The origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog are not well documented but there is a long history of this breed in Switzerland. They began appearing in paintings and tapestries around the 17th Century. Believed to have descended from the mastiff dogs of Romans who invaded Switzerland around two thousand years ago, it is said that these mastiff dogs were crossed with the native flock-guarding dogs. The result being the Sennenhund dogs, used as farm dogs for herding, guarding and cart pulling, which were able to stand the cold climate of the Alps.
As they were bred throughout Switzerand four different types of these dogs evolved. They were later established as four separate breeds, the Appenzellar Sennenhund, the Entlebucher Sennenhund, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and the Berner Sennenhund, also known as the Bernese Mountain Dog. The Bernese Mountain Dog is named after the Canton of Bern, the area of its origin.
As other farm dogs were imported into Switzerland, numbers of the Bernese Mountain Dogs dwindled and the breed almost disappeared in the 1800’s. However, there was an effort to preserve the breed by Professor Albert Heim, Herr Franz Schertenlieb and members of the Swiss Kennel Club. In 1907 the Schweizerische Durrbach-Klub was formed and the first breed standard was written. Bernese Mountain Dogs became popular once again in Switzerland, their popularity then spread into Scandinavia and the continent. In 1926 they were taken to America and gained official recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1937. Bernese Mountain Dogs are a working breed, some are still used as farm dogs for guarding, herding and pulling.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, heavy dogs with distinctive marked coats: black with white chest and or rust coloured markings above their eyes, sides of mouth, front of legs, and a small amount around the white chest. Their weather resistant coat is double layered, medium length and thick and straight to slightly wavy. Their feet are round with arched toes.
This dog is very calm, intelligent and easy to train. They’re not overly dominant and love children. However, they are slow to mature and exhibit puppy traits up to two years of age or older. Naturally friendly with strangers, they are intimidating by their sheer size more than anything else. They are social animals and need to be around people, not confined to a back yard for extended periods of time. Owners who do not establish themselves as the pack leader will end up with a dog completely opposite to the breed’s description. The dog needs rules and structure in order to be well balanced. Having been bred for draft work, a fun activity can be hooking the dog up to a wagon or cart to pull small children around!
Bernese Mountain Dogs are not well suited for apartment life. They are inactive indoors and need a large fenced in yard to roam. Because of their thick coats they are sensitive to the heat and much prefer cooler climates. This breed is a heavy shedder once a year and requires daily to weekly brushing.