HOW LONG DO THEY LIVE? The average lifespan of the Bernese, according to a 2005 Breed Health Study, is approximately 8 years. To be precise it was 94.3 months. This means some are lost at a young age and others live up to 15 years of age. There are numerous causes of death resulting in the average of 8 years. However, the majority of Bernese die of cancer. Responsible breeders do their best to breed to reduce health issues in the breed and breed for longevity. However, at this time, there is no reliable genetic test for cancer nor is it very predictable which dogs will get it and which won't. It is known, some lines of dogs are more likely to die of cancer than others. For more information see the 2005 Breed Health Survey.
ARE THEY GOOD WITH CHILDREN? This is one trait the Bernese is known for! They seem to understand the differences between big people and little people. When it comes to children, they tend to be gentle giants. They are excellent family companions. As good as they are with kids, it is still important with any dog to always supervise dogs and kids together. With this, there needs to be an understanding of canine stress signals to know when to step in before bites occur. If you have children and pets, please read the following article.
ARE THEY EASY TO TRAIN? Because of their large size, the Bernese must be trained from a young age and continually as they get older. Basic training must not stop after the first puppy class. The Bernese should be eager to please but may be a little slower to catch on than other breeds. They also get bored with training if you repeatedly do the same thing over and over.
DO THEY SWIM? Some Bernese swim and others sink. Within a single litter some puppies will love water and be swimmers, others will stay on the beach or only wade.
DO THEY SHED? Yes. Nearly every day! A couple times a year, they lose the bulk of their undercoat. Breeders refer to this as "blowing their coat". There is a saying "Everything tastes better with dog hair in it". If you can't stand the thought of dog hair in your food, a Bernese isn't for you. It will not fail, you'll pull the clean dish out of the cupboard and find a hair or you'll open a new container of food and their will be a Bernese hair in it.
DO THEY DROOL? They are not supposed to. The Bernese is supposed to be a dry mouthed breed. This means the cheeks (flews) are supposed to be tight and not hanging down loose. However, some Bernese have looser flews than others and are more prone to drooling. If drool isn't for you, talk with the breeder and meet their dogs. Of course, any breed of dog may drool out the front of the mouth if anxiously awaiting food.
ARE THEY GOOD WATCHDOGS? One of the original functions of the breed was to watch over the family farm and alert if necessary. The Bernese size and bark (especially the males) can be very intimidating. They are supposed to be able to recognize the difference between friend and foe, typically good natured and friendly welcoming friends. Some Bernese have a strong watch dog instinct still. However, some aren't good watch dogs and are more likely to happily greet everyone they meet.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO THEY NEED? They typically need 30-60 minutes of exercise daily. However, every Bernese is different in their exercise requirements depending on the age and disposition of the dog. They also need daily mental stimulation. If your idea of exercise is to throw a ball numerous times in a game of fetch, please consider a retriever type dog. Most Bernese won't retrieve (some do). Instead, they will look at you wondering why you threw their toy and expect you to go get it. If you happen to have a retrieving Bernese, it is likely they will only fetch their toy a few times before being bored with the game. In that case, they will look at you as to say, they already did that trick, find something else for me to do. Bottom line, they need a daily job for mental and physical stimulation.
HOW MUCH DO PUPPIES COST? The cost of a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy from a responsible breeder ranges from $2000 to $3000, or more. Price is not an indication of quality though. The actual cost of puppy ownership can be much higher. Routine veterinary care, county licenses, food and dishes, toys, puppy classes, crate, leash and collars, cleaning supplies, and pet health insurance will cost money too. There may be incidental expenses such as emergency veterinary care (a foreign body obstruction costs upwards of $1000 or more) and expenses to replace and repair damaged items in the home from a chewing or energetic puppy.
WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED FROM A RESPONSIBLE BREEDER? Responsible breeders screen people who inquire about purchasing a puppy. Plan to talk with breeders about your lifestyle and reasons for wanting to bring a Berner into your life. Breeders you contact will want to find out about your experiences with dogs, about your other pets - if any, where the puppy you plan to purchase will live, how the pup will spend its time, and about how your family plans to train and manage the pup responsibly for the entire life of the dog. A responsible breeder will welcome any questions you have as well as ask plenty of questions of you. They will welcome you into their home, allow you to meet the mom and any relatives they have. They will be able to show you photos of numerous relatives, discuss breed health and temperament with you. They will share with you health certificates and the pedigrees of the dam and sire. In addition, they provide a written contract for all puppies sold and a lifetime of support.
WHY SHOULD I TALK WITH MULTIPLE BREEDERS, I JUST WANT A PET? Every breeder has a unique approach to breeding dogs. They all have different breeding philosophies, raise their puppies differently, and have different expectations for the puppies they produce. Their particular dogs are different in temperament and size/look. Each breeder also has a different written contract for the sale of their puppies. After having several conversations you will have a good sense of which breeders are most likely to provide you with a puppy that will match up with your idea of an "ideal companion dog". Choosing a breeder who offers ongoing support; willing to provide advice if questions about feeding, training or other management concerns arise when raising a Berner puppy can save owners time and money. It can be worth the wait to find the right breeder.
WHY DO HEALTH CLEARENCES MATTER? The Bernese Mountain Dog breed is affected by several hereditary health issues which can impact quality and length of life. Responsible breeders know the puppies they produce inherit health, temperament, physical soundness and length of life from their family tree. IMPORTANT: If your hope is to bring a dog into your life that is not affected with an inherited health problem or orthopedic condition, your best choice is to work with a breeder who pays attention to these things and is doing everything possible to choose breeding stock that are not likely to pass on undesirable traits. Breeders who have spent time carefully researching the family history of dogs they use for breeding have a better grasp of the characteristics puppies they produce are likely to possess. Responsible breeders do health testing and take into account the results obtained when choosing breeding pairs. Careful breeding practices can reduce the incidence of inherited health issues. See our page on health conditions for more information.