This handsome, cheerful dog is the most well-known of the four Sennehunde, or Swiss mountain dogs. A dog of moderate to large size, his origins extend back into European antiquity when the Berne region of the Alps was invaded by the Romans who cross-bred local dogs with their mastiffs…Throughout Swiss history, the Berner was used as a daft dog, pulling carts and wagons. He also has talents as a herder, but wasn’t widely used for this purpose. The Berner was a good all-around farm dog and a devoted family companion. By the late 1800’s, he was almost extinct but devotees of the breed revived the Swiss stock. He first came to America in 1926 and was recognized by the AKC in 1937.
This is a handsome dog with a dense coat of black, brown and white and an alert, intelligent expression. Some say the Berner has a distinct smile; there is certainly no doubt that this is a cheery, eager to please dog with an inviting expression and waving tail. He is used today as a family companion dog and is frequently seen at Westminster and other prestigious dog shows.
The Berner’s temperament is delightfully mellow and easygoing. He’s sensitive, affectionate and exceedingly loyal to his family. He is a fine children’s companion, but not very playful with them and has low energy needs that make him a good apartment and city dog. The Berner is fairly reserved with strangers who come onto his territory, but isn’t overly protective. He’s friendly with other dogs and pets. He still has marked pulling insticts, including pulling children in wagons and on sleds. He doesn’t like to be left home alone for long periods, needing the company of his family.
The Berner’s natural intelligence makes him very receptive to obedience and agility training. In such competitions, he’s difficult to beat. He is frequently worked as an animal-assisted therapy dog, especially enjoying visits with children and the elderly. With his naturally calm nature, his presence is soothing to those who are ill or injured. In some assisted living centers, the “resident dog” is often a Berner!
The Berner is a sturdy, healthy dog with good cold tolerance but doesn’t do well in heat because of his heavy coat; heat stroke precautions are essential. His major health issues are hip and elbow dysplasia and gastric tortion. Although his normal life span is about nine years, Berners can remain hearty for twelve years or more. His long coat requires frequent brushing to reduce shedding.
As a companion, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s friendly, alert demeanor is difficult to resist, especially as a fluffy, playful puppy. Whether he’s pulling your flower cart or snoozing at your feet, this is a dog suitable for every family.