Things to Think About Before Getting a Bernese Mountain Dog

Updated on: Nov 24, 2021
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Things to Think About Before Getting a Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese mountain dogs or Berners, as their numerous fans call them, are a truly exceptional breed. Large yet gentle, a guard dog yet social, the Berner is one of a kind.

Does this make it the right fit for you and your family, however? Are you ready for such a large canine or are Berners ill-suited for first-time dog owners? To answer that, let’s go over the most important 25 questions to consider before getting a Bernese mountain dog.

1. Are Bernese mountain dogs good pets?

Berners are excellent pets, provided that you can take care of them adequately. Social, smart, and calm, these oversized Swiss dogs can be very well-mannered members of any human family.

2. Is a Bernese mountain dog good for beginners?

For the most part – yes, they are. The main issues first-time owners may be surprised by are the sheer size of these dogs and some of their grooming needs. We’ll cover both in detail below but aside from that – Berners are a very suitable dog for beginners.

3. Are Bernese mountain dogs smart?

As a working dog breed, Berners are exceedingly smart. While some still put breeds like the Border Collie or the Golden Retriever ahead of Berners on the IQ ranking, they are certainly up there as well. This means that with a Bernese mountain dog you’d be getting a clever and a cheeky companion that will be happy to interact with you, play games, and even try to outsmart you on a regular basis.

4. Do Bernese mountain dogs like people?

While they can be used – and have been used – as guard dogs, Berners are ultimately a social and lovable giant. If you socialize your Bernese mountain dog properly, you’ll get a dog that gets along with everyone. This means little to no fear of aggression toward strangers and no needless barking at the mailman.

5. Is the Bernese mountain dog breed good with children?

Their enormous size notwithstanding, yes – Berners are great with children. They are social, gentle, well-mannered, and patient enough to tolerate even the rowdiest of kids. Of course, you’d still want to teach your kids not to torment the dog too much to be certain to avoid any accidents. And, supervision with really small kids is still a must, especially in the beginning. But that applies to any breed, not just Berners.

6. Can you have a Bernese mountain dog with other dogs?

Berners don’t seem to have any inherent aggression toward other canines nor that strong of an instinct for dominance. These dogs were bred for work and cooperation with both people and other dogs. So, that’s what they do best.

7. Do Bernese mountain dogs get along with cats?

Surprisingly – yes. Because they’ve been bred as work dogs, Berners don’t really have that strong of a prey drive anymore. And, as working dogs, they are used to being around other animals without attacking them. So, even though they are not a herding breed, they won’t mind herding your cat. They are also calm enough to not drive your feline crazy.

8. Are Bernese mountain dogs aggressive?

Not really, not unless someone is clearly and immediately threatening their family members. The only other risk of aggression would be if you’ve raised and trained your dog improperly. This usually means skipping the socialization and obedience training, or outright tormenting and beating the dog. But, under normal circumstances, Berners are definitely not aggressive.

9. Can a Bernese mountain dog be left alone?

That’d be a really bad idea. Berners are incredibly social and lovable dogs which means that they need human presence around them. They also need playtime, toys, and mental stimulation. A bored and lonely Berner will get anxious, depressed, disobedient, and destructive.

Such separation anxiety** is normal for any hyper-intelligent and social breed too** so Berners are not unique in that regard. To negate this problem you should make sure that there’s always a family member around keeping your Berner company. Alternatively, you can try any of the following:

  • Hire a dog walker or a dog sitter
  • Get your dog a ton of new and interactive dog toys
  • Give your Berner plenty of exercise and attention while you’re home to “tire him out”
  • Get a second dog to keep your mountain pal company

But the best option is to just work from home – dogs like the Berner are best-suited for people who just don’t spend a lot of time away from home.

10. Do Bernese mountain dogs shed a lot?

Yes, they do. Rather – they shed moderately but they have a lot of long hair to shed so it can still feel overwhelming. So, while they’re not quite as bad as German Shedders, Huskies, or Labrador Retrievers, they can feel as bad because of the larger volume.

11. What type of coat do Bernese mountain dogs have?

As a mountain breed, Berners have a long and thick double-layered coat. When properly groomed, it will be soft and shiny but it does need quite a bit of care.

12. What colors can Bernese mountain dogs come in?

Berners are a tri-color breed. One color is always black, the other – always white, and the third is brown, chocolate, or liver color.

13. Is it hard to groom a Bernese mountain dog?

It’s time-consuming, yes. To minimize the amount of excess hair floating in your home, you’d probably want to brush your dog’s hair thoroughly once a day or once every other day. Some people don’t want to bother brushing more than once a week which is understandable. However, in those cases, you’ll just have to make your peace with dog hair constantly floating around your place.

Aside from the brushing, you’ll need to do the standard nail clipping, tooth brushing, ear and eye maintenance, and so on.

14. Are Bernese mountain dogs hypoallergenic?

Not at all – do not get this breed if someone in your household is hypoallergenic.

15. How much exercise do Bernese mountain dogs need?

Berners need a moderate but not insignificant amount of exercise. They are not hyperactive as most sighthound or retriever breeds but they are still a working dog. That, plus their size, means that you can’t ignore their exercise needs. This breed needs a minimum of two 45-minute walks/runs outside a day.

This makes Berners an excellent jogging companion. However, make sure not to ignore their exercise needs or they can start getting overweight and disobedient.

16. Do Bernese mountain dogs need a big yard?

They can certainly benefit from a yard, yes. However, it’s not a strict necessity. In fact, you can look after a Berner in large apartments too – just make sure to give your dog enough outdoor time every day.

17. How big do Bernese mountain dogs get?

As a large dog breed, Berners can get as tall as 23 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder (58 to 70 cm) and as heavy as 70 to 120 pounds (32 to 55 kg). Females are slightly smaller in case you don’t want a truly ginormous dog at home.

18. What is the average lifespan of a Bernese mountain dog?

Unfortunately, like most other large dog breeds, Berners don’t have the longest lifespan. Typically, they live about 6 to 10 years, depending on their health. That’s why making sure that you get a healthy puppy is so important.

19. Is the Bernese mountain dog breed healthy?

Not as much as other breeds, no. It’s perfectly possible to get a healthy Berner but you’d have to find the right breeder (and be ready to pay a hefty price). Otherwise, if you shop from a pet store or a puppy mill, you can expect to encounter any of the following issues pretty soon:

20. Are Bernese mountain dogs high maintenance?

Given their health, exercise, and grooming needs, as well as their size, Berners can definitely be described as “high maintenance”. None of these really are unique for dogs of this size, however. If you find all the maintenance overwhelming, it’s always a good idea to start going to a groomer a couple of times a year.

21. Do Bernese mountain dogs slobber?

Berners do drool a bit but not as much as other breeds like the Newfoundland or most mastiff breeds, for example. If your Berner has loose jowls it may drool a bit more, but otherwise, it won’t be that bad. Still, keep that in mind if a bit of drooling is a deal-breaker.

22. Do Bernese mountain dogs have a doggy smell?

Not more so than other breeds, no. Or, rather – not unless you’ve ignored their grooming. Given their long and thick coats, Berners can start smelling if you don’t brush and bathe them often enough. However, that’s true for any long-haired breed.

23. Are Bernese mountain dogs lazy?

You can certainly call them lazy if you want. We’d rather go with terms such as “calm” and “mellow”. But it’s certainly true that Berners aren’t hyperactive – their benefit as a working breed is in their power not in their endurance.

As a family pet, this means that they’d love to spend a lot of their time in their oversized dog bed. They’ll like to snuggle on the couch or on your feet too. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be for a bit of playtime too, particularly during their walks or before dinner.

24. How much does a Bernese mountain dog cost?

Purebred Berners tend to cost somewhere between $800 and $1,800. This is actually pretty standard and not that costly for such a large and special breed. We do recommend going to a more reputable breeder if you can, however. Their prices tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum but that’s worth it for a healthy pup.

If you’re looking to adopt from a shelter or a rescue, you’ll likely still see a price tag of $100 to $400. That’s perfectly normal for a healthy dog – just remember to ask for an in-depth vet check-up.

25. Why you shouldn’t get a Bernese mountain dog?

From all we said up until now, it’s pretty clear what are the main drawbacks of this breed:

  • Size matters – your home should be spacious enough
  • Health issues and short lifespan – even a healthy Berner will have a shorter life than most other (and smaller) breeds
  • Pick a good (and expensive breeder) – avoiding as many health issues as possible typically means paying extra for a healthy pup
  • Lots of shedding – daily brushing is an absolute must for this breed and a robot vacuum is recommended
  • Don’t ignore the exercise needs – these dogs may be calm but they still need to run around every day

If any of those is a deal-breaker for you, you’d do well to go with a different breed.

It should be evident just how much of a special breeder Bernese mountain dogs are. Still, we don’t mean to overhype them – these dogs do have some special requirements and may be too big for some households. If you’ve got what it takes to groom and care for such a giant, however, a Berner can be your best friend for a whole decade.