Too Popular? - Protecting Our Breed

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, Inc. (BMDCA) and the regional Bernese Mountain Dog clubs are dedicated to protecting and advancing the well being and interests of the breed. Providing breed information is one of their primary purposes. Please take advantage of the resources you will find at the BMDCA website.

  1. Regional BMD Club Links – A convenient way to find local resources, educational programs and social activities.
  2. BMDCA Info Series and BMD Compatibility Profiler – Easy-to-read information on puppy care, health, training, grooming and more. And a fun and quick survey to see if a Berner is right for you.
  3. BMDCA Breed Steward Program – A network of owners and breeders who will take the time to answer your questions and lend a helping hand.

Get connected! Help is just a click away –

Buyer Beware!  Because of its striking appearance, general appeal, frequent use in ads, and now star status in a feature movie, the breed’s well being is threatened. Puppy mills and back yard breeders are producing Berner puppies for pure profit without regard for responsible breeding practices and often in conditions that are abhorrent for the parents and the puppies. People wanting ‘instant’ puppies who resort to buying dogs from pet stores and ‘no questions asked’ websites are fueling this worsening situation.

About the World of Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs are not a breed for everyone. Sadly, the number of Berners requiring rescue and re-homing is increasing. For your happiness and the dog’s, research the breed and breeders before you buy that adorable puppy. Not all breeders are responsible and all puppies are not created equal.

Origin  Bernese Mountain Dogs (Berner Sennenhund) are from Switzerland and named for the Canton of Bern. Historically, Berners were used as general purpose farm dogs. Their large, sturdy frames and their calm, confident temperaments made them ideal for pulling carts to market, driving dairy cattle, watching the farm and being farmers’ companions.

General Appearance & Size  Bernese are striking, tri-colored, large dogs. They are intelligent, strong and agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which they were used. Measured at the withers, males should be 25 to 27½ inches and females 23 to 26 inches. Properly structured males generally weigh 90-120 pounds and females 75-105 pounds. Overweight should be avoided.

Temperament  Berners are alert and affectionate dogs. With the training essential for ownership of any large working breed, BMDs are generally gentle, easygoing and tolerant with children and other animals. (Any dog, even a Berner, should never be left alone unsupervised with small children or children unknown to the dog.) Bernese prefer to be close to their people and activity, whether inside or out. If kept isolated, behavior problems such as barking or digging will likely develop. The breed is protective but should not be aggressive unless provoked or threatened. They can be aloof to strangers. Berners should not be shy or aggressive, but both are seen in the breed. Temperament is inherited, but can be strongly influenced, both positively and negatively, by environment, experiences and training.

Socialization  Each puppy’s owner plays a critical role in providing a secure and stimulating environment to help the dog reach its full potential. The best approach is to be patient, kind, understanding and positive. Read more about puppy development if you bring a Berner into your home to ensure you are shaping a well-developed dog. All Bernese should be exposed to a wide variety of people, places and other animals, especially in their first year of life.

Training  A well-mannered dog is a pleasure and the owner’s responsibility. Basic training is a necessity for all dogs and especially for large breeds such as the Bernese. A puppy kindergarten/socialization class between four and six months of age is recommended, followed by a basic obedience program before the dog reaches its first birthday. Positive training methods are recommended for this breed.

Puppy Exercise  Puppies need regular supervised exercise in a safe, ‘dog friendly’ outside area to maintain healthy muscle tone and condition. Activities should be based on the puppy’s physical condition and individual exercise capabilities. Exercise should never be forced (like jogging or extended rough playing). Avoid unsupervised exercise and play with older or larger dogs which could easily injure a puppy.

Bernese and Diet  There are many diet options. First ask the pup’s breeder. Additional sources to help one decide what is best are other Berner owners, either local or via Berner-specific Internet discussion lists.

A low to moderate-protein diet will keep a growing Berner’s growth slow and steady. Rapid growth is not desirable, as it places greater strain on immature muscles and tendons that must support a large-boned pup. Adult Berners are usually fed twice a day to reduce the chance of bloat. Avoid hard exercise immediately before or after meals.

Exercise  Bernese are farm dogs by heritage and need exercise to stay mentally and physically fit. Small fenced yards should be viewed as a place of convenience and safety but not as a place for adequate exercise for this moderately active breed. Plan a minimum of 30 minutes of moderately active exercise daily.

Grooming  Basic grooming should provide care for ears, nails, coat and teeth. Bernese are a double-coated breed and shedding is considerable. Regular brushing will help. A periodic bath and frequent brushing will maintain a neat appearance. Some people prefer to trim the feet and ears occasionally.

Longevity and Health Issues  The average life of a Berner is slightly more than seven years. Some individuals live to ten and beyond. BMD health issues, many of which are hereditary, include hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, bloat, sub-aortic stenosis, autoimmune diseases, skin and coat problems, thyroid disorders, von Willebrand’s disease, and eye disorders (ectropion and entropion, cataracts, PRA). The BMDCA and its affiliate Berner-Garde strongly support ongoing health research. BMD breeders and owners are encouraged to report health information to the Berner-Garde open database and to use its vast databank.

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Spay/Neuter  Spaying or neutering a Berner is a sensible choice for most families. Altered dogs are usually calmer, easier to train and less likely to wander. They are also less likely to develop several types of cancer. Ask your veterinarian to explain in more detail the benefits of spay/neuter.

Should I breed my Berner?  To breed is to contribute to the future of the Bernese Mountain Dog. Responsible breeders work hard to make that future a better one, one in which Bernese are healthier, sounder and longer lived. Casual breeding, without extensive research and health screenings, often perpetuates problems. Breeding is time consuming and often expensive and heartbreaking. The death of one’s bitch and/or puppies is always possible.

If your goal is to breed Bernese Mountain Dogs, please take the time to thoroughly understand the breed, seek out mentors in the breed, and devote yourself to sound, healthy and long lives for the living creatures you bring into the world.

Versatility  Berners are a versatile breed. They participate in a wide range of activities, including conformation, obedience, carting, agility, tracking, herding and therapy work. Of course, individual dogs will have their own preferences depending on their structure, character and temperament. Not every Berner will perform well in every event.

Please help protect our breed!

The BMDCA and regional BMD clubs are ready, friendly resources. If you have questions or need assistance, we will put you in touch with experienced owners and responsible breeders who are dedicated to serving the breed.

Prepared by the BMDCA to provide information in response to use of a Berner in the movie Good Boy

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