Bernese Mountain Dog
Other names: Berne's cowboy, Dürrbächler, Berner Sennenhund
The Bernese Mountain Dog, of Swiss origin, is a large dog with a spectacular appearance. As gentle as he is powerful, he is a teddy-bear dog that will delight the young and old in everyday life. This is a good guard dog who is very suited for a rural way of life, with moderate exercise needs which must be met daily.
Key facts about the Bernese Mountain Dog
Origins and history
This dog of Swiss origin (near Bern hence his name) comes, like all dogs of the molosser category, from the Tibetan Mastiffs adopted by ancient Rome before spreading through Europe following the Roman legions. From this dog followed the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, the Appenzeller Sennenhund, the Entlebucher Sennenhund and of course, the Berner Sennenhund. The different types vary according to their geographical region.
Originally, the Bernese was used for his guarding and herding qualities; now he is mainly considered a family dog, although he is still occasionally employed in mountain rescue scenarios.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Section 3 : Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Physical characteristics of the Bernese Mountain Dog
Female : Between 23 and 26 in
Male : Between 25 and 28 in
Female : Between 88 and 99 lb
Male : Between 110 and 132 lb
The Bernese’s coat is tricolour with:
- Black overall
- Rust-coloured markings on the cheeks, above the eyes, on the four limbs and on the chest
- White blaze on the forehead, white marks on the neck, chest and ideally on the feet and the tip of the tail
Type of coat
The fur is long. The coat is shiny, smooth or wavy.
The eyes are dark brown.
The Bernese is a large and well-balanced working dog. His remarkable appearance is very harmonious and his body is powerful, flexible and well-proportioned.
Good to know
Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland, is the proud owner of two Bernese Mountain Dogs: Bród and Síoda. He loves them so much that he brings them along when he attends official events!
This big Swiss teddy bear is very affectionate, loves his family and can even be somewhat clingy with his social group.
This dog loves playing with children (but keep an eye on him).
The Bernese Mountain Dog remains immature for a very long time, so playing is a nice way to externalise all his energy, and also to learn in a fun way, as long as games are both entertaining and educational.
“The calm force” perfectly describes this big teddy. Calm, measured, balanced and kind, he is a perfect companion for the young and old.
Be careful though, the Bernese Mountain Dog will need daily physical and mental stimulation to remain calm indoors.
Like many sheepdogs and herding dogs, his intelligence is remarkable. He will quickly understand what is expected of him, but his late maturity may slow down the full grasp of certain lessons.
The Bernese Mountain Dog’s hunting instinct is very restricted, which makes him a rather sociable dog in regards to other domestic animals.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a pronounced guarding instinct so he can be suspicious of strangers. However, if he does not have to act as a guardian, he is kind to everyone.
Even though he is very suspicious, the Bernese Mountain Dog will never attack, as he will prefer to remain passive while being dissuasive if necessary.
This teddy dog may be a rural type, but he does not appreciate being separated from his master. This makes him a dependent dog, even clingy to his social group. Since he is very protective and faithful, he needs interaction and tenderness.
Behaviour of the Bernese Mountain Dog
The faithful fidelity that this Swiss dog has towards his social group means he’s a dog who does not appreciate loneliness. He needs to be surrounded by people that give him all the affection he seeks.
Easy to train / obedience
Like many sheepdogs, this Swiss Mountain dog has a great ability to concentrate and listen to his master.
However, he matures very slowly (it usually takes 2 to 3 years longer than other dog breeds for the Bernese to reach maturity), so it is necessary to be patient and to repeat training exercises many times so that he can completely acquire them.
Education needs to start early in this dog breed, especially given its large size: up to 60 kg in males!
Therefore, it will be essential to offer the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy a firm but gentle education based on positive reinforcement training and on the dog's personal learning rhythm.
Teaching him to walk on a lead without pulling should be one of the earliest lessons to work on in order to enjoy safe walks.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a pronounced bark which he will not hesitate to demonstrate in case of intrusion into his family’s territory. However, this is not his favourite communication tool.