Answer: The Bernese Mountain Dog is a very strong, large boned dog from the Swiss Alps near Berne, Switzerland. They are characterized by their distinct markings of white and rust on a black background. Used for hauling milk carts to Swiss cheeseries by local farmers, these dogs also drove cattle to market and warned the farmer of strangers.
Question: Is this an AKC recognized breed, or a cross of several breeds?
Answer: The Bernese Mountain Dog has been an AKC recognized breed since 1937. It is also known as the "Berner Sennenhund" or simply as the "Berner". It is closely related to three other Swiss breeds: the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (also AKC recognized), the Appenzeller Sennenhund, and the Entlebucher Sennenhund. The Bernese and it's three Swiss cousins are thought to be distant relatives of the Rottweiler (sharing descent from a now-extinct Roman Mastiff). Prior to AKC recognition, there were a few rare cross-breedings between Bernese and Newfoundlands.
The Bernese is not related to the Saint Bernard or to the Australian Shepherd, although it is sometimes mistaken for either of these breeds.
Question: What is their temperament like?
Answer: The Bernese Mountain Dog temperament is very important to making the breed what it is. Although some dogs have a tendency towards shyness, this should not be considered correct. The correct temperament may be a dog who is reserved and standoffish, but will not cower or be aggressive. Once you become a friend to a Bernese, his whole day will revolve around you. Because of this, a dog who is poorly socialized or ignored may soon become destructive or aggressive. These dogs are headstrong, and obedience training is important.
Question: What health problems does the breed have?
Answer: The Bernese is a hardy dog, but not without his problems. Like all large breeds, problems exist with bones in growing puppies, such as hip and elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis (OCD), which affects the shoulder. Another serious problem is the frequency in which cancer occurs. This may be related to auto-immune problems. Flea allergies are common, but can be managed with flea control on the dog and in his environment. For more information on health in BMDs see: http://www.bmdinfo.org/tl/Bernese_Mountain_Dog_Health.php
Question: How long do they live?
Answer: The average life span is 7 to 10 years. In some rare cases, Bernese have lived as long as 15 years. Age and cause of death are based on the genetics of the dog and the environment in which he/she lives. We encourage any Bernese Mountain Dog owner to provide good food, exercise and a safe living situation for their Berner to ensure the dog lives a quality life for as many years as possible.
Question: What should I know about puppies?
Answer: Bernese puppies are especially cute, and special care should be taken with them. An adult maintenance food is all they need for proper growth. Puppies should be discouraged from jumping off things and taking stairs, until they are mature, to prevent injuries. "Pet quality" puppies should be spayed or neutered to help reduce the incidence of prostate cancer in males and mammary tumors in females. Puppies should be socialized with visits to obedience classes and should participate in the family's daily activities.
Question: What sort of care do they require?
Answer: Care of the Bernese is as with all dogs. Yearly visits to the veterinarian for vaccinations and heartworm testing/prevention along with plenty of fresh water and shade in summer months. The Bernese does not tolerate high heat well. They do shed, and require periodic bathing. When you obtain your Bernese, ask the breeder for information on health concerns and OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) hip and elbow data of parents. Some breeders may offer an older puppy or an adult which make excellent pets and require less time than pups for adjustment to your lifestyle.