Breed Type: Working dog
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Popular Names: Berner Sennenhund
Height: (At the withers) Males 61 – 71 cm, Females 58 – 69 cm
Weight: Males 38 – 50 kg, Females 36 – 48 kg
Best suited as: Pet or show dog with a single owner or family. May be used as a working dog
Lifespan: 6 – 8 years
The name Sennenhund comes from the German words for “alpine pasture” and hund means “dog.” They were used to accompany dairymen and herders in the Swiss Canton of Bern.
These are extra-large dogs that have a muscular frame, a stocky build, and beautiful tri-colour coat. They have a broad head, small v-shaped ears, dark eyes, and deep, wide chests. Their eyes are dark and very expressive. Their tails are long and bushy. Their coats are impressively thick and wavy on top, with a woolen undercoat. They are mainly black, with bright white markings on the chest, between the eyes, and at the end of the tail; and rust over their eyes, on the underside of the tail, and on the legs. Ideally, the white mark above the nose looks like a horseshoe and the white mark on the chest looks like an upside-down Swiss cross when viewed from the front. There may be a white marking on the back of the neck, called the “Swiss Kiss.”
The Bernese Mountain Dog was bred to be a cart dog, watch dog, and multi-purpose farm dog. It is possible it descended from native dogs that guarded the flocks in the Swiss Alps and mastiff-type dogs. It was used to pull carts of fresh milk and other dairy products. These dogs appear in art going back to the mid-1600s.
Until the late 1800s, this breed went unnoticed by everyone but those farmers who used the dogs for their working abilities. In 1892, a Swiss innkeeper and a college professor from Zurich decided to build up the breed and searched for quality dogs upon which to base their project. In 1907 a breed specialty club was founded, and shortly after that, the Bernese Mountain Dog began to gain popularity as companions and show dogs. The breed was imported to countries all over the world starting in the mid-1920s.
These dogs are docile, self-assured, placid towards strangers, good-natured, intelligent, stable, loyal, and affectionate. They love being outside, and enjoy brief hiking trips and other outdoor activities with their owners. They are sometimes shy. They can get along with other animals, as long as they have been socialized since birth. They often display signs of puppyhood until over two years of age. They are usually very patient and loving, which makes them good with children. They require early and ongoing socialization to acclimatize them to new people and different situations so that they do not become anxious and overly-timid.
They do not deal well with harsh treatment or discipline, and do best when positive reinforcement using praise and occasional treats is used. They love to please their masters but can be slow to learn and stubborn. Trainers need to be patient, gentle, and consistent.
They are prone to separation anxiety and should not be left alone for long periods of time. This can result in destructive behaviour. They tend to be lazy, and don’t have a lot of endurance. They prefer short bursts of activity followed by periods of rest. This makes them ideal for less active people.
Care and Grooming
These dogs shed heavily year-round. The best way to deal with this is to bathe and brush them as much as possible during the heaviest shedding periods. This reduces the amount of fur in your home environment and keeps their coats and skin as healthy as possible. When the shedding is light, you can reduce the brushing to once a week. Baths and heavier grooming sessions might be necessary on occasion to remove mud, twigs, and other debris after an intense play session. Never clip or trim its hair unless there is a severe case of matting or tangling. It’s best to leave this work to a professional groomer to avoid damaging the dog’s coat.
The dog will need its ears cleaned and checked for signs of infection on a weekly basis, and requires its teeth brushed once a week as well. You will need to clip its toenails once a month as required. Some dogs wear their nails down outside and will not need this grooming step on a regular basis.
Even though these dogs were bred to be workers, they are very lazy. Their activity requirements are fairly low and they do not make good cycling or jogging companions. They do not enjoy long, drawn-out hikes or other high-energy activities like some dogs. They prefer a mid-length walk through the park or a slow, short jog through the neighbourhood. Inside games like tug-of-war or light fetching will also serve to exercise these dogs. This serves two purposes: they get to spend time with their owners in a bonding session, and it burns up some of their energy.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a fairly short life span. Most live to – at maximum – nine years, and spend at least two and a half of those years as pups, and three as elderly dogs. They suffer from a few serious health problems, namely hip dysplasia and bloat. An increasingly higher cause of death among these dogs is cancer. Meticulous breeding combined with regular vet checkups and a good feeding program can help reduce the incidence of cancer. Have your dog checked for hip dysplasia and choose a dog from a reputable breeder to help decrease the likelihood of hip dysplasia.
It is very important that these dogs not be over-exercised as pups. Simple rolls, jumps, and other tricks should never be taught to them until they are over two years old. This will help avoid hip injuries that may lead to long-term problems.
Suitability As A Pet
Their large size makes them somewhat unsuitable for apartment living. They do best in ground-level homes, so they don’t have to deal with stairs as elderly dogs. They need a bit of space to play inside. Homes with a yard are ideal for games of fetch but not necessary. These dogs are best for owners who do not expect highly active companion dogs. This makes them a great match for more sedentary or older people.
Bernese Mountain Dog Organisations in Australia
No club information listed
Bernese Mountain Dog Organisations in the UK
The Central Bernese Mountain Dog Club
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