Bernese Mountain Dog

AKC Working Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Although the exact origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog are unclear, this breed probably began as a farm dog in the Swiss mountains. Paintings from the end of the eighteenth century show the Bernese type. By the end of the nineteenth century, many foreign dogs were being imported to Switzerland, and there was a danger that the native breeds would be lost. Professor Albert Heim, Franz Schertenleib, and others led the effort to preserve native Swiss breeds by finding remaining specimens and stabilizing the Berner Sennenhund (Bernese Alpine Herdsman’s Dog) as a distinct breed. The Bernese Mountain Dog was named after the Berne canton of Switzerland where the breed is widely known. The sturdy Bernese has been used for driving livestock, for draft work, and as a farm guardian. Because of his gentle, happy temperament, the Bernese Mountain Dog makes a fine family companion.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is a sturdy, heavy dog with a beautiful, weather-resistant tricolor double coat of black with symmetrical markings of rust and white. The dog should have a white blaze on the chest, white on the head and toes, and rust markings over each eye, on the cheeks, on the sides of the chest, under the tail, and on each leg. The coat is moderately long and either straight or slightly wavy. The broad head has a slight furrow down the middle. The medium-sized triangular ears are pendant. The dark eyes have a gentle expression, and the nose is black. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The body is compact with a wide, deep chest. The brisket should reach down to the elbow at least. The tail is long and bushy, carried low when in repose (a slight upward curve is permissible when the dog is alert). Dewclaws should be removed.

Key Facts

  • Height: 25 to 27-1/2 in. (male); 23 to 26 in. (female)
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: 90 to 120 lbs. (male); 80 to 105 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Might take some effort to find
  • Talents: Herding, watchdog, guarding, search and rescue, and carting


Don’t over feed. This breed needs room to exercise so he does best in the suburbs or rural areas. Best with a large fenced yard. The thick coat makes the Bernese uncomfortable in warm weather. Cancer, especially mast cell tumors and malignant histiocytosis, strikes Berners at a higher rate than most breeds, and is the leading cause of death. The median age at death is only about seven years. Also prone to bloat and eyelid problems. Beware of hip and elbow dysplasia. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance.


Gentle, quiet, and very devoted. Loyal and affectionate. Very trainable and willing. Sensitive—should be trained gently. A good watchdog, but not overly aggressive. Self-confident, alert, and good-natured. Never sharp or shy. Good with children. These dogs might be slow to mature, remaining boisterous and puppylike for quite awhile. The Bernese needs to be with people and not relegated to the backyard or kennel run. A friend for life. Like any dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog should be well socialized as a puppy.


  • Children: Excellent with children
  • Friendliness: Fairly friendly with strangers
  • Trainability: Easy to train
  • Independence: Needs people a lot
  • Dominance: Low
  • Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness: Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise: Not a barker
  • Indoors: Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner: Good for novice owners


  • Grooming: Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Medium-long coat
  • Shedding: Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Exercise: Moderate daily exercise needed
  • Jogging: A poor jogging companion
  • Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space: Best with a large yard
  • Climate: Prefers cool climates
  • Longevity: Short (under 10 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Standard

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog Gifts