Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund)

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black with rich tan and white markings
large, very large
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons

  • very loyal and loving

  • tender and careful with kids

  • outstanding watcher

  • great with both canine and non-canine pets

  • requires considerable amount of grooming

  • very intense shedder

  • doesn’t suit hot climate


The Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund) is a loyal, beautiful and agile tri-coloured breed native to Switzerland. For hundreds and even thousands of years it was sincerely appreciated by Swiss dairy farmers for its multi-functionality and incredible working drive. Nowadays it mainly serves as affectionate, sociable and highly devoted companion animal.


The history of the Bernese Mountain Dog began in the Swiss canton of Bern where it was bred from times immemorial by local cattle-breeders as an all-around farm dog. This breed is one of four distinct varieties of Swiss Mountain Dogs and differs from its near relations by its longer and denser coat. It’s considered to have appeared as the result of crossing of indigenous flock-guarding dogs with mastiff-type canines, which were introduced to this region by Roman invaders some 2 000 years ago.

Originally this dog was mostly used as an only available transport facility to deliver dairy products and other goods to local markets. Over time though the Berner Sennenhund evolved into a sensitive watcher and intrepid guardian of farmers’ houses and enjoyed immense popularity in these roles. It was also often trusted with guarding and herding herds of cattle.

By the end of the XIX century the share of the agricultural industry in the economy of Switzerland shrank very substantially so the need for large and strong dogs also experienced sharp decline. Fortunately in 1899 Swissbegan to display interest in saving their native breeds and established a canine club called Bern. In 1902 the Bernese Mountain Dog was finally presented to general public at a dog show held in Ostermundigen and immediately won appreciation of dog lovers. In the very same the breed was fully recognised by the Swiss Kennel Club.

The first specimens of the Bernese Mountain Dog were brought to the United States after World War I. In 1937 it earned recognition of on of the most reputable canine organisation, the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Second World War somewhat delayed the advancement of the breed outside its homeland, but after 1945, its number slowly but steadily grew in both the US and Europe.

Although the Berner Sennenhund still continues to serve as a draft and herding dog in remote Swiss villages the vast majority of these dogs are acquired solely for companionship. Thanks to its well-pronounced protective instinct it also gained general acceptance as a highly reliable property and personal guardian.


The Bernese Mountain Dog has all vital prerequisites to become an ultimate family companion. Once properly socialised the dog is calm and well-behaved indoors as well as in public. Bear in mind though that it hates being left alone for long periods of time and tends to act out its discontent by chewing your favourite shoes or tearing apart cushions. The breed is sweet and cautious in communication with children although its extremely vigorous temper makes it an unsuitable playmate for a too small child.

Intense suspiciousness towards all strangers is an inherent trait of the Berner Sennenhund. However this dog is rather predisposed to express shyness and fearfulness in front of new people than to snap at them. It’s worth to emphasise the importance of an early socialisation of your pet, which will help to prevent most of behavioural problems in its adulthood. The breed member always remains alert and therefore makes an excellent watcher. It also can be trained into an efficient guardian, which will make a stand for its territory and human family without a second thought.

The Berner Sennenhund is a very companionable breed, which always looks forward to any opportunity to socialise with other canines. This confident and authoritative dog rarely becomes an instigator of dog fights but will never retreat in case of provocation. The strength of prey drive varies in its specimens with some dogs grow into a relentless cat chasers while others are tend to tolerate the company of even homeless cats. Anyway joint up-bringing will guarantee the breeds’ peaceful co-existence with virtually any type of pets.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

· arthritis;

· autoimmune disease;

· bloat;

· cancer;

· canine hip dysplasia;

· elbow dysplasia;

· kidney disease

· eye problems.


The proper maintenance of the Bernese Mountain Dog is a rather time-consuming task. Its dense semi-long coat consists of two layers and needs regular and careful brushing. Grooming should be performed at least twice a week with the help of a stainless pin brush, a slicker brush, and a stainless steel comb with fine and coarse teeth. Bathing should be reduced to five to six times per year but if your pet loves to frisk in the dirt you may want to bathe it more frequently.

Clip the dog’s nails regularly as well as remember to periodically check and clean its ears. The owner of the Berner Sennenhund will face the daily necessity of cleaning up the dog’s hair since this breed is very heavy and constant shedder. So make sure you would be able to put up with this responsibility before adopting this dog.


The Berner Sennenhund is a smart and slightly dominant but still obedient dog that can be trained with average amount of efforts. It’s reported to be somewhat a slow learner but it usually easily succeeds in basic obedience training. This good-natured and sensitive dog should never be treated with a firm hand during lessons since it does best if its interest is stimulated by praise and occasional treats.

This breed will never follow commands of a rude or too meek person so try to establish proper a human-canine communication from the very first training session with this dog. Any form of physical punishment is inadmissible in the work with the Bernese Mountain Dog.


The Bernese Mountain Dog has average need for physical activity. Although this dog prefers to have some meaningful and regular task to channel its energy it will be quite content with a daily long and vigorous walk with its human family. Because of its long and rich coat it adjusts poorly to the life in a hot climate and more than anything loves to play and run in a deep snow.

Once its exercise requirements are properly met the Berner Sennenhund behaves itself relaxed and calm at home. On the other hand without regular physical stimulation this dog tends to become an unbearable barker and enthusiastic chewer of your household items.