The beautiful Bernese Mountain dog originated in Switzerland somewhere in the 18th century. The breed's name is based upon the Canton of Bern.
Bernese were great farm dogs that were used as draft animals that would willingly pull the farmer's carts to the market. They were also used to herd sheep and drive cattle, as well as being an excellent companion. After the importation of other working dogs into Switzerland, their numbers began to die down. However, a successful effort was put forth to maintain the breed which we continue to enjoy today.
In Switzerland, the Bernese Mountain Dog continues to enjoy draft animal work such as pulling carts, tracking, herding and search & rescue. However, in many other parts of the world, the Bernese is mainly a lovable family pet.
The Bernese Mountain dog is characterized by its tri-colored markings of black, white and rust. With a black base coat, most of them have a blaze of white on their chest, and rust markings on their face that reach the corners of their eyes. The rust markings also usually appear on both sides of the chest, underneath the tail and on all four legs.
The Bernese has a large body that has a slightly longer length than its height. They range in height between 23 - 28 inches high, and weigh between 80 - 110 pounds. They have a relatively large flat head, a long straight muzzle and medium sized, triangular-shaped ears. It also has straight legs and a bushy tail which it carries low. It possesses a thick weather-resistant long coat that can be straight or slightly wavy.
The Bernese Mountain dog is a great family dog. They love children of all ages and are very easy to train. They mature slowly and tend to be puppy-playful longer then some breeds which make them a real hit with young energetic children. They are very social and prefer to be with the family versus being kenneled or confined to the yard, and they also get along well with other family pets.
Being natural watchdogs, Bernese are alert, aware and a friend for life. Their temperament demands that you train them to understand that the human is alpha, and teach them what to expect.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are very sensitive and should be trained gently but firmly. Like all dogs, they need to understand and follow the consistent rules of the house. Once they are trained, they usually will not present any problems.
While the Bernese love to be outdoors, their thick coat makes them sensitive to extremely hot temperatures - but they do fine in cold weather. They are easy to care for but require regular brushing of their thick coats. They are seasonal shedders and should be bathed or dry shampooed as needed. They love daily walks and all sorts of physical exercise.
Generally, they are not recommended for apartments since they need room to move around a lot.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is prone to gain weight and must not be overfed. The breed has a tendency to bloat, be prone to cancer, and problems with their eyelids. They have an average life expectancy of six to eight years, with cancer being their number one cause of death.