Bernese Mountain Dog

Introduction | History & Health | Temperament & Personality | Breed Standard

Bernese Mountain Dog

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Introduction

The Bernese Mountain Dog, also known in its homeland as the Berner Sennenhund, is one of several mountain dog breeds originating in Switzerland, although it is the only one with a long, silky coat. At times known as the Gelbbacker ("yellow cheeks"), the Vieraugen or Vieraugli ("four-eyes") or the Durrbachler (a district in Berne), this is an ancient breed, accepted into the American Kennel Club's Working Group in 1937. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a sturdy, striking, symmetrically marked tri-colored breed that remains strong and agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which it originally was bred. These are watchful, confident, friendly, sensitive and companionable dogs that thrive in cold climates. They make excellent family dogs and form close bonds with their owners. They should be aloof to strangers but never shy and are especially gentle with children.
The male Bernese Mountain Dog should stand 25 to 27 ½ inches at the withers, with bitches being 23 to 26 inches in height. The average Bernie weighs between 80 and 110 pounds (the females are lighter and smaller than the males). These are jet-black, longhaired dogs with rich russet markings on the legs, cheeks, over each eye and on either side of a snowy white chest. White feet and a white tail tip are highly desired.

History & Health

History

The Bernese Mountain Dog comes from Switzerland and is one of four tri-colored varieties of Swiss mountain dogs, which also include the Appenzeller Sennenhund, the Entlebucher Sennenhund and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The long coat of the Bernese Mountain Dog distinguishes it from its close relatives. It was bred to be a draft dog (also known as a cart dog), a watchdog and an all-around farm dog. It is thought to have descended centuries ago from crosses between mastiff-type dogs and native flock-guarding dogs in the valleys of the Swiss Alps, before becoming popular with modern breed fanciers. One of its main historical tasks was to transport fresh milk, cheese and other produce for small farmers who were too poor or otherwise unable to own draft horses to pull carts containing their wares.
Until the late nineteenth century, due to a lack of concerted breeding efforts, this breed was all but forgotten except by rural inhabitants of the Berne area of Switzerland. Starting in 1892, a Swiss innkeeper, and shortly thereafter a college professor from Zurich, scoured the countryside in an attempt to find good specimens of the breed. After much searching, they finally were able to find quality dogs, thus starting the rehabilitation of the breed. A breed specialty club was founded in Switzerland in 1907, and the Bernese Mountain Dog thereafter became sought as show dogs and companions, in addition to continuing their working roles as "beasts of burden" on market days.
The breed was first brought to the United States in 1926 and achieved recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1937. The parent club was formed in 1968 (the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America) and became an AKC member club in 1981.

Health

The average life span of the Bernese Mountain Dog is between 8 and 11 years. Breed health concerns may include arthritis, autoimmune disease, bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, kidney disease, entropion, cataracts and generalized progressive retinal atrophy. Their long coat requires regular brushing to reduce shedding, prevent matting and remove dirt and dander.

Temperament & Personality

Personality

Bernese Mountain Dogs are a true family companion. They are sweet, affectionate, easy-going, take well to children and are extremely patient with kids climbing all over them. They have the energy to play all day, and will happily flop down by the fireplace for a little rest and relaxation with the rest of the family. They do just fine with other pets, are polite to strangers and sometimes think they are lapdogs, despite their size.

Activity Requirements

Bernese Mountain Dogs enjoy naps and relaxation just as much as the next dog, but they do require a lot of activity. They are a winter dog – their long coats aren't designed for long, hot summers – and they will enjoy romping in the snow, and if possible, pulling children around on a sled. They are not apartment dogs; they need lots of room and a yard to romp in. They will enjoy taking evening walks with the family, and will proudly trot alongside mother and baby stroller.
Socialization is very important with a Bernese, and it should begin as early as possible. They can be shy around new people and if they don't learn to accept strangers and new situations, they can become overly timid and anxious.

Trainability

A confident, consistent, but gentle hand is needed with this breed. Though some males can be dominant, overall this breed is docile and should never be treated harshly. They respond best to lots of reinforcement and a few treats. They can be stubborn and slow to learn, so patience and an even keel are important for anyone training a Bernese Mountain Dog. Despite their initial stubbornness, they do well in basic obedience training and can be graduated to advanced tricks and agility.

Behavioral Traits

The natural shyness of this breed can lead to anxiety problems in adolescence and adulthood. Bernese puppies should be socialized to accept new people and new situations as joyous events, rather than things to be feared.
Separation Anxiety can be common in this breed. They enjoy spending time with people, and if left alone for long periods of time without proper exercise and activity, destructive tendencies can develop.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking. tri-colored, large dog. He is sturdy and balanced. He is intelligent, strong and agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which he was used in the mountainous regions of his origin. Dogs appear masculine, while bitches are distinctly feminine.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Measured at the withers, dogs are 25 to 27½ inches; bitches are 23 to 26 inches. Though appearing square, Bernese Mountain Dogs are slightly longer in body than they are tall. Sturdy bone is of great importance. The body is full. Head - Expression is intelligent, animated and gentle. The eyes are dark brown and slightly oval in shape with close-fitting eyelids. Inverted or everted eyelids are serious faults. Blue eye color is a disqualification. The ears are medium sized, set high, triangular in shape. gently rounded at the tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When the Bernese Mountain Dog is alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base; the top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat on top and broad, with a slight furrow and a well-defined, but not exaggerated stop. The muzzle is strong and straight. The nose is always black. The lips are clean and, as the Bernese Mountain Dog is a dry-mouthed breed, the flews are only slightly developed. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. An overshot or undershot bite is a serious fault. Dentition is complete.

Neck, Topline, Body
The neckis strong, muscular and of medium length. The topline is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep and capacious with well-sprung, but not barrel-shaped, ribs and brisket reaching at least to the elbows. The back is broad and firm. The loin is strong. The croup is broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion. The tail is bushy. It should be carried low when in repose. An upward swirl is permissible when the dog is alert, but the tail may never curl or be carried over the back. The bones in the tail should feel straight and should reach to the hock joint or below. A kink in the tail is a fault.

Forequarters
The shoulders are moderately laid back, flat-lying, well-muscled and never loose. The legs are straight and strong and the elbows are well under the shoulder when the dog is standing. The pasterns slope very slightly. but are never weak. Dewclaws may be removed. The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes.

Hindquarters
The thighs are broad, strong and muscular. The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks. The hocks are well let down and straight as viewed from the rear. Dewclaws should be removed. Feet are compact and turn neither in nor out.

Coat
The coat is thick, moderately long and slightly wavy or straight. It has a bright natural sheen. Extremely curly or extremely dull-looking coats are undesirable. The Bernese Mountain Dog is shown in natural coat and undue trimming is to be discouraged.

Color and Markings
The Bernese Mountain Dog is tri-colored. The ground color is jet black. The markings are rich rust and clear white. Symmetry of markings is desired. Rust appears over each eye, on the cheeks reaching to at least the corner of the mouth, on each side of the chest, on all four legs, and under the tail. There is a white blaze and muzzle band. A white marking on the chest typically forms an inverted cross. The tip of the tail is white. White on the feet is desired but must not extend higher than the pasterns. Markings other than described are to be faulted in direct relationship to the extent of the deviation. White legs or a white collar are serious faults. Any ground color other than black is a disqualification.

Gait
The natural working gait of the Bernese Mountain Dog is a slow trot. However, in keeping with his use in draft and droving work, he is capable of speed and agility. There is good reach in front. Powerful drive from the rear is transmitted through a level back. There is no wasted action. Front and rear legs on each side follow through in the same plane. At increased speed, legs tend to converge toward the center line.

Temperament
The temperament is self-confident, alert and good-natured, never sharp or shy. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attentions of strangers.

Disqualifications
Blue eye color.
Any ground color other than black.

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