Trupanion Dog Breed Guide - Bernese Mountain DogTrupanion Breed Guide - Bernese Mountain DogTrupanion Breed Guide - Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog



Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Highlights

Bernese Mountain Dog relaxing in the gras

  • Referred to as a mountain dog in English-speaking countries, in Europe the Bernese and their cousin breeds are called Sennenhunds. This comes from the German Senne (“alpine field or pasture”) and Hund (“dog/hound”). Bernese Mountain Dogs are so named because they hail from the Swiss region of Bern.

  • The full breed name is quite a mouthful. It’s much easier to refer to the Bernese Mountain Dog simply as the “Berner” or just Bernese.

  • The Bernese is one of four native breeds to the Swiss mountains. All have the same tri-color coat but are different sizes. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the largest, followed by the Berner. The Appenzeller and the Entlebucher are the smaller of the group. The Bernese Mountain Dog is the only one with a long coat.

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to keep their puppy brains longer than other breeds. Their jovial and playful antics stick around well into their adolescent phase.

  • NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger brought home a Bernese Mountain Dog named Hercules from Switzerland after visiting to connect with his Swiss roots.

  • The breed was at risk of dying out in the late 1800s, due to lower demand for working dogs on farms and the increased popularity of the Saint Bernard breed. Thanks to the preservation efforts of Swiss mountain dog breed fanciers, the Bernese was able to make a comeback and has become quite popular.

Unique Physical Features

Bernese Mountain Dog illustration - Trupanion dog breed guide

Luxurious tri-colored coat

Unique Personality

Bernese Mountain Dog illustration - Trupanion dog breed guide

Bernese Mountain Dogs are big, fluffy goofballs that form a close bond with their family. While they’re often shy when first meeting new people, they’ll soon open up to show their friendly, intelligent, and inquisitive nature. Their large size doesn’t hinder their desire to be physically close to their people, and they love galivanting around with glee.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

dog energy level - medium (mall walker)

With Kids

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Berners are known to be affectionate and quite tolerant with children, making lovely family dogs as long as they are socialized with kids from puppyhood

With Other Pets

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This breed will do just fine with other animals and pets in the home, as long as care is taken to socialize them as a puppy and introduce them properly and positively

Environment

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While large, Bernese Mountain Dogs are only moderately active, but their size means they need a fenced yard and space to stretch their legs. Their heavy coat makes them ideal for homes in cooler climates.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

7 to 10 years

Average Size
(Range)

Large:

  • 70 - 115 pounds
  • 23 - 28 inches tall

Breed Group

Working

Similar Breeds

  • Great Swiss Mountain Dog

  • Great Pyrenees

  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog

  • Appenzeller Sennenhund

  • Newfoundland

History of the Bernese Mountain Dog

Three Bernese Mountain Dog puppies sitting together in the snow

Developed in the Swiss Alps, the Bernese Mountain Dog can trace its roots to the Molossian mastiff-type dogs that followed the Roman legions throughout the continent during the 1st century. These dogs interbred with the farm dogs in the mountainous area and became known as Sennenhunds, or “alpine field dogs.” Over the next 2,000 years, they were further refined into four distinct mountain dog breeds: The Greater Swiss, Bernese, Appenzeller, and Entlebucher.

The Bernese Mountain Dog proved integral to the agrarian life in the mountains due to their versatility. The breed would act as livestock herders, guardians, companions, and thanks to their strong back legs and sturdy frame, were excellent carting dogs. As the Industrial Revolution spread throughout Europe, the need for working farm dogs diminished. In the late 1800s, Bernese Mountain Dogs were at risk of going extinct. At the turn of the 20th century, Swiss dog fanciers worked to save their native mountain breeds. In 1904, the Swiss dog club introduced a Swiss shepherd dog class, which included the Bernese and launched the breed’s comeback.

After World War I, the first Bernese Mountain Dogs were exported to Holland and the United States, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1937 as a member of the Working Class. While World War II interrupted Swiss imports of Berners, they continued to slowly grow in popularity. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of American was formed in 1968 and registered just 43 dogs of the breed. Slowly but surely, they’ve climbed their way into the hearts of many dog owners. Berners ranked as the 22nd most popular dog breed in the United States in 2018.

Bernese Mountain Dog Behavior and Training

Bernese Mountain Dogs are dependable and sturdy dogs that enjoy work and pleasing their owners. As a versatile breed, they take to all kinds of training and different dog sports. Their intelligence makes them fast learners, but the breed can be on the shy side with new people, making socialization as a puppy and positive reinforcement training methods a must. Their large size means training should start early to help them learn physical boundaries and polite manners, so they don’t accidentally overwhelm others.

Plays Well with Others?

  • Berners can be more reserved during new experiences, but will be friendly, outgoing dogs with an owner committed to early socialization and training. Proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for their socialization skills.

TRAINER TIP

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • This breed can be an excellent dog for families with children, as long as they’ve been socialized since puppyhood (and children are taught polite interactions with dogs). A Berner’s size makes it easier for them to tolerate the physical contact from kids, and they tend to be affectionate with their family members. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs can do quite well with other pets in the home — as with all dog breeds, it’s all about proper socialization as a puppy and consistent management. Provide a Berner puppy with positive introductions to animals of all kinds to set them up for a lifetime of success. Sometimes their large size might be intimidating to other dogs, so early socialization and training will go a long way in helping them learn how to play and interact.
Graphic - bouncing red ball image

Exercise Requirements

Bernese Mountain Dogs need at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. Not only will this help prevent unwanted behaviors, but it will also help to keep your Berner at a healthy weight. Regular walks and backyard play will burn off excess energy and build the bond between you and your Bernese. This breed can make an excellent jogging or hiking partner once they are fully grown.

Their thick black coat can make them more sceptible to heatstroke. Use caution and limit exercise in warmer temperatures or when it’s humid outside, and provide lots of breaks and water. Berners should always be monitored for heatstroke symptoms, which include: rapid panting, drooling, bright red tongue or gums, and trouble breathing.

Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate exercise for a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. Until they’re fully grown (bone growth plates typically all close around 18 months of age), avoid jogging or running beyond what they would do on their own. This limits the risk of damage to the growing bone and cartilage, which can cause pain and future joint issues.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are at greater risk for hip dysplasia. Though many factors play into a particular dog’s risk level (including genetics, nutrition, and exercise), it’s important to discuss the prevalence of hip dysplasia in the line, with the breeder(s) you’re considering. You should also talk to your vet about having your puppy screened for hip dysplasia. This is done with both a physical exam and radiographs (X-rays). While the development of hip dysplasia can’t necessarily be prevented, the pain, mobility issues, and other negative symptoms of the condition can be minimized with proper diagnosis and management.

VETERINARIAN TIP

While a tired dog might be a good dog, puppy exercise shouldn’t be forced or “pushed” in any way. Follow your puppy’s lead in the amount of activity they can do. If they’re slowing down, and certainly if they stop and sit down, it’s time for some rest and recovery. In some cases, they might have FOMO (fear of missing out) and try to “keep up” with you or another dog in the family. So keep a watchful eye and make sure they don’t push too far and over-exert themselves.

Mental Enrichment Needs

Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent but also know how to sit back and enjoy life. Work their brains by providing them with food puzzles and interactive toys. This breed does well with all kinds of dog sports, and signing up for a nose work or tracking class not only exercises their brain but also burns off excess physical energy. By providing mental enrichment, you’ll keep your Berner from getting bored (which often leads to problem behaviors like chewing or digging). Puppies benefit quite a lot from mental exercise, and you’ll prevent lots of normal puppy “problem” behaviors by giving them an appropriate outlet for all that energy.

Fun Activities the Bernese Mountain Dog Enjoys

Bernese Mountain Dog puppy illustration - Trupanion dog breed guide

Bernese Mountain Dogs do well in many different activities:

  • Draft work / Cart Pulling

  • Therapy Work

  • Rally Obedience

  • Conformation

  • Agility

  • Nose work / Tracking

  • Herding

  • Skijoring

Bernese Mountain Dog Coat Type

Berners have a luxurious double coat. The topcoat is silky soft and grows to a moderately long length (about two to three inches). Their undercoat is wooly and provides excellent insulation in cold weather. Be aware, the thickness of their coat, and black color, may make Bernese Mountain Dogs more susceptible to heatstroke in hot or more humid climates.

The Bernese Mountain Dog coloring is seen in all 4 of the Swiss mountain breeds, but Berners are the only ones with a long coat. The black body, white on the chest and face, and rust markings on the face and feet are referred to as Tri-color. The white blaze on this breed’s chest is called a “Swiss cross.” Some Berners even sport a “Swiss kiss,” a white spot on the back of their necks.

Shedding Level

dog shedding level - 4 of 5 piles of fur

5 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Daily Maintenance

The Bernese Mountain Dog needs regular brushing to keep shedding manageable and prevent tangles in their coat. This breed has a shiny coat thanks to natural oils from the skin. Brushing helps to evenly distribute these oils and keep their skin and coat healthy. Bathing only needs to be done when a Berner gets especially dirty or smelly, as bathing too frequently can strip the coat of these natural oils.

Some owners of this breed have their dog professionally groomed to neaten up their fluffy coats, asking for a “Beach Clip” or partial trim that relies on scissoring the skirt and feathers, rather than clipping the double coat. It’s not advised to clip a double-coat, as it can result in uneven grow out, damage to the hair follicles, and increases the chance of sunburn, skin cancer, and overheating. A double coat, when well-maintained, actually helps keep a dog cool, facilitating airflow across the skin. If you decide to have a double-coated breed clipped, whether per your veterinarian’s advice in dealing with skin issues or personal preference, it’s important to choose a groomer that knows how to avoid damaging the undercoat. Having your Bernese Mountain Dogs coat clipped short will not reduce the amount of shedding. Regular brushing (and investing in a quality vacuum) is your best bet in the fight against fur.

Introduce your Bernese puppy to brushing at a young age and pair it with positive rewards. This will help them learn that being brushed and groomed is a fun experience and make lifelong grooming a breeze.

Best Brush for a Bernese Mountain Dog: Pin comb, Slicker brush

Famous Owners of the Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Hilary Duff (Actress)

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (Actress)

  • Chelsea Handler (Comedian)

  • Eliza Dushku (Actress)

  • Mark Harmon (Actor)

  • Courtney Cox (Actress)

  • Michael D. Higgins (Politician)

  • Jasmine Harman (TV Presenter)

Bernese Mountain Dogs in Books, Movies and TV

Harvey Milkbone from the TV show The New Normal

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Bernese Mountain Dog

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for Bernese Mountain Dogs. Every Bernese Mountain Dog is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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dog-loving members say about Trupanion

Trupanion member Kelly

Kelly

Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

- Lori

Trupanion member Axl

Axl

Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

The Trupanion policy paid: $2,084.01

"At two, our German shepherd Axl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Trupanion took care of all our financial concerns. At four, his hip issues led to pain medications, rehabilitation and rest, which all resulted in improved pain-free movement. I’m so grateful that we chose a plan that not only covers the cost of his treatment but also any physical therapy or rehabilitation he may need."

- Nanette K.

Trupanion member Bella

Bella

Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

The Trupanion policy paid: $15,283.83

"Bella was treated for Cushing’s disease and a pituitary tumor with radiation therapy. Had we not had insurance for her, the decision for her medical care would have been more difficult, as each treatment was expensive. However, because we have Trupanion, these decisions were easier. Rather, we could focus our attention on her treatment and recovery instead of the financial impact these procedures would have on our family."

- Jason P.

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