There are several things to consider before you make the commitment to this breed.
Berners are large sized dogs. Males can be 28 inches or taller at the withers and can reach 130lbs. Females are smaller. Because of their size they can be difficult to control if you are not used to large breed dogs.
Berners are easily trained but require lots of mental stimulation to keep their brains healthy. They need a job to do and are happiest working with their people. Drafting, obedience, agility, tracking, conformation, herding, therapy, hiking, skijoring and freestyle are all examples of things you can do with your dog to keep them active and busy. You must be prepared to commit the time and effort to training your berner.
Bernese love their people and need to be with them. Don’t expect your berner to thrive tied up on a chain in your backyard. You will end up with a dog with some serious temperament problems if they don’t get the attention they really need.
You must love dog hair to own a berner. Because it will suddenly be everywhere…on your clothes, on your furniture, in the air, in the fridge, in your food…no place is sacred! They shed A LOT. They shed ALL THE TIME.
Be prepared to take your berner for at least two walks a day, or for a couple of free-run play sessions in a safe enclosed area. Don’t let your berner become a couch potato.
This is the biggest caveat of them all. You must be aware of the health problems that affect bernese. If the breeder you are looking at does not tell you about the health concerns in the breed and what they are doing to prevent them, run the other way! Bernese are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, OCD, cruciate ligament ruptures, eye diseases such as entropian, ectropion, cataracts and PRA, sub-aortic stenosis, von Willebrands disease, and thyroid problems. These are just a few examples. Cancer is also very prevalent in the breed and there is a hereditary component. Mast cell, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma are a few, but the worst is Malignant Histiocytosis. This cancer takes a significantly larger amount of bernese lives than all other breeds.
Look for a breeder who screens for disease, offers written proof of certifications, and is honest about the health and longevity of the dogs in their breeding program, as well as the dogs in their pedigrees.
For a more comprehensive list of information on health problems that affect this breed please see Robin Camken’s BMD Health Info Links - http://www.bestbeau.ca/BMD_Health_Info_Links.html
The initial purchase price of a puppy is just the beginning. Most well-bred puppies from reputable breeders start at $1500 and up to $2000 with the average price around $1800 right now. Then you have to worry about feeding, vet bills, obedience classes, toys, beds, crates, collars, leashes, grooming…the list can go on forever! So you must plan on spending a lot of money taking proper care of your puppy on an ongoing basis for the next (hopefully!) 10 years!
Origin and Purpose
The Bernese Mountain Dog takes its name from the Canton of Bern in Switzerland, its native land. It is one of the four Swiss tri-colour breeds known by the collective name Sennenhunde, the only one of the four with a long coat. The Bernese Mountain Dog and his ancestors lived for many generations as farm dogs with occasional use as draft dogs. From this background developed a hardy, natural, good-natured working breed that today is known principally as a faithful family companion.
Large, sturdy, well balanced working dog of substantial bone. Square in appearance from withers to ground and withers to tail set. Heavy-coated with distinctive characteristic markings. In comparison with the opposite sex, dogs appear masculine, bitches feminine without loss of type.
The Bernese temperament is one of the breed's strongest assets. Consistent, dependable, with a strong desire to please. Self-confident, alert, good natured. Attached and loyal to human family; may be aloof or suspicious with strangers, but never sharp or shy. A dog must stand for examination when required to do so by its handler.
Dogs 24.4-27.6inches (62-70 cm), best size 26-26.8 inches (66-68 cm); bitches 22.8-26 inches (58-66 cm), best size 23.6-24.8 inches (60-63 cm). Height measured at withers. The stocky, well-balanced appearance must be maintained.
Coat and Colour
The adult coat is thick, moderately long, possibly with a slight wave but never curly. It has a bright natural sheen. In texture it is soft rather than harsh, but is weather resistant, easily kept and resists matting. There is a soft, seasonal undercoat. Compulsory markings: Jet-black ground colour. Rich russet markings (dark reddish brown is most favoured) appear on the cheeks, in a spot over each eye, in a patch above each foreleg, and on all four legs between the black of the upper leg and the white of the feet. Clean white markings as follows: On chest extending uninterrupted to under chin; also a slight to middle-sized blaze extending into a muzzle band which is not so wide as to obliterate the russet on the cheek (and which preferably does not extend past the corners of the mouth). Preferable markings: White feet with white reaching at the highest the pasterns and a white tip of tail. Markings should be symmetrical. Too little white is preferable to too much.
Skull: Flat and broad with a slight furrow; defined, but not exaggerated stop. Muzzle strong and straight; roughly square proportions, tapering only very slightly. Muzzle is slightly shorter than length of skull. Lips are fairly clean and tight; black in colour. Teeth: jaw is strong with good teeth meeting in a scissors bite. Dentition should be complete. Nostrils well open and black in colour. Eyes dark brown in colour, almond shaped, and well set apart; tight eyelids. Expression is intelligent, animated and gentle. Ears middle-sized, triangular in shape with rounded tip. Set above eye level high on side of head; hanging close to the head in repose, brought forward at the base when alert.
Strong, muscular of medium length, well set on. Dewlaps are very slightly developed.
Approximately square from withers to ground and withers to tail set. The body is sturdy. The chest is broad, with good depth of brisket reaching at least to the elbows; ribs are well sprung. The back is firm and level. Loins are strong and muscular. The croup is broad, well muscled.
Shoulders are well muscled, flat lying and well laid back. Forelegs are straight with substantial bone; parallel stance. Elbows are well under shoulders. Pasterns are slightly sloping, but not weak. Feet are proportionate in size, round and compact. Dew claws are preferably removed.
The hindquarters are powerful, with broad, well-muscled thighs and substantial bone. Stifles are well angulated. Hocks are well let down, turning neither in nor out. Pasterns are wide and straight, standing parallel. Feet are proportionate in size, round and compact. Dewclaws must be removed in the first few days of life.
Bushy, hanging straight, with bone reaching to the hock joint or slightly below. Carried low in repose, higher when the dog is in motion or alert. An upward arc is permissible, but the tail should never curl over itself or be carried over the back.
The natural travelling gait of the breed is a slow trot, but it is capable of speed and agility. Good reach in front. Strong drive from the rear, flexing well at the stifles. The level backline is maintained; there is no wasted action. Front and rear feet of each side travel in lines parallel to direction of motion, converging towards a centre line at increased speeds.
A fault is any deviation from the standard, to be weighed in accordance with the degree of deviation. In addition and in particular: Major faults: ectropion or entropion; undershot or overshot mouth; tail rolled over back. Minor faults (subject to degree of fault): deficiency of type, particularly lack of substance; overly long or thin body; light or round eyes; level bite; incomplete dentition; too narrow or too snipey muzzle; too massive or too light head; too light russet markings or impure colour; grey colouring in black coat; nonsymmetrical markings, especially facial; white neck patch; white anal patch; curly coat in adult dog; splayed feet; kink in tail.
Cryptorchid or monorchid males; split nose; absent markings as described in compulsory markings; white neck ring; blue eye; ground colour other than black.