Owning A Bernese

A prospective Bernese Mountain Dog owner must become knowledgeable of the many unique aspects of the breed. While there are many positive aspects to sharing your life with a Bernese, there are negative factors as well. Please make an informed decision and give serious consideration to these issues.

Health Concerns

Perhaps the most significant fact that any potential Bernese owner must learn is that the breed is subject to several specific health problems. Hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive degenerative joint diseases, plagues all large breeds. Hip and elbow dysplasia ranges from very mild cases with no apparent ill effects to crippling cases severe enough to require euthanasia. There is a polygenetic (thus inherited) component to the cause. It is possible for normal parents to produce dysplastic puppies. However, the chance of a particular puppy’s having dysplasia is reduced if both parents are normal, and even more greatly reduced if other close relatives (parents’ parents, parents’ littermates, and other puppies produced by the parents) are also free from dysplasia.

Environmental factors and overnutrition may contribute greatly to manifestation of symptoms and absence of symptoms if not absence of the disease. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), Genetic Disease Control in Animals (GDC), and Ontario Veterinarian Clinic (OVC) are agencies that evaluate x-rays of mature dogs to screen for dysplasia. All registries recommend that: (a) breeding dogs be free of dysplasia, (b) breeding dogs’ parents and grandparents be free of dysplasia, and (c) 75% or more of any siblings or half siblings of breeding dogs be free of dysplasia.

Other orthopedic problems associated with large breeds are found in Bernese. They include panosteitis (shifting leg lameness), and shoulder problems such as osteochondritis dissecans (cartilage flap or fragment). Management of growing youngsters may be critical to the manifestation of symptoms of these problems. Bernese suffer from a high incidence of certain cancers. Indeed, cancer may be the number one cause of natural death in all domestic dogs. According to ongoing research by the BMD Club of America, approximately 9.7% of Berners get cancer. The average age at which cancer is diagnosed is 6.21 years. Some cancers are believed to be hereditary, while others are not.

More likely than not, any breeder you contact will have done their homework to minimize the likelihood that their litters will suffer from the genetic health problems that can be passed from generation to generation. However, your only protection is to make sure that you understand these issues so that you can ask the right questions and verify that the breeder is using safe breeding practices. Even if you don’t intend to breed or show your puppy, you are making a substantial monetary investment by buying a Berner puppy.


Bernese Mountain Dogs require great attention to their environment. Adequate room to exercise is important Bernese do not tolerate heat well you must keep them cool in the hot summer months. Because of their size, body mass, thick coat and black color; Bernese are susceptible to heat stroke. Avoid situations in which the dog may become overheated. Some young dogs will overexert themselves in the heat and should be protected from this by supervision or confinement during hot weather. If left outside in the summer, a Bernese should have heavy shade in which to rest, a large supply of fresh water at all times, and if possible a child’s wading pool of water. Although Bernese can adapt to a wide range of living conditions, take the time to discuss your circumstances with your breeders.


The BMD has a very strong need for human companionship. It is one of their most endearing qualities, and an important consideration for any prospective owner. Prolonged isolation is cruel to Bernese, as they need constant loving attention. Again, although the Bernese can adapt to a variety of circumstances, talk to your breeder to make sure that your lifestyle is compatible with the Bernese’s special needs.


Bernese are large dogs. Males range in height from 24-27 1/2 inches at the shoulder and weigh from 85 to 120 pounds. Females stand from 23 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 65 to 100 pounds. Exercise- Bernese need daily exercise (20 minutes a day is sufficient). Shedding- Bernese shed a minimum of twice a year. Because of the coat, grooming every other day is to your advantage. If you require a spotlessly kept house, don’t get a Bernese! You will always have some dog hair around, especially in your carpet and, on furniture.


Don’t forget to factor in the costs of food, health care, crate, bowls, brushes, grooming supplies, training, boarding, toys, home repairs, etc.


Feeding one dog for a year will cost approximately $300 to $500, depending on the type of food and any supplementation provided, Bernese do best on a top quality diet. You must watch their weight to insure they do not become overweight. Puppies need to be kept very thin for the first two years of their life. We recommend that you get pet health insurance for your puppy, vet care is expensive.


An obedience course is a must for a dog of this size. Bernese can be sensitive in many training situations. They must be handled carefully, with a loving, firm, but nonetheless gentle hand. Expect to spend several hours training your puppy. Guarding- Bernese can be protective of family and property, they will bark and stand their ground to an intruder, but if you are looking for a vicious guard dog, look for another breed.

Choosing Your Breeder

The Bernese are growing in popularity, You must carefully examine your own circumstances until you are positive that a Bernese Mountain Dog is the right choice for you. Never buy from a petstore, a broker, a puppymill, an auction, or a non reputable breeder.

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