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The History and Characteristics of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese mountain dog: a great companion and guard dog, a docile animal and very well suited to family life.

The Bernese Shepherd is a large Swiss dog in the Bernese mountain dog category. Its distinguishing feature is its long, three-coloured coat and outstanding agility despite its size. Originating in the Bernese Pre-Alps in Switzerland, the Bernese Mountain Dog developed as a guard, pulling, or herd guard dog. However, given its gentle and affectionate character, it is a famous family dog today.

Origins

The origins of the Bernese Mountain dog are uncertain; however, it is believed to be an ancient dog breed. This is because images of a dog closely resembling a Bernese Mountain Dog have been found on vases dating back to Roman times. For this reason, it is thought that it may have been introduced into Switzerland by Roman legionaries.

However, more particular information about this breed dates back to the early 1900s. At that time, the Bernese Greyhound was widespread in the Schwarzenburg, south of Berne. In this area, there is also the small town of DiliTbach and the inn of the same name, in whose vicinity it was common to find many of these dogs. For this reason, the first name given to this breed was Diirrbachler.

In 1907, at the Lucerne exhibition, the Bovaro aroused the interest of Judge Albert Heim, who published an article in the official journal of the Swiss Kennel Society. Heim proposed changing its name to the Bernese Mountain Dog in analogy with the other breeds: the Appenzell Mountain Dog, the Fntlebuch Mountain Dog and the Great Swiss Mountain Dog.

First tasks

Bernese cattle were used as multi-purpose farm dogs, to guard properties and lead dairy cattle from the farm to the alpine pastures.
A very docile dog, perfect for children and family life

The Bernese Mountain dog was selected to help Swiss farmers on farms and in the mountains. For this, he needed a solid and robust physical structure, suitable for pulling, but at the same time agile, to drive livestock or retrieve lost animals.

At the same time, his tasks also formed his character. Having to work closely with man, it had to be reliable and obedient. The breed was definitively stabilised in the 1940s through cross-breeding with Newfoundlands, another large breed known for its extraordinary aptitude for swimming and retrieving.

Appearance and Characteristics

Standard describes the Bernese Shepherd as a ‘Long-haired, tricoloured, powerful, agile, harmonious, well-proportioned utility dog, with strong limbs and above-average gait’. The height at withers for a male is 64-70 cm, weighing 55-60 kg; for females, the height is 58-66 cm, weighing 45-55 kg. The head is robust and well-proportioned. The eyes are dark with well-fitting eyelids, while the ears are set high and folded forward.

The muzzle is also robust and of average length concerning the head. The mouth has black lips and a complete set of teeth (i.e. 42).

The body of the Bernese mountain dog expresses all its power and strength. It possesses both a broad and powerful chest and back. This gives a compact and harmonious line to the entire figure of this dog breed. The most distinctive trait of the Bernese Mountain Dog is its splendid coloured coat.

This is characterised by a long, shiny coat, usually smooth, and a thick undercoat that protects the dog from the weather. There is only one possible colouring, namely tricolour (black, brown and white).

The background colour is black, with brown (reddish-brown) spots on the cheeks, above the eyes, on the limbs and under the chest. It also has white spots on the head, which, towards the truffle, widen on both sides of the muzzle. White spots are also present on the neck, chest and sometimes on the legs and tail.

The limbs must be strong, straight and parallel. They also have solid ligaments and highly developed muscles. Finally, the tail is also strong and imposing, as is the entire body of the Bernese mountain dog. This is very long and has long hair.

Character

Despite its large size, the Bernese Mountain Dog is highly docile and affectionate. It is intelligent, cheerful, friendly, and never satiated with affection and cuddles. It is quiet and calm, perhaps mindful of the hardships of times gone by, but in case of need, it knows how to protect its human friend and his possessions.

It is a dog that tends to seek much physical contact with man, although not in a very intrusive manner. The Bernese Mountain Dog wants to feel part of the family and integrates well with all household members. However, it tends to identify a maximum of two people to whom it will become attached and obey the most. The choice is not due to the person’s age, so much so that he often chooses children to whom he connects himself in an incredibly loyal and long-lasting way.

It is a dog so well suited to being with children that it is often called a ‘babysitter dog’. In fact, with tiny humans, and in general with weaker people such as older people, it behaves in a highly patient and protective manner. This is why it is one of the most frequently used dogs for pet therapy.

It is a thoughtful, intelligent, responsible dog and, although often wary of strangers, is never aggressive.

Training

As mentioned, the Bernese mountain dog is knowledgeable and can quickly learn even rather complex orders. However, the education of a puppy of this breed should not be taken lightly. The Bernese mountain dog only reaches maturity at 18 months, so much patience will be required.

In education, one must never brutalise the dog. Screaming is pointless, disorientates the dog and shows, in its eyes, the owner’s lack of pulse. Love and authority must be wisely dosed as calmness, patience and constancy. A firm but not brutal education will, therefore, be necessary.

Bernese: a great working dog. True to its roots, this is a dog that loves the outdoors and loves to move in large spaces.
Its great stamina makes it an excellent hiking companion and a patient pet for children.

In addition, it will be necessary to show great firmness in education right from the start. The Bernese mountain dog has a perfect memory, and if you make concessions to him, he will remember them and ignore subsequent orders.

The Bernese mountain dog is suitable for many people, but given its size, it should have a home with a small garden that offers shelter, especially from the summer heat. It can also live indoors but, as it loves large spaces, you must take it to the park often.

Nutrition and health

The life expectancy of the Bernese Mountain dog is about 7-8 years. However, there are cases where these dogs can even reach 12-13 years of age. Although it is not very delicate, it is good to have frequent vet-narial check-ups. The most common problems include hip dysplasia, Von Willebrand disease, tumours and gastroenterological diseases. Regarding home care, the aspect to pay the most attention to is the hair. Thick hair tends to create knots, which, besides annoying the dog, tend to accumulate dirt.

Therefore, brushing him often is good to keep his coat shiny and clean. The Bernese mountain dog does not need large amounts of food. When the dog is a puppy, three meals a day are recommended, and in older age two. The recommended dosage for a Bernese mountain dog puppy is 250 g per meal.

The main caution is not to give him the meal in a single dose. The Bovaro is a dog that tends to “binge” and could risk a dangerous stomach twisting. It is therefore advisable to feed him in two rations – three when he is a puppy – one in the morning and one in the evening- to avoid getting him used to eating outside meals.

As far as the diet to be followed is concerned, pre-packaged food with low-fat content and a high amount of digestible protein should be preferred, rather than a homemade diet based on the addition of supplements.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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