The Berner Sennenhund (Bernese Mountain Dog) is a farm dog of ancestral origin used to drive cattle, pull carts of goods to and from the market, and act as a guard dog for the farm and its owners in the pre-alpine regions and midland areas of Switzerland surrounding Bern. Initially, they were named “Sennenhund Dürrbächler” according to the name of the hamlet and the inn of Dürrbach, near Riggisberg in the Canton of Bern, where these tricolored farm dogs were especially numerous. It is believed they originated during the time of the Roman Conquest and descended from the Roman Mollasers (mastiff), and then cross-bred with livestock guarding dogs of the Alps. The four originating breeds are said to be Roman Mastiff, St. Bernard, Great Dane, and Rottweiler.
In the early 1900's examples of the Bernese had already been exhibited at dog shows, and in 1907 some breeders from the region of Burgdorf decided to promote pure breeding of these dogs by founding the “Schweizerischer Dürrbach-Klub”, and fixing the characteristic traits
of the breed. In 1910, at a show in Burgdorf where many farmers of that region brought their Dürrbächler dogs, 107 specimens were shown. During this show, they were renamed Bernese Mountain Dog, following the popularity of the other Swiss Mountain Dog breeds; they became rapidly appreciated all over Switzerland and in the adjacent parts of Germany. Today the Bernese Mountain Dog is well known and appreciated worldwide as a beloved family pet thanks to its striking tricolored coat, gentle nature, and adaptability.
The Bernese Mountain Dog (BMD) is a loyal, faithful, intelligent dog. They are incredibly versatile and have a calm and affectionate nature, making them beloved family pets. They have a remarkable ability to be gentle around children, the elderly and people with dissabilities and are often referred to as “gentle giants.” As of 2021, the BMD currently ranks in the top 20 of the AKC lists of most popular dogs. Berners exhibit their working dog instincts in their willingness to learn and relative ease of being trained. They are aloof by nature to new people, but their guard dog heritage can result in them being protective of family and home. However, they should never be overly aggressive. Early positive socialization between 8 – 16 weeks is essential to help them overcome caution around new people and situations. They should be aloof without being shy. While they are well-tempered dogs, they are slow to mature and exhibit puppy behavior for two to three years before reaching full maturity. Training and obedience are a must with the BMD. Due to their size combined with a slow-maturing brain without proper training, you will have a “bull in a China shop” effect because they are oblivious to their size. BMDs are highly intelligent and respond quickly to positive reinforcement training. With their sensitive nature, harsh training technics should be avoided. They are not a high-energy breed, usually only requiring 30-45 minutes of daily exercise.
Because they are a working breed, they also need daily mental stimulation, not just physical exercise. BMDs thrive in cold, below-freezing temperatures. They do not handle above 80° temperatures well for long periods of time and quickly overheat. We strongly advise against owning a BMD if you live in a high heat region. Berners are a working breed and were bred to spend their days alongside the farmer. They want nothing more than to be wherever their owners are and be considered part of the family. If you are looking for a dog you can leave outside, this is not the breed for you. They will struggle if they are made to spend most of their days cut off from the family and may become despondent or resort to destructive behavior.
Many people ask us if our Berners "shed a lot." And some shy away because of that. Personally, I feel the shedding is moderate compared to Golden Retrievers, Huskies, and German Shepherds. Berners "blow their coat" twice a year, so the hair can be excessive during those times, but with proper maintenance and regular grooming (about every three months), the hair is easily manageable and worth the trade-off to own these amazing dogs.
There is a common misconception among people who are not entirely familiar with BMDs that they drool. As with shedding, it's one of the things that leads people to believe it's better to have a "designer dog" (Berner mixed with another breed); those create a whole separate set of issues. Surprisingly, especially given the dogs they descended from, drooling is not something they deal with. Of course, unless you have food in your hand, and of course, then every dog drools.
Loyal, Adaptable, Affectionate, Intelligent, Committed, Sensitive, Docile, Good Natured, Aloof to strangers, Sensitive
Life expectancy: 6-8 years
Exercise: 30-45 daily outdoor activity. As a working breed, BMDs should also have daily mental stimulation.