Berners are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, blood disorders, some cancers, and progressive retinal atrophy. All large breeds are susceptible to bloat, a sudden, life-threatening stomach condition. Berner owners should learn what signs to look out for, and what to do should they occur. As with all breeds, a Berner’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Cardiac Exam
- Von Willebrand’s Disease
- DNA Test
The Bernese Mountain Dog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a double coat, with a longer outer coat and a wooly undercoat. Berners shed a fair amount, even more so during shedding season, which occurs twice a year. Weekly brushing—daily during shedding season—will help to remove loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. Any tangles can be worked out with a slicker brush or metal comb. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog pain and structural problems.
Bernese Mountain Dogs need at least a half-hour of moderate exercise every day to stay healthy and happy. While they are definitely meant to live indoors with their human family, Berners enjoy outdoor activities and make great companions on long walks or hikes. Outdoorsy owners often take their canine companions camping and backpacking. Berners enjoy pulling young children in a cart, and some even participate in carting and drafting competitions. Other canine sports in which Berners participate and excel include agility, herding, obedience, rally, and tracking.
Early socialization and obedience training are important for all dogs, but especially so for breeds as large as the Bernese Mountain Dog. Berners are intelligent and eager to please, so they are usually easy to train. They are also affectionate and openhearted; their feelings are easily hurt, and so they don’t respond well to harsh corrections or training methods. A Berner wants to be with his family, and undesirable behaviors can result if he is regularly left alone for long periods of time.