Bernese Mountain Dog Care

Berners are big dogs, and it should come as no surprise that Bernese Mountain Dog care is also a big deal. There is no easy aspect when raising a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy: grooming, drool, shedding, feeding, puppy care, living environment, etc. The basic Bernese Mountain Dog guide on this page will help you to understand if you are ready to tackle his big dog and the many responsibilities for this breed's maintenance. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Development

Perhaps the best way to describe Bernese Mountain Dog growth is the old Swiss saying, "Three years a puppy, three years a good dog, three years an old dog, and the rest is a gift." This ancient breed develops very slowly, and your Berner pup should already be huge. It takes about three years until full maturity is reached, and they may still get a bit bigger after that. You should also keep in mind that his size may be more than his mental maturity and motor actions can catch up, and that there will be periods where he seems out of sorts. Not to worry! It will all catch up in time.

Here is a general growth chart for Bernese Mountain Dogs: 

Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise Needs

Bernese Mountain Dog exercise needs are significant in some ways but not in others, and interchangeably so. This may sound confusing, but what it means is that at the least, you should exercise him either hard for a short while or for long periods of moderate exertion. These dogs can reserve energy when not active, but when it comes time to get going they can go for the long, hard haul if need be. Regardless, his daily exercise should not be neglected, and if he is allowed to be lazy, he will be.

Berners should not be allowed off the leash except when otherwise restrained. Dog parks are fine, of course. Despite his size and his preference for harnesses when pulling sleds, sleighs, and kids in the snow, a collar leash is the best when walking or otherwise outdoors with your Berner as this helps to maintain control without wrestling him down. While these dogs have double-coats that insulate them in extreme weather, they are fine in very cold climes but are not tolerant to hot weather. If the temperature is high, exercise him in the mornings and evenings to avoid problems. As this breed's development is very slow, however, they should not be exercised hard while they are still physically growing. This means that before he is 10 months to just over a year old, basic walks should be the most you do. Puppies should not be allowed to jump and down on furniture or be walked on hard surfaces as this can permanently injure their joints. Sled-pulling shouldn't be allowed until at least 2 years of age.

The best exercise for these dogs include a great range of activities, and they depend on the terrain, weather, and your time. One thing you should not waste your time doing is fetch, as this breed is simply not interested. Here are some things you can do to keep your Bernese Mountain Dog fit:

  • Walking: This helps with training, socialization and more, and should be done for an hour or so at least twice a day.
  • Hiking: These are mountain dogs, after all, and yet you should be careful to avoid desert environments and places where venomous snakes live.
  • Swimming: These dogs are not big on water, but they shouldn't shy away from shallow ponds and the like.
  • Running: If you can keep up as well as in control, this can be a lot of fun.
  • Pulling: The snow, a sled, and your kids or some weight you can pile on that sled will be something your Berner will love!
  • Skiing: This is no easy task even without a dog, and there are a lot of things to learn to make it safe, but there are a lot of people who do this with their Swiss mountain dogs.

There are not many things you can do to cut down on how much exercise your Berner needs. If your yard is not very secure, you shouldn't let him run around for two reasons: he will escape, and he won't exercise on his own. These dogs are not given to playing with toys, and they demand a lot of attention. Although they tend to have not only shorter lives (like all giant breeds), they also have very short periods where they are in the prime of their lives. Be sure to know before you adopt that Bernese puppy that you will have to be there with them most all the time, and happily so. If you are unable to find the time to exercise him, you must find someone who will. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Maintenance

Are you ready to vacuum all the drool, hair, and dander that the typical Berner leaves behind on a daily basis? This breed tends to head the lists of top droolers, heaviest shedders, and most messiest dogs.

Bernese Mountain Dog drool is like a faucet that will leak nearly from the time you adopt him to the end of his days. There's no remedy except to not adopt one of these burly mountain dogs. The slobber simply will not stop, and you will burn (no pun intended!) through many a mop — store-bought and DIY — keeping up with it. This can be temporarily worsened by hot weather, recent water-drinking, and excessive exercise. It is important, however, to understand the difference between the regular drool and any slobber that may occur that is the result of a health concern such as dental issues, toxic ingestion, or bloat.

Bernese Mountain dog shedding is an animal unto itself. If you are not prepared to constantly clean and yet still find hair in everything from your morning coffee to your iPhone, you are sure to endure a decade or more of frustration. Furthermore, your Berner may be averse to most underhair brushes (such as the Furminator) due to sensitive skin. Slicker brushers (such as those rubber gloves) might not be very effective either. Then there is the coat blowout that happens at least twice a year, and that will mean a flurry of fur. You should understand that a strict and proper diet will help in reducing the shedding even if all that hair seems like a lot in the best of times. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Diet

Berner puppies are dogs whose bizarre growth spurts may surprise some people. His diet is not the reason his front legs are far longer than his rear legs, or that he's gangly, or looks misshapen one morning. That's just how this breed develops! Still, he should have a diet that does help him develop properly. These dogs tend to eat a lot, both because they are a giant breed as well as a very active one. It is ultimately up to you to determine your Bernese Mountain Dog's diet — after understanding the factors of cost, health, vet advice, breeders' suggestions, and even your dog's tastes. Still, there are some basic guidelines that can help you learn how much and at what age and weight to feed him. One thing you shouldn't do is feed wet dog food to your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. This can quickly make for an upset tummy, loose stools, and other problems.

All massive dog breeds have an easy tendency to get obese. Learning that most rudimentary yet highly important question — how much does a Bernese Mountain Dog eat? — is mandatory to prevent your Berner from getting fat. Exercise is key, but a poor diet will undo all that work. Obesity, an improper diet, and poor eating habits (such as feeding him right after exercise) can all contribute to the painful, fatal condition of bloat. Understanding the calcium content (and how not to have too much, which can cause skeletal concerns later in life) in puppy food is one of the many essentials to preventing your Berner from being fat as an adult. Be sure to take the time to learn all you can.

Living Environment

These are Swiss mountain dogs, to be sure, but they are best as indoor dogs with lots of constant company. A Bernese Mountain Dog in apartment living is not recommended, however, as this breed needs a lot of space one way or another. Cold weather is no problem due to the thick, double coat these dogs possess. Hot weather is not tolerated, it should go without saying. A rural area with at least a cool climate is perhaps the least tolerable living environment for a Berner. They are historically associated with a region that only seems lonely and cold, and you should understand that they are highly dependent on human company and attention.