Is A Bernese Mountain Dog Right for You?
Brief History of the Bernese Mountain Dog
The BMD was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1937, but there are some much earlier mentions. In 1792 a painting of a dog that looked very much like a modern day Bernese Mountain Dog appeared on the wall of a Swiss church. The name “Bernese” comes from Canton Bern as this is where they were most popular.
BMD’s are believed to have descended from the Roman molosser dogs or perhaps Mastiffs brought to Switzerland by the invading Romans, but this is uncertain. They were used as herders and draft animals instead of just guard dogs like other breeds. The breed was also expected to be able to cope with very heavy loads including milk canisters and other items. The breed was so good at this that they were used to transport goods across the Alps until World War I.
The first “official” appearance of the Berner Sennenhund was in 1892, but this is misleading because it wasn’t until 1907 when all of the Sennenhunds were finally recognized as basically the same breed. This was a big step for the Swiss dog, as they finally had their own breed instead of being called “Half-Breeds” by those who didn’t believe that they were anything more than just mutts. In fact, these types of dogs were so common in Switzerland at one point that they would have been considered peasant’s dogs or mongrels.
The 4 Sennenhunds
The Bernese Mountain Dog was originally called the “Berner Sennenhund”. They began being imported to America in 1926, and when an American dog fancier named Mrs. Charles Lane saw two different dogs at the New York show that year and she wanted them both so badly that she had them shipped back with her to New York. Both of these dogs were sable and white, and she was infatuated with them. Since the Berner Sennenhund wasn’t an American breed, Mrs. Lane decided to call them “Bernese Mountain Dogs” instead to help attract attention from Americans who’d never heard of such a dog before or had trouble pronouncing the “Berner Sennenhund” name. The breed was accepted in America in 1937 and is a part of AKC’s Working Group.
Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament and Personality
The BMD has a friendly temperament, is excellent with children and gets along well with other dogs. He is calm, devoted to his people and courageous. BMD’s need an experienced owner who can provide consistent leadership. If you allow him to take over the house without any rules, he will be unpleasant to live with. This is not a breed that can “live on love” and needs daily attention and excercise.
Bred as flock guardians, the breed is very good with children but are not recommended for rambunctious play at a young age. However, they will love following your kids around the yard on their bikes or playing ball. They are generally good with other dogs and animals, but may chase smaller ones. The Bernese Mountain Dog should not live outside on its own, as it needs to be with people.
The Berner is not an excessive barker or digger, but will protect you and your property if needed. They have a distinctive bark that will alert you to any potential problems.
Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise and Energy Levels
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed developed in the Swiss Alps, and named for the Canton of Berne where it is thought to have originated. The dogs were used as general farm dogs, guardians, and draft animals.
To this day, the Berner still remains a hard-working dog that loves to herd anything from livestock to children.
The breed is strong and sturdy without appearing heavy, and should be well-balanced with good substance and bone. The chest is deep and the back straight with a slightly protruding loin. The tail is long and bushy and carried low in repose, but may curl up over the back when excited or working hard. They have a distinctive tri-color coat and a lively and intelligent expression.
Due to its size, the Bernese Mountain Dog needs substantial daily exercise – at least 45 minutes of walking or light jogging per day, as well as opportunity to stretch its legs off lead in a safe area. However, do not overwork the dog by making it run long distances or too frequently as it is a heavy breed and may experience joint problems.
A fenced area or one-acre yard to run around in will help the dog burn off extra energy and prevent boredom, which could lead to chewing and other unwanted behaviors. Like all dogs, Berners should be well socialized early on to prevent shyness or aggression toward other dogs, animals, and people.
Bernese Mountain Dog Training Tips
The Bernese is a large dog breed that requires intense training from a young age to ensure they do not become unmanageable. With the right training, however, the Bernese Mountain Dog can be an excellent companion.
The first thing you want to do is teach your dog her name so she knows to look at you when you say it. It is important to use a unique name, because calling your dog “dog” or “come here” can get confusing and cause problems.
Next, it’s time to teach your dog the basic commands: sit, stay, come, and lie down. Be sure to be firm, but gentle with your dog while teaching these commands. Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement like praise and treats. After she has mastered the basics, you can move on to more advanced training.
Socializing your dog is another important part of training. Bring your dog to new places and introduce her to new people, sounds, textures, and smells while being careful not to overwhelm her. If she seems nervous or scared, allow her to investigate the new object or person at her own pace.
Finally, it’s important to give your dog lots of exercise and mental stimulation to keep her sharp. Daily walks and games like fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek are great ways to get your dog moving.
To train a Bernese, be firm but patient and treat them like the dogs they are. With the right training, they can become a valuable member of your family.
4 Health Problems Most Seen in Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Hip Dysplasia
Bernese Mountain Dogs are especially prone to hip dysplasia, a disorder in which the hip joints don’t develop properly before birth or become damaged later in life. Bernese with hip dysplasia may display discomfort early on by being reluctant to climb stairs, jump into cars, or stand after lying down. At worst, they may suffer debilitating pain that can lead to refusal of food and weight loss. Dogs with hip dysplasia may need surgery later in life to replace the damaged joints.
Bloat occurs when gas or other materials build up in the stomach due to incomplete digestion. This creates an expanding mass inside the abdomen that can dangerously obstruct the blood supply to major organs. Symptoms of bloat include pacing, excessive salivation (foam around the mouth), drooling, trying unsuccessfully to vomit, and rapid abdominal distention. Without immediate veterinary treatment, dogs with bloat can die an excruciating death within hours due to shock or organ failure.
- Malignant Histiocytosis
Malignant histiocytosis is an aggressive cancer of the white blood cells. Dogs with this condition typically develop skin tumors that may or may not be itchy and painful. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, and coughing. Histiocytic Sarcoma has been shown to be inherited in the Bernese Mountain Dog.
4. Osteo Chondrosis Dessicans
This genetic condition is a developmental bone defect seen in Bernese Mountain Dogs. It is caused by a malformation of the cartilage disc between the growth plates in the long bones, most commonly the femur and humerus. The condition usually does not show up until dogs reach skeletal maturity (usually between a year and a half to three years old). Affected dogs will present with an acute, non-progressive lameness of one or more limbs. In some dogs, there may be a history of trauma to the affected limb several months prior to the onset of symptoms. Stress radiographs will show widening and irregularity in the growth plate at both ends of the long bones. Osteo chondrosis dessicans is a painful condition and if not treated correctly will cause permanent damage to the dog and or progression to severe osteoarthritis.
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