Bernese Mountain Dog

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History:  

The breed was used as an all purpose farm dog for guarding property and to drive dairy cattle long distances from the farm to the alpine pastures. The type was originally called the Dürrbächler, for a small town (Dürrbach) where the large dogs were especially frequent. In the early 1900s, fanciers exhibited the few examples of the large dogs at Shows in Berne, and in 1907 a few breeders from the Burgdorf region founded the first breed Club, the Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub, and wrote the first Standard which defined the dogs as a separate breed. By 1910, there were already 107 registered members of the breed. There is a photo of a working Bernese Mountain Dog, dated 1905 at the Fumee Fall rest area in Quinnesec, MI.

In the US, the Bernese Mountain Dog is growing in popularity, ranking in 32nd place by the American Kennel Club in 2013.

Color, Coat, and Grooming:

The Berner coat is gorgeous: a thick double coat with a longer outer coat and a wooly undercoat. Characteristically tricolored, the majority of the Berner’s body is covered with jet-black hair with rich rust and bright white. There’s usually a white marking on his chest that looks like an inverted cross, a white blaze between the eyes, and white on the tip of his tail.

The Berner is a shedder. He sheds moderately all year and heavily in the spring and fall. Brushing several times a week helps reduce the amount of hair around the house and keeps the coat clean and tangle-free. Bathing, every three months or so, will maintain his neat appearance.

Brushing teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

Trim there nail about once a month if they don’t wear them down naturally. If you hear them clicking on the floor they are to long.

Height and Weight

Height at the withers is 25–27.5 in for males, while it is 23–26 in for females. Weight is 80–120 lb for males, while it is 75–100 lb for females.

Temperament:

The breed standard for the Bernese mountain dog states that dogs should not be “aggressive, anxious or distinctly shy”, but rather should be “good-natured”, “self-assured”, “placid towards strangers”, and “docile”. The temperament of individual dogs may vary, and not all examples of the breed have been bred carefully to follow the standard. All large breed dogs should be well socialized when they are puppies, and given regular training and activities throughout their lives.

Bernese are outdoor dogs at heart, though well-behaved in the house; they need activity and exercise, but do not have a great deal of endurance. They can move with amazing bursts of speed for their size when motivated. If they are sound (no problems with their hips, elbows, or other joints), they enjoy hiking and generally stick close to their people. Not being given the adequate amount of exercise may lead to barking and harassing in the Bernese.

Bernese mountain dogs are a breed that generally does well with children, as they are very affectionate. They are patient dogs that take well to children climbing over them. Though they have great energy, a Bernese will also be happy with a calm evening.

Health Problems:

Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs in general, but Bernese Mountain Dogs have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds; in both U.S./Canada and UK surveys, nearly half of Bernese Mountain Dogs die of cancer, compared to about 27% of all dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs are killed by a multitude of different types of cancer, including Malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumer, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma. A four-year-old Bernese with lymphoma named Dylan was one of the first dogs to receive chemotherapy at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and it was successful.

Bernese Mountain Dogs also have an unusually high mortality due to musculoskeletal causes. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture were reported as the cause of death in 6% of Bernese Mountain Dogs in the UK study; for comparison, mortality due to musculoskeletal ailments was reported to be less than 2% for pure-bred dogs in general.

Several inherited medical problems that a Bernese Mountain Dog may face are malignant histiocytosis, hypomyelinogenesis, progressive retinal atrophy, and possibly cataraacts and hypoadrenocorticism. The breed is also prone to histiocytic sarcoma, a cancer of the muscle tissue that is very aggressive, and hereditary eye diseases are common among larger dogs.

Lifespan:

Compared to breeds of similar size as well as purebred dogs in general, the Bernese is one of the short-lived dog breeds. The average life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is approximately 7 to 8 years. 

Exercise:

Berners are not suited to apartment or condo life. A home with a large, securely fenced yard is the best choice. Because the Berner is a working dog, he has plenty of energy. In addition to yard play, he needs a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day; three times that amount keeps this sturdy dog in top condition.

With his thick, handsome coat, the Berner is a natural fit for cold climates. He loves to play in the snow. Conversely, with his black coat and large size, he’s prone to heat stroke. Don’t allow him to exercise strenuously when it’s extremely hot; limit exercise to early mornings or evenings, when it’s cooler. Keep him cool during the heat of the day, either inside with fans or air-conditioning or outside in the shade.

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