Dogs are wonderful companions and their domestication allowed us to work side by side with them. Over the centuries, people have used dogs for hunting, sledding, carting and retrieving. A breed that comes from a labour background is the Bernese Mountain Dog. Used as an all purpose farm dog, it was used to drive cattle over long distances to alpine pastures. The breed originates from the Swiss Alps, working alongside herders and dairymen called Senn.
The breed can be traced back to the Roman invasion of what is now considered Switzerland 2000 years ago. Caesar’s troops needed dogs to guard their supplies as they were always on the move. The mastiffs they brought with them mated with local flock-guarders and the Bernese evolved to resist the cold weather of the Alps.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are large and sturdy, with a tricolour coat of black, white and tan. Their size gives them an intimidating appearance but they are gentle and affectionate. Bernese are outside dogs who need plenty of exercise. Hiking is a great activity as they stick close to their family and can move with quick bursts of speed when motivated. A lack of exercise will make your Bernese bark and prone to harassing others. Despite their love of the outdoors they are just as happy inside, being well-behaved and courteous.
The breed is good with children due to their affectionate nature. They have patience for children climbing over them, though it’s recommended you keep an eye on the little one to avoid accidents. Even with their robust temperaments, Bernese enjoy a quiet evening and the calm of a happy household.
Bernese Mountain Dogs live for between 6-8 years and are prone to a higher rate of cancer than other dogs. They suffer from a number of mobility conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. It’s estimated that Bernese owners are three times as likely to report these problems as owners of other breeds. You should be prepared to cope with a dog that suffers with mobility problems at a young age. These risks can be lessened with comfortable bedding to alleviate joint pain.
The breed sheds year-round with a recommendation of one brushing per week. In spring and autumn it should be more to keep the coat neat and reduce the amount of fur on furniture. Special attention needs to be given to their ears because bacteria and dirt can be trapped. Weekly ear clearings will reduce the risk of infection.
The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain is dedicated to promoting the wellbeing of the breed. They offer a rescue service and hold special events so dog lovers can come together. They also have detailed information on how to care for your BMD.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are majestic, well-mannered, beautiful canines who’re happiest in a loving home. To quote Professor Heim, who did much to establish the breed as we know them today:
“All the Swiss Mountain Dogs are without deceit, excellent house and family dogs, by other breeds hardly to be surpassed for their attachment, loyalty, alertness and understanding. The Bernese is, for me, the loveliest dog to be found anywhere.”
You couldn’t ask for anything better.