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rec.pets.dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs Breed-FAQ

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Old February 16th 04, 09:58 AM
Philip Shaffer
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Default rec.pets.dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs Breed-FAQ

Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/berners
Posting-frequency: 30 days
URL: http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/breeds/berners.html
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

There are nearly 100 FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
to rtfm.mit.edu under pub/usenet/news.answers/dogs-faq/faq-list, via
the Web at http://www.zmall.com/pet_talk/dog-fa.../faq-list.html, or
via email by sending your message to with
send usenet/news.answers/dogs-faq/faq-list
in the body of the message.

This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is"
without express or implied warranty.

Bernese Mountain Dogs


__________________________________________________ _______________


There is a wide variety of dog breeds available today. Carefully
examining the choices will give you a better chance of finding a dog
that fits into your home and family. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of
the Rockies has prepared this FAQ to introduce you to our breed and
help you decide if a Berner is right for you.

Created October 15, 1994. Updated January 17, 1996. Copyright 1995 by
Philip Shaffer,
__________________________________________________ _______________

Quick Links

* [Breed FAQ Homepage] Homepage of all the breed FAQs
* [BMD Clubs Page] Breeder referral and other Bernese Mountain Dog
club contacts
* [BMDCR Page] Homepage of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of the
* [BMDCA Page] Homepage of the Bernese Mountain dog Club of America
* [Swiss Breeds Page] A great look at all the Swiss breeds with lots
of pictures
* [Berner-Garde] The international Bernese Mountain Dog health
* [Mailing List] Home of the Berner mailing list

__________________________________________________ _______________

Table of Contents

* Summary
+ Temperament and Behavior
+ Expenses
+ Health and Fitness
+ Miscellaneous
* Origins of the Breed
* Hips and Elbows
* Cancer
* Working
* Clubs
* References and Links
* Breed Standard

__________________________________________________ _______________


Temperament and behavior

* needs lots of human companionship; must be a full member of the
family; a dog that must be allowed inside the house
* gentle, calm, affectionate, and faithful to their owners
* very good with children and other animals
* intelligent, but needs patient, consistent training
* seldom nuisance barkers
* good watch dogs but not guard dogs
* reserved around strangers but not shy or fearful if given proper
socialization when young
* moderate activity level, a fine walking companion but lacking the
endurance of lighter boned breeds
* a working breed that was originally used for draft work and light
duty cattle herding


* purchase cost varies widely around the country
* males and females should cost the same
* $120 for first year routine vet care
* $50 per year for routine adult vet care
* $120 per year for miscellaneous vet care
* $20 to $30 per month in food
* $180 for 20 hours of basic puppy and obedience classes
* home and yard improvements such as fencing or a run

Health and fitness

* the median life span is 6 to 7 years, however, for dogs that enter
adulthood in good health the typical life span is around 9 years
* cancers are a serious problem and common cause of early death
* joint problems are common
* serious autoimmune problems and kidney problems are known
* the Berner-Garde data base tracks many health problems and can be
accessed by breeders and potential owners.


* 65 to 95 pounds for females; 80 to 115 pounds for males
* males 25-27-1/2 inches at the withers, bitches 23-26 inches
* heavy shedding once or twice a year and for some dogs throughout
the year
* coat naturally repels dirt; regular brushing but only occasional
bathing is required.
* very few are prone to drooling
* not a natural retriever
* not naturally inclined to hunting, though some chase squirrels,
* not naturally a water dog but some take to swimming for fun
* some have a tendency to dig holes
* fun to travel with if properly trained

__________________________________________________ _______________

Origins of the Breed

The name Bernese Mountain Dog is a rough translation of the German
"Berner Sennenhund," which literally means Bernese Alpine Herdsman's
Dog. The breed's original name was Durrbachler, after an inn where
these farm dogs were bought and sold. The modern breed was developed
from dogs found in the countryside around Bern, Switzerland and is
only one of several Swiss breeds. The original Berner Sennenhund was
an all-around farm dog, used to guard the farm, drive the cows to and
from their mountain pastures, and pull carts loaded with milk cans to
the dairy; modern Berners retain some, although not necessarily all,
of these instincts. The breed was rescued from near extinction by
Professor Albert Heim around the turn of the century and has developed
slowly since then. In 1948 there was a significant outcrossing to a
Newfoundland dog, with a resulting improvement in temperament and
increase in size.

Berners are known to have first come to America in 1926, and possibly
even earlier, but the breed was not recognized by the AKC even after
intervention by the Swiss Kennel Club. A decade later, two more were
imported from Switzerland; these dogs became the first of the breed to
be registered with the AKC, in 1937. By the 1960s, a small group of
loyal Berner owners and breeders was developing in the United States.
During 1994 there were 1594 Berners registered with the AKC, making
the breed the 68th most popular out of 137 AKC-recognized breeds. The
breed's popularity has been rising steadily and is now at the point
where "backyard breeding" is a problem.
__________________________________________________ _______________

Hips and Elbows

Hip and elbow dysplasias are common conditions in Bernese Mountain
Dogs. These are structural defects in the joints that can cause mild
to crippling arthritis.
* Dysplasia is inherited, but many genes are involved.
* It is possible for normal parents to produce dysplastic puppies;
however, the chance of a particular puppy's having dysplasia is
reduced if both parents are normal, and even more greatly reduced
if other close relatives (parents' parents, parents' littermates,
and other puppies produced by the parents) are also free from
* environmental factors--overly rapid puppy growth, improper diet,
and strenuous exercise--do not cause dysplasia but may act to
worsen it.
* X-rays of mature dogs are the definitive way to diagnose
dysplasia. X-rays may be done of younger dogs who are exhibiting
clinical symptoms (e.g., lameness), but they may not accurately
predict how bad the final effects will be. Because both hip and
elbow dysplasias often are not apparent at birth but develop over
time, mild or moderate dysplasia often cannot be diagnosed in
young dogs.
* The Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals (GDC)
evaluates dogs at 1 year of age by X-ray. The Orthopedic
Foundation for Animals (OFA) evaluates dogs at 2 years of age by
X-ray. Dogs found to be free of dysplasia are issued a certificate
and a registration number.
* Of all the breeds evaluated by the OFA, Bernese have the eighth
highest incidence of hip dysplasia. 28% of the Berners whose hip
X-rays are submitted are rated as dysplastic, but in reality the
overall incidence in the breed is probably considerably higher,
since many owners do not submit the X-rays if dysplasia is
* Surgery to correct dysplasia in puppies can be helpful but costs
$400.00 to $1,800.00 per joint. Hip surgery is usually more
successful than elbow surgery.
* Recommendations
Both the GDC and OFA recommend that:
1. breeding dogs be free of dysplasia
2. breeding dogs' parents and grandparents be free of dysplasia
3. 75% or more of any siblings or half siblings of breeding dogs
be free of dysplasia

__________________________________________________ _______________


Cancers are a serious problem in the Bernese. An ongoing study of
these diseases in the breed, sponsored by the Bernese Mountain Dog
Club of America, indicates the following:
* Approximately 9.7% of Berners get cancer.
* The average age at which cancer is diagnosed is 6.21 years;
however, this varies widely.
* The most common types of cancer found in Berners a
+ histiocytosis (24.0% of cases): these tumors are inherited,
but probably through the action of many genes (polygenic)
acting together
+ mastocytoma: also inherited
+ lymphosarcoma: not inherited
+ fibrosarcoma: not inherited
+ osteosarcoma: no conclusions yet as to heritability.

A tumor registry has been established which is continuing to collect
and analyze tissue samples from affected dogs. It is hoped that
additional data will enable researchers to reach further conclusions
about the incidence and heritability of other types of cancer in the
Bernese Mountain Dog. In addition The (GDC) has established a registry
for histiocytosis and mastocytoma since these are known to be
__________________________________________________ _______________


Coming from a working background, Berners enjoy the challenges of
learning new things. Most Berners are eager to please their owners and
can be trained quite readily in a variety of areas. Because of the
breed's eventual large size, it is to the owner's advantage to begin
obedience training (household manners and basic obedience commands) at
a young age. However, since Berners as a breed are slow to mature,
both physically and mentally, owners should not push puppies in
training too rapidly; these dogs are definitely not obedience "child
prodigies." The training of a Berner puppy requires firmness,
consistency, and lots of patience, and is most successfully
accomplished with many brief, fun training sessions. Despite their
large size, the majority of Berners are "soft" dogs and do not do well
with harsh corrections. To avoid the possibility of orthopedic injury,
a Berner should not be asked to jump or pull loads before the age of

A hundred years ago, Bernese Mountain Dogs worked at guarding the
farm, herding cattle, and hauling milk cans to the dairy. The guarding
ability is greatly diminished these days (although Berners still make
good watch dogs), but the herding instinct and draft capabilities
remain intact in many dogs. Although at this time Berners are not
permitted to compete in AKC herding events, the majority of Bernese
will pass a herding instinct certification test, and some owners
actively train their dogs in this area. Berners are eligible to
compete in trials offered by the Australian Shepherd Club of America
(ASCA) and the American Herding Breed Association. However, it is
draft work that receives the most attention The Bernese Mountain Dog
Club of America, the national breed club, offers two titles in draft
work: NDD (Novice Draft Dog) and DD (Draft Dog). The trials for these
titles require a dog to demonstrate both control of the cart and
strength and endurance to pull a load. Many Berners participate in AKC
obedience and tracking tests, as well as agility competition. They
have also been quite successful as therapy dogs and, to a limited
extent, as search and rescue dogs.
__________________________________________________ _______________


[Clubs Page]

The national breed club in the United States is the Bernese Mountain
Dog Club of America (BMDCA). There are also clubs in Canada, many
European nations, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

On the local level, there are over 20 regional breed clubs located in
various parts of the United States. These clubs sponsor a variety of
social and educational activities for Berner fanciers. New Berner
owners, as well as people considering the purchase of a Berner, are
welcome to attend these events.
__________________________________________________ _______________


There are currently four informative breed books available in English.
The Cochrane and Simonds books focus on the breed in England; the Russ
and Rogers book along with the Smith book deal primarily with the
breed in the United States. The German language book is the most
complete referance available. For those interested in draft work the
Powell book is excellent.

Baertschi, M.& Spengler, H: _Hunde sehen, zuechten, erleben - Das Buch
vom Berner Sennenhund_, Haupt, Bern und Stuttgart, 1992

Cochrane, Diana. _The Bernese Mountain Dog_. Diana Cochrane, Westgrov
e House, Haselor Hill Nr. Alcester, Warwickshire B49 6ND, Great
Britain (1987)

Consie Powell. Newfoundland Draft Work - a Guide for Training. Consie
and Roger Powell, Ottawa Newfoundlands, 5208 Olive Road, Raleigh, NC

Russ, Diane, and Rogers, Shirle. _The Beautiful Bernese Mountain
Dogs_. Alpine Publications, P.O. Box 7027, Loveland, CO 80537 (1993)

Simonds, Jude. _The Complete Bernese Mountain Dog_. Howell Book House,
866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022 (1989)

Smith, Sharon. _The New Bernese Mountain Dog_. Howell Book House, 866
Third Ave., New York, NY 10022 (1995)

_The Alpenhorn_ and _The Bulletin_ are each published six times a
year, in alternate months, by the BMDCA _The Alpenhorn_ is a magazine
containing articles on all aspects of the breed: showing, breeding,
training, health issues, etc. _The Bulletin_ is a companion newsletter
to the _The Alpenhorn_ containing national and regional club news
reports, correspondence, recent titles earned, club minutes, etc.

_The Illustrated Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog_. This version
of the official standard includes pictures, illustrations and
commentary to help both novice and expert better understand and
interpret the AKC standard. It is available from the BMDCA.
__________________________________________________ _______________

Breed Standard

For every breed recognized by the AKC, there is a breed standard which
defines the ideal dog of that breed, physically and temperamentally.
The standard is written by the parent club for the breed - in this
case, the BMDCA. Because the breed club in each country where Berners
are recognized--Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, etc.--
formulates its own standard, there may be some minor difference
between the AKC standard and the standard in other countries.

The AKC holds the Copyright to the AKC Standard for this breed and
have refused permission for its reproduction here. For full details
please consult their publication _The Dog Book_ or visit the BMDCA
__________________________________________________ _______________

Bernese Mountain Dog FAQ
Philip Shaffer,

Bernese Mountain Dog Club of the Rockies

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