The Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed that is built for doing hard work. It is big, powerful, and strikingly beautiful with its tri-color coat. Most dogs will have a white chest and striping from their forehead to their muzzle, accompanied by white paws, brown forelegs, and a dark body for their coat. Many of them have a spot of brown above their eyes that makes it look they have eyebrows.
This dog can be fiercely protective of its property and people, but it is also a sweet animal that is highly affectionate and wants lots of snuggles. As with most large dogs, the Bernese Mountain Dog thinks that it can fit on your lap at any given time. You will find them wanting to snuggle just as much as they want to romp around outside or take a long walk.
You will always find an intelligent gleam in the eye of this breed. They are very gentle with children who are part of their family, often choosing to attach themselves to a single person above all others. Berners can look imposing, but they are rarely threatening unless they feel threatened for some reason. Most maintain an aloofness when around strangers that is so overexaggerated that is can generate a laugh.
If you are thinking about having a Bernese Mountain Dog join your family, then these are the pros and cons you will want to review.
List of the Pros of Bernese Mountain Dogs
1. Berners are a patient, gentle family companion.
When you can obtain a Bernese Mountain Dog as a puppy, then you will discover that they integrate quickly into your family structure. They are very playful in their younger years, which is a trait that doesn’t entirely go away when they begin to look for jobs to do around the home. Berners are exceptionally gentle with children, seeing themselves as a valued member of the family who is co-equal to everyone. Although there is always a small risk because dogs do still have certain instincts they can follow, this breed is more like a large, lovable Teddy bear.
2. This dog loves to work around the house.
The Bernese Mountain Dog was initially bred to help farmers haul around the large carts that transported supplies and tools around the farm. They worked at high elevations, allowing their strength to pull heavy weights up an incline to help their owner get some work done. This breed still loves to work whenever you can find a job for them. They are excellent at herding, love to haul items, and will guard livestock (or your children) with fierceness. Berners are excellent family dogs because of these traits, but you must also put in the time and effort to help them stay active to avoid any unwanted behaviors from developing.
3. Berners have a wicked sense of humor.
There is arguably no other breed that is more intelligent than the Bernese Mountain Dog. You will discover that the gleam in their eye is more than a reflection of how smart they are. It can also be a good indication that you’re about to be the recipient of a dog prank. Berners are large enough as adults to become a tripping hazard, so they will sneak up behind your legs and then stay there, waiting until you stumble over them. Stealing your shoes, keys, or another needed item is always a favorite game.
This breed is easy to train because it is always willing to learn, so be wary if you like to spook your pup for a laugh. Berners love to get even with you.
4. This dog is one of the most faithful companions you will ever find.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the most affectionate breeds that you will find today. They are faithful to a fault, wanting to be with their family 24/7. Although that can be problematic if their favorite person isn’t at home frequently, you will discover that the protective, hard-working personality of a Berner is one of the best traits you will experience in any breed. Even with some of their hip and elbow health issues, these dogs are also sturdy, so they don’t mind a little horseplay.
List of the Cons of Bernese Mountain Dogs
1. Berners typically have a shorter lifespan than other dog breeds.
Because the Bernese Mountain Dog is a larger dog breed, their overall lifespan tends to be a little shorter than what you will find with small pups. There are also some health issues that impact this breed quite often. According to information published by the Canine Journal, Berners can often suffer from hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, von Willebrand’s disease (a blood-clotting disorder), histiocytosis (the most common cancer for this breed), and gastric torsion.
Regular visits to your local veterinarian who is familiar with the Bernese Mountain Dog as a breed can help you to reduce the risks of these health issues, but not eliminate them completely. Even with perfect care, it is not unusual for healthy dogs to only live to be 3 or 4 years old.
2. This breed requires a knowledgeable owner to manage their behaviors.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is like any other working breed in the canine world. When they have a job to do, then they are at their happiest. If you don’t have time to spend with your pup, then the boredom will create a higher risk of behavioral problems. Owners of Berners need to work with them every day with their job to maintain high levels of mental wellbeing. They do not feel satisfied with their presence in your home unless there is some form of “employment’ which can define their personality.
If you give a Berner the job of being a guard dog, then you can expect a fierceness to their behavior around strangers that could put you or a family member into a position of significant liability. Most dogs from this breed are aloof around strangers, but not if their job is to protect you.
3. Berners require a lot of space because of their size.
If you are living in an apartment or a small home, then a Bernese Mountain Dog is probably not the right breed to choose. These dogs need a lot of indoor and outdoor space to explore if they are going to thrive. This breed is always happier when you can take advantage of their working intelligence, so even some homes in an urban environment with adequate space may not provide them with enough stimulation. Berners really love to help you work in the garden, stay active on the farm, or drag you around the neighborhood on a long walk twice per day. If you cannot tap into this trait, then your relationship with your new dog is going to suffer over time.
4. This breed often suffers from frequent, severe anxiety attacks.
The Bernese Mountain Dog loves to hand out positive attention whenever possible. Getting covered in drool is just part of the daily routine when you’re a Berner owner. What some people don’t realize is that these dogs need to receive as much attention as they are willing to give to maintain a state of positive mental health. If you are ignoring your pup when they want some snuggle time, then it is possible for aggressive behaviors to begin developing.
Berners are also very sociable as a breed, but not necessarily with other dogs. The Bernese Mountain Dog will often choose a favorite person, and then they will want to receive daily attention from that individual. If you need to leave for work all day, then you might come home to find that your shoes have been chewed or the stuffing in your couch has received a thorough examination. They have high anxiety levels when left by themselves.
5. Berners don’t do very well in hot climates.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is genetically accustomed to living in a cold, high-altitude environment. If you live in a semi-tropical region where the weather likes to stay warm all year long, then your Berner is going to be one miserable pup. Their favorite time of year is the winter, especially if you have a few inches of the snow on the ground. Playing in the white stuff, running in the rain, and wanting a long walk on the coldest days of the year are just a few of the favorite things of this breed.
6. These dogs will shed a lot, especially during the summer months.
Because the Bernese Mountain Dog is bred to be a cold-weather mountain dog, it develops two coats each year. You’ll see a thicker coat during the winter months, which then transitions to a thinner one during the summer. Shedding is a significant concern, especially if there is someone in the family with pet allergies. When the winter coat comes out, you may need to provide a daily brushing of the fur to prevent it from dropping off of their body everywhere they go. If you have a smaller space, then vacuuming every day is something that you’re going to need to do.
7. Berners can be quite expensive to purchase.
According to Next Day Pets, the average price for a Bernese Mountain Dog in the United States is $1,147.50 when purchasing one as a puppy. The cost range for this breed is typically between $800 to $2,000. If you want one that has a documented superior lineage to avoid many of the disadvantages that come with this breed, then prices can sometimes go as high as $10,000. When you work with a certified and licensed local breeder, it is essential that part of the transaction include x-rays of the dog’s hips and elbows to ensure that you won’t be dealing with dysplasia issues in the future.
If you wish to avoid these high costs, there are several rescue and adoption agencies for Berners that can help you to secure a Bernese Mountain Dog for under $500 in some situations.
8. This breed doesn’t always know the extent of its size.
Although there are larger dog breeds like St. Bernards and Newfoundlands, the Bernese Mountain Dog is still bigger than average. Both males and females can weigh up to 110 pounds. Males can stand up to 28 inches high as well. Many of them are not cognizant of their size, so there is a bit of clumsiness that you will encounter in your house and outside. If you are used to keeping fragile items out on shelves or tables, then you will want to change that habit immediately.
The pros and cons of the Bernese Mountain Dog depend upon your energy levels, the climate where you live, and the size of your property. If you have room for a Berner to roam and work, then you will have a happier dog. Owners who see all four seasons in their geographic location will give them a chance to enjoy their natural climate. When you don’t have space and time to commit to this breed, then that is when you can experience most of the disadvantages.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.