Bernese Mountain Dog

By Dr Eloise Bright 8 Min Read

This Alpine breed from Germany is a working dog that require lots of exercise and activity, like the Border Collie of Australian farm dogs.


Bernese Mountain dogs have a gentle, placid nature if kept well socialised and busy. They love exercise, hiking and need a great deal of room. They have a number of common medical conditions that mean they can be expensive dogs to own. Bernese Mountain dogs also have a comparatively short life expectancy.

Lifespan 6-8 years
Weight 36-57kg
Height at Shoulder 58-70 cm


I would love to live on a farm or property or go for regular runs with my owner. I also love agility work, flyball, anything really that uses my skills and intelligence. Don’t keep me in a small space, or leave me alone to get bored while you work all day, I really need a job to do.


Intelligent. These intelligent dogs are very trainable and need at least 2 hours a day of exercise and training when young and continuing on into adult-hood. Without mental stimulation and training they become easily bored and sometimes destructive.

Gentle. This gentle breed loves to cuddle up on the couch and be with the family. They are lovable, sweet and kind and despite their enormous size they would never (deliberately) hurt a fly.

Excitable. This is definitely a fun-loving breed. They love to play and are high energy dogs that rely on getting lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They are often very boisterous dogs if not given limits and love people and other dogs.


These are high energy dogs that need to be given a job to do. They need lots of exercise and training to avoid behavioural quirks and boredom.

Exercise Requirements Very high – 2+ hours per day
Training Requirements Very high – 2+ hours per day, or working dog
Apartment Friendly? No


The Bernese Mountain dog is best suited to cold climates and may need to be clipped in warmer weather, unless your dog has access to a dam to cool off. They shed particularly during the change of season, so get used to lots of hair!

Coat Type Long
Hair Fall High Shed – You will be living with lots of hair
Hypoallergenic No
Brushing High – Daily brushing required
Groomer Trips No – Easy care at home
Tick Friendly? No


Bernese Mountain dogs can live with kids and other pets, but their large size means they can easily bowl over the smaller members of the family. They have typically been selected for calm, docile temperaments, so theoretically make good family pets for older kids. This breed generally has a very happy, tolerant, gentle nature and is very sociable.

Family Friendly Good – Better with older kids
Pet Friendly Medium – Ok with other pets, supervision advised
Sociability High – Loves other dogs and best in a multi-dog household


These dogs have quite a number of expensive hereditary health problems, as well as much higher than average rates of cancer. They are prone to orthopaedic conditions that may be costly to treat, so invest in pet insurance if you own this breed.

Avg. Yearly Expense High – $2000+
Avg. Veterinary Expense High – $300-$500+
Weekly Food Expense High – $20-30+



Bernese Mountain Dogs are more prone to developing cancer, with an overall prevalence of 65% within the breed, compared to 27% for other breeds. The main types are mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, histiocytic sarcoma and malignant histiocytosis.

Hip Displaysia. Many breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, and while more breeders are hip scoring in an attempt to breed out this devastating disease, in some cases it can still occur, particularly with overfeeding at a young age.

OCD. Osteochondrosis Dissecans is a painful cartilage defect that occurs in large breed puppies and commonly involves the shoulder joint, but can also effect the elbows, knees or ankles (hocks). Like hip dysplasia it has been linked to over-feeding during the growth phase and excess calcium supplementation.

Bloat and Gastric Volvulus. Large deep-chested breeds are prone to bloat, which is where the stomach rapidly expands with gas and fluid. Bloat can often then lead to torsion or twisting of the stomach, which is rapidly fatal if not treated immediately.


Orthopaedic diseases. Overfeeding, vigorous exercise and supplementing with calcium all increase the risk of developing orthopaedic diseases in young dogs. Ensure you check the breeder has hip scored and has a low prevalence of orthopaedic diseases in breeding dogs.

Avoiding excessive weight gain will also limit the risk of injuries and orthopaedic diseases.

It is recommended that Bernese Mountain Dogs get 6 monthly health checks as a minimum, as early detection and treatment for cancer is vital.

Avoiding large meals then exercise within an hour is important to reduce the risk of bloat. Stress, swallowed air (for example due to respiratory disease) and having another family member who has experienced bloat can also increase the risk.

Early signs are appearing uncomfortable (pacing, whining, unable to settle or restless), with a distended abdomen, attempting to vomit and perhaps increased salivation. Get your pet to the vet immediately if you suspect bloat as the prognosis worsens with time.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is a comparatively short-lived dog, the Swiss saying is “Three years a young dog, three years a good dog and three years an old dog. Anything more is a gift from God”.

These Swiss mountain dogs arethought to originate from breeding the working dogs used to guard sheep with Roman army mastiff-type dogs.

The Bernese Mountain Dog was used for droving cattle, guarding sheep, pulling carts and general farm work. Even today they have been known to be used for pulling small children in carts.


  • Pet Rescue lists all types of dogs who need homes, both purebred and mixed breeds, adults and puppies.
  • The RSPCA often has Pugs for adoption, just do an advanced search on their adoption page.
  • Working Dog Rescue occasionally has large breed dogs like Bernese Mountain Dogs for rescue.
  • Bernation Australia has information about rescuing a Bernese Mountain Dog.

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Dr Eloise is a Clinical Lead at Love That Pet and one of our resident pet care experts. She also curates the select range of vet recommended and approved products which feature on our site.
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