Breed HistoryThe Bernese Mountain Dog or "Berner Sennehund" is one of many Swiss breeds. They were used to pull carts of milk cans to market, guard the farm, and help drive cows to and from the mountain pastures. They were the Sheperd's (or Senn's) companion. "Sennenhund" translates to "Herdsman's dog". The breed has roots in a small farm cattle dog crossed to a large mastiffy type dog. The breed almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century as machines and roads replaced their usefullness.
In 1892 two breed fanciers tried to save the breed. In 1907, a specialty breed club was established in Switzerland and the Bernese started to be seen in shows again. Apparently the breed was allowed to outcross with the Newfoundland dog to regain some size hardiness and calm personality. The AKC recognized them as a breed in 1937 and the CKC in the 1970's. Most Bernese are instinctively gentle with little animals and children. They crave human companionship. They sure put a new meaning to being "close" to people.
More About the BreedThe breed ranges between 58cm to 70 cm.(23 - 27.6 inches) at the shoulders. Bitches range between 58 to 66 cm. (22.8 - 26 inches). Dogs range between 62 to 70 cm. (24.4 - 27.5 inches). They weigh between 80-115 lbs. Some can be significantly larger.
Bernese can be very friendly as adults, but they also can be a little more discriminating about strangers than Golden Retrievers. They certainly do bark and warn you that there is somebody strange at your back door or that a strange dog is on your property. They are not an attack dog, but a bit of wariness is part of the breed, as they were used by the Swiss shepherd, or 'Sennun', to tell the Sennun that something was wrong with the flock of sheep or herd of cattle. So a slightly discriminating nature isdefinitely part of this breed. Women, children and small animals are rarely perceived as a threat but the odd strange man will get barked at. They were also used to pull carts of milk cans and supplies to market before there were roads in the Swiss Alps walking quietly beside the Sennun. They rarely pull you and like to walk quietly beside you. Bernese Mountain Dogs have no wander in them at all, they always want to be where you are.
This breed does not have a nose for hunting. They are quite happy staying at home watching over their property. Some breeds are compelled to follow their nose. Bernese do not have to follow a scent and want to be near you all of the time. For Northern Ontario, or rural countryside, they are great estate dog because they will warn you if you have a four legged intruder, but they do not feel compelled to charge off into the bush chasing the wildlife and getting themselves hurt.
If you want your Bernese to like other dogs they should be kept well socialized with other dogs as puppies. As adults, they will not attack a strange dog, but they will bark at a strange dog if the dog does not belong to your place and if the strange dog is on YOUR property. At a public park they have no opinions about other dogs.
My dogs are raised together and get along famously with each other and have great play behaviour. The Bernese is not known for being a pack dog but instead crave human companionship. Our Bernese are raised with Goldens, and they think that they are Goldens and compete with each other to see who can be the friendliest to all strangers (if I'm there and say that the strange people are O.K.). Again they love to be CLOSE to you. They enjoy physical contact and are known to goose your butt, or paw your leg to get your attention and if allowed to rub between your legs or sit on your lap.
This is the last breed you should buy to stick on a chain and ignore.
The Bernese breed can range anywhere from too shy, to too bold; we personally like a happy, confident,but not too pushy Bernese. Unfortunately many Bernese can be way too wary of strangers. They are not quite as adaptable as some other breeds. They are very content with settling in and living a calm life in their environment they know best. As they age some can tend to love their families only, while they become more indifferent towards strangers and strange dogs.... Also keep in mind strangers can scare your Bernese by staring and putting pressure on them to "come here". You must tell your friends and company not to pressure the Bernese, but just look away and do not touch. Do not stare at a scared Bernese. Eventually, with no pressure, the Bernese will come up and check out the new person; but only if they know that you, their owner, are comfortable with this new person. They are so loyal to you and love you sooo much.
As far as really young pups go, it should be known that some Bernese take a much longer time to maturethan the Goldens or the Shepherds. That includes their bowel habits, so some can be a bit slower at toilet training when very young pups. They finally catch on when they are about 16 weeks. They are bitslower to mature and really are not fully mature until about 3 years of age.
The Bernese do not live a long life, but their life with you is unforgettable. Some people say that their average life is no more than 6 - 8 years. Fortunately, we have only had a couple of our customer's dogs pass away before 4 years of age. We have produced many Bernese, so our juvenile cancers are well under 1% which is considered statistically insignificant. Most of my own personal dogs have lived 8 -12 years of age, and we have had several of our dog customer's dogs live to 12 years of age also. We do have some suggestions on how to hopefully help this longevity. We caution you on NOT using some of the heart worm and tick controls with the Bernese and Golden breed, and we do make several suggestions on how to get around this. We also have several natural and raw food suggestions which we would go over in person.
There is a common saying about the Bernese, that any amount of years with a Bernese is worth it. We feel that any Bernese that is healthy after 8.5 years is just a BIG bonus.
Also, if you are ever watching the show 'Pick a Puppy' on CMT, keep an eye out for us! We are on one of the episodes in that series.