The Bernese Mountain Dog: the shepherd dog who was never a shepherd dog

Csupor Erik

2023. November 9 - Photos: Jacks&Bears

Bernese Mountain Dogs: huge stature, rich, 3-colored fur, gentle nature, rising popularity like. In recent years, it has been considered one of the most popular family dogs worldwide.


What is characteristic of the Bernese Mountain Dog, and who is this breed actually for?

The Bernese Mountain Dogs are conquering with their distinctive looks.

The past

The emergence and prehistory of the Bernese Mountain Dog is almost unexplainable. Of course, Swiss cynologists claim that the ancestors of these dogs came to the region with the Romans. Unfortunately this is unprovable and is more theory than reality. What is factual, however, is that the ancestors of these dogs were all-purpose dogs of the Swiss peasant farms. They mainly lived in large numbers around the town of Dürrbach.

Early modern Swiss farmers did not keep them as classic herding dogs, but mainly as working dogs for pulling carts. These dogs hauled milk and cheese home from the alpine pastures, but also took part in herding the cattle. Due to their place of origin, they were initially called Dürrbachhund or Dürrbächler (and the locals simply called them cheese dogs), and their first breed club was formed in 1907. Their name later changed to Bernese Mountain Dog, as they are known all over the world today.

Friendly, kind and well-disposed

The Bernese Mountain Dog, which is perhaps only called a shepherd dog in Hungarian (the name is mountain dog in both English and German), is a real specialty among large working dogs. Unlike its peers of a similar size, it is almost not prone to aggression, which is highlighted by today’s breed standard.

In their case, we can speak of an extremely friendly, benevolent and kind breed, who, precisely because of this, fit perfectly into human communities and families. They are always predictable and mostly benignant even towards strangers. They are extremely patient, they love children, and since they have almost no hunting instinct, they can easily live with other pets.

A very friendly breed.

Their territorial instincts are not very strong either. Completely unpredictable whether the Bernese Mountain Dog would prefer to play with a stranger entering its territory or simply be happy to be around it.

Size and coat

The Bernese Mountain Dog is pretty large. The average height at the withers of specimens living today is 58-70 cm, and their average weight is 38-50 kilograms. One of the reasons for their real, unmistakable uniqueness and international success is their tricolor coat. The base is black, with white spots (on the nose, for example, in the shape of a horseshoe). The third color is rust brown, which is present above the eyes, on both sides of the muzzle and at the end of the legs. Its fur is long, soft to the touch and rich, which requires regular grooming.

Not very demanding in terms of physical activities.

Trainability and need for movement

In the past of the Bernese Mountain Dog, work was decisive, as it was bred and kept as a working dog. Due to its cooperativeness and gentleness, it is an easy breed to train. Although it has not really been used for work for a long time. Nowadays, it uses its natural intelligence and high level of social skills much more in the family circle. In Switzerland and other parts of the world, they are still used for pulling carts, now more as a sport. Since 2010 they can officially participate in herding championships and events. Due to their truly outstanding and high empathic abilities compared to other dogs, they are increasingly being used as therapy dogs.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is not a breed that requires a lot of exercise. Its energy level can be called medium or low. This dog with a suitable condition can of course withstand the load, but it is more suitable for short-term, high-effort tasks than for long-term, repetitive movements. Due to its long fur, it has a hard time handling hot weather. Move the dog vigorously in hot weather is definitely not recommended. The cool or rather the cold environment is what it feels good in. Understandably, since higher temperatures are quite rare in Switzerland, its homeland. Compared to its large stature, its movements are flexible and dynamic, but of course it can never be a long-distance runner.

Excellent family dog.

Health, life expectancy

One of the tragedies of this lovely and beautiful dog breed is that it belongs to one of the shortest average lifespans in the dog world. Few Bernese Mountain Dogs live to be 10 years old, their average lifespan is 6-9 years. They are also special in their susceptibility to diseases. The breed has the highest susceptibility to cancer of all dogs. According to statistics, almost half of Bernese Mountain Dog deaths are caused by different types of cancer. The ynologists have not yet found any meaningful explanation. In some cases, they are prone to dysplasia and, due to their heavy weight, to cruciate ligament rupture.

Who is it suitable for?

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s kindness and cooperativeness make it an ideal dog companion or friend even for beginner dog owners. It is typically the type in which training errors or inexperience usually do not lead to a deviant distortion of the dog’s personality. The Bernese Mountain Dog will not attack other dogs, hunt down the neighbor’s chickens or cats, or attack people. In addition, due to their excellent nature, they are welcome guests and they are also more willing to be allowed in public places than other, similarly large, but tougher herding dog breeds.

The only thing that will not be easy for a future owner to accept is the extremely short lifespan mentioned in the previous point. At the same time, it is also true, as the fans of the Bernese Mountain Dog claim: during this short period of time, they receive so much love from this breed that it compensates them in a certain way for the years that pass by quickly.

We talk a lot about how important it is to buy from responsible breeders, and if we can, we try to introduce you to such. Two litters of Bernese Mountain Dogs were born in the Jacks&Bears kennel in October, whose puppies are the offspring of award-winning parents. You can get detailed information about the little ones here.

bernese mountain dog dog breed Erik Csupor family dog working dog

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