws are white. The coat is heavy, to protect against the icy Alpine winters. The tail is furry and the ears are folded to provide extra protection against the cold.
These are loyal, devoted and gentle pets who are exceptionally good with children and also get on well with other dogs and with non-canine pets. The Bernese is renowned for its happy dispostition and kind nature.
The Bernese is a very playful dog which makes him an excellent choice for a family with kids. They are also very adaptable, meaning they’ll fit in to most living arrangements, as long as they are close to their human family.
Grooming a Bernese is quite labor intensive. They shed all year round with particularly heavy shedding in spring. Daily brushing is required to keep the coat looking its best and to keep your home free of dog hair. You’ll also have to regularly inspect and clean the ears, as they are prone to infection.
Like most purebred dogs the Bernese suffers from a number of cognenital diseases. This breed is at particular risk from canine cancers and also suffers from musculoskeletal ailments, including hip displaysia, arthritis, and cruciate ligament problems. Less serious health issues include ear and eye infections. The Bernese, unfortunately, has a short lifespan of only 6-8 years on average.
Despite its history as a working dog, the Bernese can be quite lazy, and will loaf around if allowed to. It is up to the owner to ensure that the dog gets sufficient exercise. Like most dogs, the Bernese enjoys a good walk and can even be taught to pull a cart, like their forebears did.
The biggest joy of owning one of these gentle giants is their temperament. These happy, friendly, loyal and affectionate dogs absolutely love being around people and are exceptionally eager to please.
They can be a challenge to train, though because they tend to regard everything as a game. Use that to your advantage by keeping training sessions short, positive, and most of all fun.
As any Bernese owner will tell you, these delightful dogs retain their puppy playfullness throughout their life.