Is a Bernese Mountain Dog a Good Family Dog?

The calmness and self-confidence of the Bernese mountain dog qualify it as a level-headed rescue and search dog. As a quiet and people-oriented companion, the impressive Switzerland originated dog cuts a good figure.

It’s a cute animal that most people wish to have around their families. But this then brings the question back to the fore: is a Bernese mountain dog a good family dog? 

The Bernese is definitely a family dog. But anyone who expects a cozy couch potato from it will be wrong. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a spirited, hard-working, self-assured, and good-natured dog who likes to guard a large property.

But they are also satisfied with a rented apartment, as long as they can only be with their people and please them. With their happy, open, and engaging facial expressions, they can quickly conquer every heart by storm. 

This is not surprising, after all, their ancestors, who lived among the farmers of the Swiss Alps, were versatile working dogs. The strong, medium-sized dogs pulled milk carts, drove the cattle, and guarded the house and farm. 

Today, it is especially popular as a calm, good-natured, but very watchful family dog. Learning to work with dogs with the Berner is also a possibility. 

Bernese mountain dog: History and origin

As the name suggests, the Bernese Mountain Dog comes from the area around Bern in Switzerland. Mastiffs are presumably one of their ancestors. They had reportedly crossed the Alps with the Roman army.

Also, St. Bernard, Newfoundland, and German Shepherd types are likely to have been crossed to produce them. The goal was to have a robust, watchful farm dog that could also be used to pull wagons and drive the animals. 

They called it yellow cheeks (Gelbbäckler) or Four Eyes (Vieräugler). However, it became known under the name “Dürrbächler”, a region south of Bern. The nickname Dürrbächler can be traced back to a hamlet and an inn with this name near Riggisberg in the canton of Bern, where the Bernese Mountain Dog was particularly widespread in its early days.  

Initially, very few Bernese had their current three-colored coat, and there were often yellow or brown dogs. However, they were all similar in nature and size. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, pure breeding of these dogs began. Breed codes were set up and breed clubs were founded, first in Switzerland (Schweizerischer Dürrbachclub, founded 1907), and later also in Germany. The breed has been known as the “Bernese Mountain Dog” since 1910 when 107 of these great dogs were presented at the exhibition in Burgdorf. 

Bernese mountain dog: Characteristics 

Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally friendly, people-oriented, and well-balanced dogs. Thanks to their high stimulus threshold, they usually react calmly to environmental stimuli. 

So they don’t make overreactions towards people despite their alertness. They observe calmly and only intervene when it’s only really necessary. Of course, good breeding and getting used to the environment also play an important role. 

The Bernese are said to have a certain stubbornness. This may be due to their immense self-confidence and the fact that they would like to see meaning in the commands and tasks that are given to them. With positive motivation and a lot of consistency, however, they are usually easy to train. 

The Bernese Mountain Dog hardly has any hunting instinct and it also does not tend to stray. After the basic education, it can usually run freely without any problems. However, especially in their territory, males can tend to have intolerance with other members of their sexes. 

The Bernese Mountain Dog is not only suitable for searching for space. It loves all tasks where it is challenged – whether in pulling wagons in a dog sport, in agility, or obedience, as a tracking dog for mantrailing, as an avalanche search dog, or as a debris search dog in earthquake post-disaster operations. Even in a protection dog sport, you can sometimes find this breed useful.  

Bernese mountain dog: Appearance 

Almost everyone recognizes a Bernese Mountain Dog straight away. The mountain dog is very big and strong. It is a slow but hard-working, powerful dog. Its silky, shimmering, long fur is a real feast for the eyes and has an upper coat and a woolly undercoat. 

The dog has a characteristic white coat of paint on the face, which runs from the forehead, between the eyes down to the mouth. Also, the fur on its chest is white. The rest of the fur is always brown and black 

What and who is the Bernese dog suitable for? 

As a good-natured, relaxed, self-confident, and altruistic dog, the Bernese is well suited as a family dog, which usually gets along wonderfully with children. 

As earlier mentioned, many Bernese Mountain Dogs appreciate a garden or property that they can guard. However, the breed needs close family ties and is therefore in no way suitable as a pure kennel dog. If you want to keep the Berner in an apartment, it would be ideal if either an elevator is available or it is on the ground floor.  

Since it is easy to motivate, it is also suitable for activities such as dog dance and of course for dog work. Due to its philanthropic, easy-going nature, it is also suitable as a therapy dog, e.g. in the field of elderly care. 

Caring for and nature of the dog 

Until the Bernese is fully grown, it should walk as few stairs as possible. And in old age or with illness, it may no longer be able to do this. In any case, the Bernese Mountain Dog is too big and too heavy to be engaged in tasking activities regularly. 

The Bernese is a winter dog. It loves cool temperatures and snow, but in summer, it may suffer quickly from the heat. One can think about having it sheared in summer. But it is more suitable for people who like the cold and snow and prefer to be outside for a long time in winter. 

The Bernese Mountain Dog is more active and willing to work than some people think it can due to its appearance. The dog likes long walks and hikes, but only a lean, well-trained Bernese should ride a bike.  

Unfortunately, the life expectancy of the Bernese Mountain Dog is very short as it often suffers from hereditary issues. Cancer diseases, kidney problems, and severe joint deformities in particular cause it to die earlier than it should.

It is therefore very advisable to get your dog from a good breeder who values ​​the health and longevity of the dog. Evaluations of as many relatives as possible over several generations as well as previous offspring should be included in the breeding planning. 

The stress in the first year of life and diet also play a major role in whether the Bernese can grow old healthily. Unfortunately, you see a lot of Bernese which are too fat, which is of course not good for their health. 

The fur of the Bernese Mountain Dog is long and dense. As a pet dog, it should be brushed regularly. You also have to be able to tolerate a certain amount of drooling. Apart from that, the maintenance is not too laborious.  

Cold temperatures is not a problem for these dogs, but they are very sensitive to heat. When it’s outside, it needs plenty of shade and fresh water. The dog also has a lot of hair (all year round!). Which is why you should comb it regularly.  

Advantages Disadvantages 
Great family dog Super loyal Very peaceful and easy to work with Gets along with other pets Has no problem with strangers Does not cope well with warm weather Hairs a lot and drools sometimes Develops fear when alone 

Wrapping Up 

Again, is a Bernese mountain dog a good family dog? Well, as we’ve seen, due to its self-confident, good-natured nature, the Bernese Mountain Dog is very suitable for families with children. But it’s not only for families but also for singles, couples and sprightly pensioners.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is always a good companion for all sorts of activities, be it a walk on the beach or high mountain tour, horse ride, bike excursion, as a companion on ski or snowshoe tours. Of course, everything has to, in many activities, be done in moderation. 

Anyone who decides to make the Bernese Mountain Dog a family pet should be willing to employ them appropriately – not only physically but also mentally, through search games, tricks, or the above-mentioned dog sports. Like almost all dog breeds, the Bernese Mountain Dog is not a dog that can be kept in a kennel.

It loves its people and wants to be with them whenever possible. A house with a garden is ideal, but not a must. You can offer the Bernese Mountain Dog a good life in an apartment. Here, however, you should make sure that the apartment is on the ground floor or that the house is equipped with a lift. 

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