Bernese Mountain Dog
ARISTOCRATIC, HARD-WORKING, ROBUST
History & Origin
As a breed, the Bernese has quite a long history, stemming from Roman Mastiffs that went to Switzerland during the Roman occupation of about two thousand years ago. The original Roman dogs were used to drive herds as well as guard them. The original Mastiffs, during this time, bred with local Swiss dogs, which started giving them their own, unique characteristics.
Over the centuries, their purpose has mainly stayed the same, and the Bernese was and still is, primarily used as a herding dog in its homeland. He was also, due to his large size and wonderful strength, used to pull carts that had been loaded with goods in order to be sold at markets.
Unfortunately, not much attention was paid to the breed’s development or history in the early days, and it almost became extinct. Fortunately, however, a group who were intent on developing them as a breed kept up their efforts and this led to the dog as we know it today.
These people started documenting the breed’s development and their breeding efforts, and much of what they wrote at the time allows us to get an insight into the Bernese Mountain Dog’s characteristics.
The breed was first recognized by the Swiss Kennel Club during the 1800’s and from there its popularity spread worldwide, with the first recorded pair being brought to the United States in 1927 although registration with the American Kennel Club (AKC) at the time failed. It was, however, recognized by the AKC in 1937, ten years later, after an inhabitant of Louisiana, Glen Shadow, imported another pair.
Further imports of the breed to the USA came to a halt with the onslaught of the Second World War, however, but after the war came to an end, more dogs were brought over the Atlantic, leading to the establishment of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club in 1968.
PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER
Your new puppy will have a calm, sweet-tempered nature. They are a considerate breed that is easy-going and laid-back. Fiercely loyal to their family, their inherent intelligence makes these gentle giants extremely easy to train, although some, especially males, sometimes try to take on a more dominant role. In such instances, owners need to be firm and take their place as the ‘alpha’ so that your dog knows their place in their human ‘pack’.
With regards to training: a gentle touch is essential. These dogs are very clever and need to analyze a situation before complying. It is part of their inherent appeal.
Your Bernese will be eager to please you and adores nothing more than being goofy with its family. Extremely good with children, it has no problem romping around with them and acting the clown. To this end, however, this is not a breed that should be left outside to its own devices. They need to be a part of their family and be close to them, taking part in their activities.
Do not, however, take your new puppy’s laid-back attitude as a sign of laziness. He will need enough stimulation and exercise, and as a result is not suitable for those living in an apartment or a house that does not have a large enclosed back yard. They need space and lots of it.
Being such a large dog, your puppy’s growth will, and should, be slow, and this goes not only for its physical development but its mental development as well. Your giant dog is going to be a puppy for quite some time, as it only reaches maturity at a much later date than smaller breeds.
With strangers, your new puppy, as he grows older, may seem aloof at first, although once socialized, he will be friendly. This is a breed that, generally speaking, gets along with other dogs, although males may show aggressiveness towards other males.
bernese mountain dog
NUTRITION AND FEEDING
Although not a long-lived breed (their lifespan is estimated at between six to eight years), the time spent with your Bernese is sure to be time well spent. Its care is quite simple for such a large dog, and it loves attention.
A Bernese Mountain Dog thrives on a natural diet. By feeding your dog in this way, you tend to circumvent possible future health issues and behavioral problems that can range from itchy, flaky skin to being downright grumpy. Most issues that pet owners encounter can be traced back to diet.
Most of the commercial dog food out there is lacking in the essential vitamins and other nutrients your dog needs to fulfill its true potential. Some of the issues faced with commercial dog food are more doggy poop, excessive shedding, and even excessive aggressiveness or shyness.
So when you decide to feed your new puppy commercial food, please do make sure that it is of excellent quality and that it contains all the nutritional requirements a growing dog needs. Remember, your Bernese Mountain Dog is not an average size large dog. These are huge animals.
Also, when opting for commercial dog food, consider complementing his food with a natural diet so that you can make sure he gets everything he needs to be healthy and happy. A raw food diet has the benefit of improving your puppy’s oral hygiene, as well as his frequency of stools (less to clean up), digestion, coat health, and improves his immune system (less disease).
Ideally, he should get a good combination of meat, fruit, and vegetables. This includes cauliflower, squash, green beans and carrots. You can also add cottage cheese, eggs, and cheese to his meals. Do, however, stay away from avocados, sugar, chocolate, garlic, onions and milk, as these all play havoc with your puppy’s health.
Your new puppy would ideally, once you bring it home, eat four small meals a day. By the time he is six months old, however, he should be eating two larger meals twice daily. Make sure to keep plenty of clean water around. Besides eating more than a smaller dog, he also needs more water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
COAT AND GROOMING
These dogs get huge! A male, typically, can weigh anything between 39kg and 50 kg, and measures, when standing, 64cm to 70 cm when measurements are taken from the withers to the floor. Females are slightly smaller, coming in at between 36kg and 48kg and measuring between 58cm and 66cm. When standing on their hind legs, these dogs are tall!
Bernese Mountain Dogs have rich, thick coats that are black in color with white and rust markings. They are double coated, which means that they have a top coat as well as an undercoat (that protects it from the elements – these dogs are suitable for cold, harsh conditions). The undercoat is wooly while the topcoat is long and luxuriously soft, and often wavy.
They tend to shed all year round, in fact so regularly that a weekly brushing is highly recommended. Remember, these are large dogs, so there is a lot of hair going around! They also tend to shed more during changes in the season, so keep this in mind. Your brushing duties will increase during these times.
They are quite clean dogs, even with all that hair, and only need to bathe every few months or when they get dirty. Their ears need to be checked and cleaned regularly, usually with a damp cotton wool ball. Any signs of infection such as a discharge or discoloration should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Ear infections are painful and can cause your puppy discomfort.
Being active dogs, they seldom need to have their nails trimmed, but if you happen to hear his nails clicking on the floor, a trim is in order. Many owners prefer not to do cut their pets’ nails themselves. A quick trip to the doggy parlor or local veterinarian will have it done at a minimal charge, however.
EXERCISE AND TRAINING
Although he loves being with his humans your Bernese puppy loves being outdoors and stretching his legs. They can withstand cold temperatures and are best suited to colder climates where they adore romping about in the snow. They are also a relatively high energy breed and need regular walks and romps in the yards. They are not at all suitable for those who follow a sedentary lifestyle.
As far as formal training goes, you might think your new puppy is slow. He is, however, exceedingly intelligent and first thinks something through before acting on it. They are, in fact, exceedingly quick learners!
If you keep in mind that your Bernese was bred to be a working dog, any activity that involves herding, agility or even pulling are great options when considering formal training activities.
Of course, the first two things you would want to teach your new puppy is the proper house rules and socialization. Training with this regard should begin the day you bring your new fur bundle home. Socialization should include not only all the family members but other pets as well if you have any. This could be taken a step further with walks in the park where he meets strange dogs and people too.
As for potty training: a puppy’s bowels tend to move approximately fifteen minutes after a meal. If he is taken to his designated spot at this time, this clever dog will soon learn where he needs to go for this purpose.
They also do quite well with crate training which not only aids in housetraining but at the same time provides your new puppy with a safe haven to which it can escape when it wants a little peace and quiet from the rigors of normal household activities.
When deciding on a Bernese Mountain Dog as a pet, please do make sure that you buy your new puppy from a reputable breeder. There are many out there who do not take the good of the breed into consideration. A breeder of good standing will be able to give you all the necessary information you need with regards to both your new puppy’s parents, their health issues included. This is important to have when making your decision, as it enables you to foresee any possible health or other issues your new family member may have.
Although a large breed, they do not really have too many ailments. The more serious ailments that they are, however, susceptible to, include gastric torsion (also more commonly referred to as bloat, where the stomach turns over on itself and which more often than not leads to death), elbow dysplasia (which is why, as puppies, they should not get too much exercise as this brings on this problem as well), and hip dysplasia which is a common tendency in most of the larger breeds of dogs. Gastric torsion is usually associated with larger breeds of dogs that have barrel-like chests, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog.
Less common health problems encountered are Von Willebrand’s Disease which is much like hemophilia in humans, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which is treatable, various allergies and hypothyroidism. Minor ailments include entropion (where a part of the eyelid is folded in) which can be surgically treated and ectropion (where the bottom eyelid droops a little), and cataracts which are easily treated these days by means of surgery.
For such a huge dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a remarkably healthy breed. They have great strength and stamina which, in the past, has been put to good use. Their willingness to learn and love of people (especially children) make them much loved pets in the proper setting. They are not a breed suitable for those living a sedentary lifestyle or living in small homes. They need space.
They are exceedingly intelligent and are not a breed that is recommended for the first time dog owner as they can tend to be a little challenging and show dominant tendencies at times. Patience, love and respect for your dog, however, will give you the benefit of a loving companion and friend.
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BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG