Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is originally from Switzerland and named after the Canton of Bern. Often called “Berners,” the Bernese Mountain Dog was originally used to pull carts of milk and produce to market and herd cattle in the mountains of Switzerland.

Common Characteristics

  • Size: 51 to 100 pounds
  • Lifespan: 6 to 15 years
  • Pet purchase cost: $1000 to $1000
  • Allergies: Moderate
  • Shedding: Severe
  • Primarily suited for indoors


Common Reasons for Surrender

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America told PetStarter that they rescue about 20 dogs per year. The overriding reason for surrender is life changes such as job loss, divorce, health changes in the owner, moving, or life changes that happen to people where the dog can’t come along.


The top two reasons that people want this uncommon breed is because they’ve heard they’re a great family dog with a particularly gentle nature, and they like the tri-color markings, particularly on the face.


It is difficult to fall in love with a dog that has such a short lifespan. One reputable study reports that Berners have the highest rate for cancer of all the breeds. They’re generally a dry mouth dog, but a few drool. Bernese Mountain Dogs shed year round, so you must be committed to daily brushing to keep the shedding under control.


There are people who feed the Bernese Mountain Dog the BARF diet—Bones And Raw Food only. A high-end kibble with mostly meat ingredients is recommended. Families should be careful not to overfeed as rapid growth in the puppy stage can lead to joint problems. It’s advisable to try to achieve slow growth in all the large breeds. You don’t need high end treats for the Bernese.


The Bernese Mountain Dog needs moderate exercise such as long walks or an intense run in short bursts. These dogs have a background in light duty herding like the Border Collie as well as droving, which is driving a group of animals down a lane or moving them from one pasture to another. However, the Bernese was bred from a long line of farm dogs that pulled milk carts and loved their families and will enjoy a trial run pulling a small sled or wagon.

 Possible Health Issues

Besides the short life span, the Bernese Mountain Dog is prone to bloat and can have orthopedic issues. (See Orthopedic hip surgery costs roughly $3,000 and perhaps up to $5,000 in a large city. Another common health problem for the Bernese Mountain Dog is cancer. A recent reputable study said that 53 to 54 percent of hospital deaths of Berners were due to cancer.



Despite the “mountain dog” name, a Bernese can make its home in an apartment, townhouse, or condo. However, as they grow older, it is not recommended that they go up and down stairs a lot. Their legs get creaky and lame and, unless you can carry a 90 pound dog up and down the stairs, it’s wise to live in a complex that has an elevator.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is a double coated breed and a very heavy shedder. This dog sheds year round so be sure to brush your Bernese daily and give her an occasional bath. Toenails need to be clipped regularly.


The Bernese Mountain Dog can be trained in basic manners and housetraining in the first six months. If you actively train for obedience, use a piece of kibble they normally eat to reward them for right responses. Some rescuers recommend that you wait until after teething (six months usually) before doing formal obedience classes.


Chew toys that do not splinter are highly recommended, especially the first six months. The Bernese Mountain Dog’s favorite pastime is enjoying attention from his family.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES                                                                                                       

We want to thank Bernese Mountain Dog Colorado Rescue (BMDCR) and Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition for help with this profile.

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