The Bernese mountain dog: A Comprehensive Guide
The Bernese mountain dog: A Comprehensive Guide
At Petzooie, we understand that choosing a pet is a significant decision. Today, we delve into the world of the Bernese Mountain Dog, a breed known for its strength, intelligence, and striking appearance.
Understanding the Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog, affectionately known as the Berner, is a large-sized breed with high energy and exercise needs. Originating from Switzerland, these dogs were initially used for herding cattle and pulling carts. Today, they are beloved family pets, known for their loyalty and gentle nature.
The Bernese Mountain Dog, also known as the Berner, has a rich history that dates back over 2,000 years. The breed originated in Switzerland, specifically around the city of Berne, hence the name.
Bred from crosses of Mastiffs and guard-type breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs were brought to Switzerland by the Romans. The Bernese Mountain Dog was one of four tri-colored varieties of Swiss Mountain dogs, distinguished by its long coat. The other varieties included the Appenzeller Sennenhund, the Entlebucher Sennenhund, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
Over the centuries, Bernese Mountain Dogs were developed as an all-purpose farm dog. They were responsible for pulling carts, driving cattle, and guarding the farm. Many small Swiss farmers, who were too poor to own horses, also used the breed to transport fresh milk, cheese, and other produce.
However, by the mid-1800s, the breeding of the Bernese slowed, and they almost became extinct. In 1892, a Swiss innkeeper searched the country for good specimens of the breed and re-developed the dog. His efforts were very successful, and by 1907, a breed specialty club was founded in Switzerland.
Bernese Mountain Dogs were brought to the United States in the early 1900s, and the American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1937. They’re now regularly one of the most popular dog breeds in the country.
Today, Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their gentle, even-tempered, and loyal nature. They are generally placid but are always up for a romp with the owner, whom they live to please.
Despite their working background, they have adapted well to being family pets and companions.
What are the unique characteristics of Bernese mountain dogs?
Bernese Mountain Dogs, also known as Berners, possess several unique characteristics that set them apart from other breeds. Some of these distinctive traits include:
- Tri-colored coat: Berners have a striking tri-colored coat, which is predominantly black with white and rust markings.
- Gentle temperament: These dogs are known for their gentle, even-tempered, and loyal nature, making them excellent family pets.
- Swiss origin: Bernese Mountain Dogs originated in Switzerland, where they were used for herding cattle, pulling carts, and protecting farms from predators.
- Working background: Berners have a strong working background and enjoy learning new tasks and challenges.
- Size: They are a large breed, with males weighing between 80 to 115 pounds and females weighing between 70 to 95 pounds.
- Moderate exercise needs: Despite their size, Bernese Mountain Dogs have moderate exercise needs, requiring at least 30 minutes of daily activity.
- Thick double coat: Their thick, medium-length double coat requires regular grooming and brushing, as they shed heavily twice a year.
These unique characteristics make the Bernese Mountain Dog a popular choice for families and individuals seeking a loyal, gentle, and versatile companion.
Berners are not just family pets; they are also heroes. There are numerous accounts of Bernese Mountain Dogs performing acts of heroism. For instance, a Berner named Bella saved her owner from a house fire in Canada in 2013, and another named Nico rescued two people from a rip current in California in 2015.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are an energetic breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their health and happiness. They typically need around 1 to 1.5 hours of physical activity each day.
This can include walks, playtime, and even tasks like pulling carts, which align with their working dog heritage.
However, due to their thick coats, Berners are sensitive to heat, so it's important to avoid strenuous exercise during hot weather and ensure they have access to shade and fresh water.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a long, thick double coat that requires regular grooming. Their coat consists of a dense undercoat and a longer outer coat that provides insulation and protection from the elements.
Regular brushing is necessary to remove loose hair and prevent matting, with more frequent grooming required during the shedding seasons of spring and fall.
Bathing should be done as needed, with special shampoos recommended for dogs with normal skin and coat.
Berners are intelligent and generally easy to train. They respond best to positive reinforcement and can learn basic obedience without much trouble.
Early training is important to help socialize them and establish boundaries. Because they were originally bred to pull carts on a farm, leash training from an early age is crucial to prevent pulling when they're bigger and stronger.
Consistent obedience training is also recommended. Remember, patience and consistency are key when training a Berner, as they are a slow-maturing breed.
How often should Bernese mountain dogs be bathed?
Bernese Mountain Dogs should be bathed once every two to four months. This frequency is enough to keep them clean without stripping too many of their coat’s natural oils.
Bathing too frequently can lead to issues such as dry skin, irritation, and overproduction of natural oils. However, if the dog gets particularly dirty or starts to develop a strong odor, additional baths may be necessary.
When bathing a Berner, it's important to use a dog-safe shampoo and thoroughly rinse the dog to ensure all the shampoo is removed from their thick coat. After bathing, the dog should be dried as much as possible with clean towels, and a low-heat hair dryer can be used to fully dry the coat.
In addition to bathing, Bernese Mountain Dogs require regular grooming due to their long, thick double coat. They should be groomed every 4 to 8 weeks, with more frequent grooming during the shedding seasons of spring and fall. Regular brushing is also necessary to remove loose hair and prevent matting.
Diet and Nutrition
A Bernese Mountain Dog's diet should be formulated for a large-sized breed with high energy and exercise needs. It's crucial to consult your veterinarian or a professional nutritionist for advice on what to feed your Berner and the correct portion sizes.
Their dietary needs will change as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood and senior age, so it's essential to stay on top of these nutritional requirements.
Common health conditions
Bernese Mountain Dogs, like any breed, are prone to certain health conditions. Some of the most common health issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs include:
- Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD): This is a condition where the hip joint doesn't develop properly, leading to a loose joint. It can cause degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis, leading to pain, limping, and difficulty standing.
- Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a developmental abnormality of the elbow joint, which can lead to lameness and arthritis.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a group of degenerative diseases that affect the retina in the eyes, leading to progressive vision loss culminating in blindness.
- Bloat or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV): This is a serious condition where the dog's stomach fills with gas and can twist, leading to life-threatening complications.
- Histiocytosis: This is a type of cancer that is particularly common in Bernese Mountain Dogs. It affects the dog's histiocytes, a type of immune cell, and can lead to skin lesions, appetite loss, lethargy, and weight loss.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD): This is a blood clotting disorder caused by a deficiency in a protein that allows blood platelets to stick together and form seals along broken blood vessels.
- Other Conditions: Bernese Mountain Dogs can also suffer from allergies, epilepsy, heart disease, and hypothyroidism. They are also extremely prone to heat stroke due to their thick coat, so care should be taken in hot weather.
It's important for potential Bernese Mountain Dog owners to be aware of these health issues and to choose a reputable breeder who tests their breeding dogs for these conditions. Regular veterinary check-ups and a healthy lifestyle can also help to manage these conditions and ensure the dog's well-being
Are Bernese mountain dogs good with children?
Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally excellent with children and are known for their gentle, patient, and affectionate nature. They tend to be good-natured and tolerant of energetic kids, making them a great companion for families. Their calm disposition and willingness to play contribute to their suitability as family pets. However, it's important to teach children how to interact safely with dogs and supervise their interactions, especially with young children or toddlers, as Berners are large dogs and could inadvertently knock over small children.
Overall, Bernese Mountain Dogs are considered a good fit for families with children due to their temperament and protective instincts.
What are some common challenges when raising a Bernese mountain dog with children?
Raising a Bernese Mountain Dog in a family with children can present several challenges:
- Size and Strength: Bernese Mountain Dogs are large and strong. They can inadvertently knock over young children or toddlers, which could lead to injuries.
- Sound Sensitivity: Some Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive to loud noises. The busy activity and high-pitched voices of children can overwhelm them, causing them to become anxious or disinterested in playtime activities.
- Puppy Behavior: Bernese Mountain Dog puppies, if left to their instincts, will often chase and nip or bite as a form of play. Teaching children how to respond to these instinctual behaviors can be challenging.
- Teaching Respect: Teaching small children not to grab skin or fur, pull on legs or tails, not to stare at or scream in the dog's face can be tough, as these kinds of behaviors are fairly common when young children interact with a pet.
- Training: Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent and respond well to positive training methods. However, they are a slow-maturing breed, so patience and consistency are key. It's important to start training as soon as you bring your Berner home and set clear expectations about what behavior is acceptable and what is off-limits.
- Health Issues: Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to several health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and others. It's important to ensure regular veterinary care and a suitable living environment for them.
- Grooming: Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick, double coat that requires regular brushing and grooming. They shed heavily twice a year, which is something to consider in terms of cleanliness and potential allergies.
- Exercise Needs: Bernese Mountain Dogs are active and need at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. They enjoy hiking, playing fetch, and going for walks. This can be a great way for children to engage with and bond with the dog, but it also means that the family needs to be prepared to meet these exercise needs.
Remember, every dog is an individual and may not conform exactly to breed standards or expectations. It's important to spend time with a potential pet before bringing them home to ensure they are a good fit for your family.
Bernese Mountain Dog Comparison Table
Long, thick, and tri-colored
Friendly, calm, and loyal
Formulated for a large-sized breed with high energy
Pros and Cons
- Friendly and good with children
- Loyal and protective
- Adaptable to various living conditions
- High exercise needs
- Prone to certain health issues
- Requires regular grooming due to their long coat
Q: Are Bernese Mountain Dogs good family pets?
A: Yes, Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their friendly and calm demeanor, making them excellent family pets.
Q: What are the exercise needs of a Bernese Mountain Dog?
A: Bernese Mountain Dogs are a high-energy breed that requires regular exercise to keep them healthy and happy.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a loyal, friendly, and versatile breed that can make a wonderful addition to many families. However, they do require a commitment to exercise and grooming, so potential owners should be prepared for this responsibility.