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Bernese Mountain Dog: Everything You Need to Know

The Bernese Mountain Dog (Bernese Shepherd Dog) is an affectionate and charming giant with the kindest “smile” in the world. Representatives of this breed are ideal companions with an innate sense of tact and an unusually peaceful disposition.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are good-natured dogs and faithful helpers. They get along excellently with every member of the family, and kids are condescendingly forgiving any leprosy. Patience and poise have made the Berns almost ideal pets. They are not capricious in learning and learn commands easily. Besides, they inherited excellent watchdog skills from their ancestors, which they gladly use whenever the opportunity arises.

Molossians are considered to be the distant ancestors of today’s Mountain Dogs, which were bred by the ancient Romans. Representatives of this breed were considered versatile dogs since each combined fighting, shepherd, and guard qualities. Molossians accompanied the Romans on military campaigns, which helped the dogs get to the Alps and leave offspring on the territory of modern Switzerland, which gave rise to the ancestral branch of the Mountain Dogs.

Swiss peasants quickly appreciated the stamina and good-natured nature of these large dogs, adapting them to work in cheese dairies and transport milk along mountain paths. Until the middle of the 19th century, the Sennenhunds regularly grazed cows on the alpine lawns, during breaks earning extra money as carriers of dairy products, but quite soon they were ousted from this niche by St. Bernards. In some remote areas, the descendants of Roman Molossians were still bred, but not so zealously, which is why the famous tricolor color among animals was less and less common.

For a long period of time, Swiss Mountain Dogs were equated with mongrels and were not quoted by breeders. Only at the end of the 19th century did these dogs begin to arouse the interest of specialists, which became the main impetus for the emergence of the branch of the Bernese Shepherd Dogs. A fundamental role in the formation of the breed was played by the Burgdorf winemaker F. Schertenleib. The entrepreneur fell so in love with Alpine dogs that he tirelessly traveled around the province of Dyurbach in search of suitable “specimens” for his kennel.

The name “Bernese Mountain Dog” of this branch was given by Professor of the University of Zurich Albert Heim, he also formulated its main “identifying features.” Well, in 1907, the first breed standard was adopted, which, in fact, was a pure formality. As a result, Bernese Mountain Dogs were exhibited for quite a long time in European salons without pedigrees and registration numbers.

An interesting fact: in the 40s of the XX century, as a result of the accidental mating of the Bernese Mountain Dog with the Newfoundland, Swiss shepherd dogs were able to improve their natural characteristics. For example, the Bernese Shepherd Dogs acquired a shinier and longer coat, and their temperament became more phlegmatic.

The peak of the popularity of burns came in the 80s of the last century. Calm and friendly shepherd dogs enjoyed unchanging prestige among European and American breeders. Representatives of this breed were brought to Russia from Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

Bernese Sheepdogs are rather large dogs with long black and fawn coats and white spots around the nose, neck, and paws. The so-called “smile” of the Bernese is considered the trademark of the breed. In a calm state, the muscles of the dog’s muzzle and head relax, opening the mouth and creating the illusion of human facial expressions. The reference height at the withers for males is from 64 to 70 cm, for bitches – from 58 to 67 cm. The average weight of the Bernese Mountain Dog ranges from 39-50 kg for males, 38-48 kg for females.

The head is proportional and large. The skull is massive, rounded, which is especially noticeable when looking at the animal in profile. The frontal furrow is not pronounced. The transition from the forehead to the muzzle is smooth, without sharp lines. The nose is large, black, with large nostrils.

In dogs, the Reference bite is a scissor bite, but in some cases, a pincer (straight) variant is also acceptable. The teeth of the Bernese Mountain Dog are large, strong, located in one line.

The eyes are medium, almond-shaped, set straight. The shade of the iris is dark brown, the whites of the eyes are not noticeable. The eyelids are dry, black in color (“damp” eyelids are considered defects).

The ears are of medium size, regular triangular in shape, set high. Hanging at rest, the tip of the ear is slightly rounded. When the Bernese Mountain Dog is alert, the anterior portion of the auricle continues to remain adjacent to the skull, while the posterior portion is slightly raised.

The neck is of medium length, muscular, with a prominent nape and developed withers.

Bernese Mountain Dog body, strong, with a wide, straight back and deep long chest. The ribs are prominent. The loin is short, slightly narrower than the chest and croup.

The front limbs of the Bernese Mountain Dog are straight, even, set wide apart. The shoulder blades are elongated, inclined backward. The shoulder-scapular angle is usually 100 °. The hind legs are straight, strong, and well-muscled. The thighs are elongated and well-muscled. The hock joint is strong and angulated. Dewclaws (rudimentary toes located above the paws of the hind legs) in pedigree individuals must be removed. Feet directed forward, rounded, with elastic pads. The hind legs are gathered in a less prominent “lump” than the front ones.

The tail of the Bernese Mountain Dog is massive, saber-shaped, tapering from the base towards the end. In a calm animal, it is lowered down, in an excited animal, it rises to the level of the back and above.

The coat is long, straight, with a spectacular sheen. In some places, it may have light “waves”.

The predominant body color of the Mountain Dog is black. Patches of rich fawn coats are found on the chest, all four legs, and above the eyes. White marks in Bernese Sheepdogs can be on the head in the form of a blaze (should not reach the fawn areas of the fur), on the muzzle in the form of a spot (should not go beyond the corners of the mouth), and chest. Ideal parameters are also considered white “socks” on the paws and a white tip of the tail. The presence of small white “fragments” in the occiput and anus is acceptable.

Bernese Mountain Dogs may have deviations from the breed standard:

  • too light skeleton;
  • Incorrect placement of the incisors with correct bite;
  • curly wool;
  • absence of white “patches” on the head, as well as their excess;
  • black body color with a pronounced brown or red undertone;
  • asymmetry of color;
  • the white areas of the coat are grayish.

The following defects are sufficient to disqualify a show class animal:

  • progeny (undershot) or overshot;
  • entropy (turn of the century);
  • tail wrinkles or tail twisted into a “donut”;
  • bifurcation of the nose;
  • short coat, or the so-called “double coat” (when the undercoat “overshadows” the guard hair);
  • aggression or cowardice of the animal;
  • cryptorchidism;
  • insufficient growth.

Bernese Sheepdogs are extremely kind, obedient, and loyal friends who will not harass the owner with a demand for increased attention and a violent temperament. Berns is imperturbably calm and infinitely wise, but at the same time, they are not “crackers” and are quite capable of expressing feelings. Representatives of this breed are typical family dogs. By the way, even though Mountain Dogs are not considered ideal nannies, they treat children with patronage, with a feeling of slight superiority, and do not respond to annoying pranks with aggression.

Young individuals are usually very inquisitive and a little careless, they allow themselves to fool around in moderation, but at the same time, they do not go too far. Adult and experienced dogs are calmer and more phlegmatic. These imperturbable giants will no longer lead a cat crossing the road and other simple provocations. Bernese Mountain Dogs love to play as assistants, guides, and guards. They are happy to convey small purchases to the owner or to protect him from other dogs. Berns also make excellent animators: teach your pet to walk in a sled, and he will be happy to ride your children in a cart. The legendary fearlessness of the Berns brings them more trouble than good. Representatives of this breed often perform unnecessary feats like jumping from a balcony, which for the dog itself fails.

In general, Mountain Dogs are patient and affectionate, respecting a person. Speaking of respect: Bernese Shepherd Dogs treat strangers calmly, without showing aggression, but also without much sympathy. Usually, only one member of the family becomes the most respected in the eyes of the animal. This, of course, does not mean that the dog does not obey other people. It’s just that the pet will not perform the commands of the owners of the “second plan” so actively. Despite the slight laziness and love of sleep, periodically condescending to the representatives of this breed, Berns take part in outdoor games with pleasure. True, under their nature, they do not like to have fun for too long.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are subject to compulsory socialization, and the sooner you start teaching the puppy commands, the better for both of you. Despite their imperturbable appearance, Bernese Shepherds are very sensitive dogs, so you should not yell at a pet, as well as use physical violence against it. In upbringing, it is recommended to show a certain firmness and perseverance: for oversight, the puppy should be given suggestions in a strict tone (the system of punishments for small puppies, as a rule, is not applied).

Age from 4 to 8 months is a period of maximum disobedience and pranks. At this time, the dog’s teeth are teething, so the Bernese Mountain Dogs actively taste the surrounding reality. Sometimes the object of attention is not only slippers and shoes, but also the fingers of family members. In order not to stock up on iodine and bandages later, teach your dog not to consider the owner’s hands as an object for play. If the puppy does start to bite your fingers, gently pinch his nose. The pain will sober up the animal and will not cause him any tangible harm.

From the first months of life, begin to smoothly wean the dog from spontaneous hopping. While the animal is small, such an expression of tender feelings evokes sincere affection, but when, after a couple of years, a shaggy 50-kilogram carcass jumps into your arms, it will cease to be a pleasure.

Important: Bernese Mountain Dogs mature later than other breeds, so complex training should only be practiced with individuals who have reached the age of two.

You should start training your pet by wearing a collar and the simplest commands “Come to me!”, “Fu!” and others. Even an animal of a month and a half can learn these simple lessons. Give training from 10 to 15 minutes. per day so as not to overwork the puppy, and be sure to use the tasty rewards bought at the pet store or prepared yourself. And in any case, do not overdo it. Discipline should not turn into a set of prohibitions that limit the freedom of the pet: nevertheless, for normal development, the puppy needs to be in contact with things and other animals as often as possible. Those who see a future watchman in their bern should develop the dog’s ability to divide people into friends and foes. This also includes such a skill as refusing to accept delicacies from the hands of a stranger. Exceptions are unacceptable even for “good friends”.

The home for the Bernese Mountain Dog can be either a village cottage or a city apartment. It is more expedient for individuals carrying the protection of a private house to build housing in the yard. Usually, in it, the shepherd dogs are fenced off with an aviary in which the booth is installed. If the pet will live in an apartment, it is best to give him a corner on the balcony (provided that it is glazed). To prevent the animal from freezing in the off-season, you can equip a small kennel on the balcony.

In the summer, it is also necessary to monitor the temperature on the balcony: the sun heats the walls of the house very much, which does not have the best effect on the dog’s health. For those who plan to keep a bern in an apartment, it makes sense to take care of buying a playpen, in which you can put a dog in, in case of your own absence. It is better to put it away from batteries and heating appliances.

Bernese Shepherd Dogs are supposed to be walked twice a day, while it is desirable to combine walking with active physical activity. You can get your dog to run or take part in some simple game to burn extra calories and raise muscle tone.

Since the Bernese Mountain Dogs shed intensively, it is necessary to comb them every day. But bathing the dog too often is not worth it. A bath day for representatives of this breed is held no more than once a month, except for those cases when your pet has managed to get thoroughly dirty during a walk. It is advisable not to wet the head at all while washing the animal to avoid water getting into the ears. The shampoo is used as needed and in very limited quantities, the hairdryer is used only for drying adults. After bathing, remove excess moisture from the coat with a towel and make sure that the animal does not sit in a draft until it dries. After drying, the wool is combed.

The ears of the Bernese Mountain Dog should be examined once a week. If you are walking the animal in the forest belt, then it is better to check it after each walk. Contamination from the ear funnel is removed using a cotton pad moistened with boiled water. The use of cotton swabs is not recommended, to avoid damage to the hearing organs. Bernese Mountain Dogs are supposed to have their claws cut once every two weeks. Removal of yellow plaque from the surface of the teeth is done with a special paste applied to a cotton swab, 1-2 times a week.

Two-month-old puppies are fed up to 5 times a day, three-month-old – 4 times, seven-month-old adolescents are transferred to three meals a day, and by the year the dog should eat twice a day. An animal under two months of age should receive fermented milk products like cottage cheese, yogurt, or kefir every day. It is not allowed to give pure milk. Meat is introduced into the Sennenhund diet gradually, in combination with boiled cereals and vegetables.

The “menu” of an adult who is on natural feeding must necessarily include lean meat or offal, sea fish fillets (frozen), and fermented milk products. Together with meat, it is recommended to give vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, broccoli), and for “dessert” your pet can be pampered with a slice of banana, apple, or pear. The number of cereal products consumed by animals should be at least 10% of the total diet. A couple of times a week, the Bernese Mountain Dog can be treated to raw yolk or a hard-boiled egg.

Owners who prefer to regale their pet with “drying” should attend to the search for food with low-fat content (no more than 16%) and with a protein content of 18 to 26%. Try to choose varieties that are free of soy, corn, and wheat. A healthy adult animal should consume from 1800 to 3000 kcal per day, a two-month-old puppy – about 600 kcal, while an elderly, inactive dog will need 1500 kcal.

To train the Bernese Mountain Dog to the toilet, it is usually walked after eating. If the puppy did not wait for the walk and made a puddle in the apartment, it is useless to scold him. But it is worth encouraging for patience and the direction of natural needs in the right place. In the first months of life, the puppy needs to be taken outside more often to catch the moment when he wants to relieve himself. An adult animal, whose skill has already been formed, can tolerate. For indoor toilets, rubber mats, newspapers, or diapers are usually used to help keep the floor clean.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are dogs with good heredity, but the constant companion of “apartment” dogs – physical inactivity and constant stress can seriously undermine the health of the pet. The average life span of the Bernese Shepherd Dog is 8-10 years. In the absence of serious diseases and high-quality care, some representatives of this breed “hold out” for the 13th birthday, which is considered a kind of record.

Typical diseases of the Bernese Mountain Dog:

  • dysplasia of the elbow and hip joints (not a sentence, and with properly selected treatment,
  • may not cause discomfort to the pet);
  • osteochondrosis of the shoulder;
  • problems with the organs of vision (cataract, entropion, retinal atrophy);
  • alopecia (hair loss, animal hair loss);
  • weeping eczema;
  • umbilical hernia;
  • overheating (heatstroke).

Like many other breeds, Berns is prone to cancer. Besides, in some individuals, hereditary kidney pathologies may appear.

How to choose a puppy?

Bernese Mountain Dog puppies should be taken for upbringing at the age of 2 to 6 months. Males of this breed look more solid due to their impressive dimensions, but they are more difficult to train. Individuals of the female sex are more flexible and intelligent, but during estrus, an irresistible “craving for travel” awakens in them, which can become a serious problem for the owner. Be sure to appreciate the environment in the nursery by looking into the enclosures where animals live and carefully studying their standard menu. Acquaintance with the parent of the puppy, as well as his veterinary card, will also not be superfluous.

Frisky, playful, and inquisitive puppies are in the greatest demand: this behavior signals that the animal is healthy and kept in acceptable conditions. At a young age, Berns may have a modified structure of the coat: it can be too straight or, conversely, curly, and also have a grayish undertone. All these features are not considered defects and disappear with age.

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  1. Excellent article on BMDS!!!
    Loved reading it & it is perfectly matched to my Precious TRAVELER, who is almost 3 yrs old!! We have a Red Golden, SUNDANCE, (same age) & last yr, they mated and had 7 puppies…we gave 6 pups to close friends & Family Members, & kept a female named ANDEE for ourselves to enjoy…She is now 1yr & 3 months & looks most like her Daddy…Personality Of Both parent dogs & All 3 are absolutely a treat, each day to see on our farm!!! They are kept
    Indoors & Seem to Love their Lives!!
    Thanks so much for Your informative article about BMDS, Bless You,

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