The not so well known Bernese Mountain Dog. Learn more about this wonderful dog breed...
Bernese Mountain Dog
by Elizabeth Clark
Intelligent and alert, the Bernese Mountain Dog evolved from mastiff type dogs brought into the Swiss region by the Romans about two thousand years ago.
While not a herding dog, it is a farm dog, typically kept by Alpine farmers in Switzerland and it's neighbouring regions for the purpose of guarding their farms, and alerting to the presence of strangers. The dog is also used to pull small carts of produce to market, as well as about the farm.
Originating near the city of Berne, these animals were bred for protection and companionship, as farmers during this time had little livestock of any sort to herd. Only a minimum of goats and cows were kept, until 1840, when the area blossomed with cheeseries and farmers began to keep larger herds for the purpose of milk production. The Bermese Mountain Dog remained a protector and was involved in some herding, but smaller, quicker breeds like the Appenzeller were used more often to keep herds in line.
In the early 1900's the Berner was seen for the first time in dog shows, and records indicate that the first Berners were brought into the United States circa 1926 by a farmer from Kansas. The breed wasn't registered at that time, and another pair were imported in 1936, and recognized by the American Kennel Club a year later.
The second world war interrupted the importation of this breed and so the population remained small in North America. In 1968, fanciers of this breed joined together and formed the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America. This working class breed has a predominantly black long haired coat, that includes a white blaze that runs from the centre of the forehead through the muzzle, and down it's chest, which is accented by russet/gold along the legs, under it's mask' and penny sized dots above the eyes.
It is a large dog, with sturdy shoulders and muscles, developed for guardianship as well as multiple purposes that require great strength.
Measured at the withers, the Bernese Mountain dog, is 25 to 27 1/2 inches tall, with females being slightly smaller at 23 to 26 inches tall. Weight usually falls between 65 and 120 lbs. They are sturdy, full bodied animals with strong bone structure.
Both genders are very strong, and the male appears powerful and masculine, while the female, is finer in form, and markedly feminine in appearance. They have animated and intelligent expressions, with warm brown almond shaped eyes. Dogs with blue eyes, are considered a fault by the breed standard.
They have medium sized ears that flop alongside their head in a triangular shape. Their muzzles are stocky yet straight, and are not prone to slobbering or drooling. It has a long bushy tail, that is at times carried low, or curled over the back when it's relaxed.
Their coat is of medium length, and is straight or sometimes slightly wavy with a dense undercoat. Grooming needs are relatively simple, as they have a dirt and weather resistant coat, that will be easily kept up with a weekly brushing, unless the undercoat is being shed. These animals lose fur all year round, and gobs of fur are commonly found in a Berner's home.
They tend to be good natured, confident, and yet aloof to strangers, as their guardian nature dictates. The breed is patient, loyal and stable, and responds like most, better to treats and kind words, than harsh treatment. They are an affectionate dog, that seeks the adoration and attention of it's master, quite often demonstrated by leaning against their master's legs, while they're standing.
They are excellent with other animals, and children, though it should be noted here, that no dog should be left with very young children without adequate supervision. Puppies can be found through the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America or Canada, through a Puppy Buyers Guide, or over the Internet where several listings of reputable breeders and breeder directories have been placed. If one chooses to breed Berners' as they are often called, one can expect anywhere from one to a dozen puppies, sometimes even up to fourteen. Be sure you have adequate space if breeding Berners, as an entire family of them would take up an enormous amount of space.
When choosing a puppy, try to see both parents of the puppies, and beware of those breeders who won't allow you to see where the puppies are kept and raised, or how the parent animals are treated.
When a breed gains in popularity like the Berner has over the years, the breed becomes vulnerable to those who would exploit it for their own gain. Rescue leagues exist in both Canada and the US to protect the breed, and see to it's care, when it has been removed from a puppy mill or other such undesirable situation.
Rescue leagues are usually listed with the breed club in the province/state of your country. These courageous groups will see to it that the animals receive medical care, and are found new homes with those familiar or understanding of what Berner ownership entails.
The Bernese Mountain Dog can be trained for Drafting trials, which are essentially a competition that deals with the pulling of specialized carts, through a set course. They can also be trained for agility, tracking, obedience, and herding.
As the breed ages, like so many others, they are prone to a variety of canine cancers, hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as osteoarthritis. Nearly half of all Berners die from cancer, as compared to 27% of all other dog breeds. Making sure your dog has soft bedding to ease it's joints will help arthritic pain, that settles in on this breed. Should your animal display any difficulty in movement or unusual masses, veterinary opinion should be sought at once. This breed tends to live between 8 and 12 years, though some have been reported to live to 14 or even 15 years of age.
The breed while best known as the Bernese Mountain Dog, is known by several names, which include, Berner Sennenhund, Bouvier Bernois, Bovaro Bernese and the Drrbchler.
Anyone looking for a loyal guardian who enjoys the outdoors, and doesn't mind a large strong breed, that takes up a lot of space, will find an excellent companion in the Bernese Mountain Dog.